Bobby Rydell died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in a suburb of his hometown of Philadelphia, according to a statement posted by his marketing and event coordinator Maria Novey.
Bobby Rydell, a pompadoured heartthrob of early rock ’n roll who was a star of radio, television and the movie musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” died Tuesday.
Rydell, who credited a 2012 kidney and liver transplant with extending his life, was 79. Along with James Darren, Fabian and Frankie Avalon, Rydell was among a wave of wholesome teen idols
Between 1959 and 1964, he had nearly three dozen Top 40 singles including “Wild One,” “Volare,” “Wildwood Days,” “The Cha-Cha-Cha” and “Forget Him,”
He had recurring roles on “The Red Skelton Show” and other television programs, and 1963′s “Bye Bye Birdie” was rewritten to give Rydell a major part as the boyfriend of Ann-Margret.
He didn’t want to move to Hollywood, however, and “Birdie” became his only significant movie role, though the high school in the hit ’70s musical “Grease” was named for him.
He was born Robert Ridarelli in a South Philadelphia neighborhood that would also produce teen idols Darren, Fabian and Avalon. They knew each other as children
He made his performance debut as a 7-year-old drummer, not a singer. His first drum kit was a gift from his father, Al Ridarelli.
Rydell got his big break in 1959 on “American Bandstand,” which originally was broadcast from Philadelphia. His first hit, “Kissing Time.