Richard Nisley

Fabian--Still Tongue-Tied After All These Years
Pop Culture Released - Jul 05, 2013

You almost feel sorry for the guy. There he is, with fellow Teen Idols Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell, being interviewed on the Today Show, and he’s having trouble expressing himself. After all these years, Fabian is still tongue-tied. He still looks good, fit and trim with a full-head of hair--he just can’t speak. Or sing.

Age fourteen he was seen walking the streets of Philadelphia, this Elvis look alike. Quicker than you can say Colonel Tom Parker he was taken to a recording studio and given an audition. The problem was he was tone-deaf, and knew it. He was surprised therefore when a studio exec told him he had “real possibilities.”

They gave him voice lessons and several new songs by pop music’s hottest songwriters--Doc Pompus and Mort Shuman. Backed by a band of seasoned musicians, plus some electronic wizardry that made him sound as if he was singing on key, and presto he had a string of top-ten hits--”Tiger” “Hound Dog Man” and “Turn Me Loose.” Magazine covers, appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, national tours, and a movie deal that put him on screen with the likes of John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. At age 16 the future looked bright indeed for Fabian Forte. In 1959, he was all the rage. In 1960, however, he couldn’t buy a hit. It didn’t help that he was an awkward performer, uncomfortable as a Teen Idol, uncomfortable in his own skin.

In retrospect, Fabian did better as an actor, with a career in movies that lasted into the 1980s, with 26 (mostly low-budget) movies to his credit. When the movie deals ran out, he joined fellow Philadelphians Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell as the third member of “The Boys of American Bandstand” where, despite extreme nervousness, he resurrected his singing career. Today, you can catch his act in Branson, Missouri, “The Live Entertainment Capital of the World.” It’s the place where aging rock stars perform to the screams of women who still think they’re 16.
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