Frankie Valli first heard Frank Sinatra during a 1940 Paramount Theatre concert he attended with his mother, Mary. At 6 years old, he was instantly entranced.
"I had never seen a live performance," says the now 79-year-old Valli. "I thought all of it was magic."
Valli began singing on the street corners of Newark, N.J., then went on to front legendary pop group the Four Seasons. Known for lush vocals, the group sold more than 100 million records and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The Broadway smash musical Jersey Boys, based on the turbulent career of Valli and his bandmates, earned four Tony Awards in 2006 and continues to tour internationally. Valli, who will perform with the Four Seasons at the Palace Theatre Nov. 2, talked with us about hit records, The Sopranos and the upcoming Jersey Boys movie.
Q. The Four Seasons had three straight No. 1 hits when the group released Sherry & 11 Others in 1962. How did that affect you?
A. I wasn't sure any of it was really happening. It was incredible. People were saying we were an overnight sensation, but we had bounced around for a while. The next record we did went to No. 3. After that, I thought it was all over.
Q. What was the genesis of Jersey Boys?
A. It started out as a possible Movie of the Week. Then we thought it would be a full-length movie. Then we thought maybe this was a play. And we had to wait a year to get a [Broadway] theater. And now we're doing the movie with Clint Eastwood directing.
Q. You had a memorable stint as Rusty Millio on The Sopranos. What was that like?
A. It was an incredible cast. The loss of James Gandolfini is felt by everyone who worked on the show. He did everything in his power to make everyone comfortable. We were talking about doing something together just before he passed away.
Q. At an age when many performers have retired, why do you continue to tour?
A. Live performances are the most fulfilling. We've always had more than one generation of audiences, and they keep coming out. When I can't do it, I'll stop. I know how difficult it is to sustain success, and I have a great deal of empathy for people who are struggling, because I've been there.