Freddie Bell and the Bellboys
Ferdinando Dominick Bello was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Italian American parents. He became a trombonist, bassist, drummer, and singer, playing in various bands including that of Ernie Ventura. In 1952 he formed his own group, the Bellboys, with Jack Kane (saxophone), Frankie Brent (bass / guitar), Russ Conti (piano), Chick Keeney (drums), and Jerry Mayo (trumpet). They were one of the first white groups to play the R&B hits of the day, and honed their act in the Midwest before landing a booking at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
In 1955, they made their first recordings for the Teen Records label, including a cover version of Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog" (first recorded by Big Mama Thornton). When performing the song in Las Vegas, they were seen by Elvis Presley, who was impressed and decided to record the song himself.
The group was signed to Mercury in 1956, and were also spotted by film producer Sam Katzman. He offered them a part in Rock Around the Clock, the first rock and roll movie, starring Bill Haley. The first single for their new label, "Giddy Up a Ding Dong", written by Bell and his friend Pep Lattanzi in 1953, was featured in the film. "Giddy Up a Ding Dong" was not a hit in the United States, but it was popular in Australia, France, and the UK, where it climbed to number four in the UK Singles Chart. The publicity for the single said, "If these sides don't move you, see a doctor – you're dead." The lyrics to the song are about a horse ride, with a definite western flavor, with the music having a loping, horse like cadence. The group also appeared in the 1956 film, Rumble on the Docks. In 1957, they became one of the first American rock and roll acts to tour the UK.
In 1964, they appeared in the film, Get Yourself a College Girl, with 1960s groups such as The Dave Clark Five and The Animals. However, their international tours did little to enlarge the popularity of the group in America, where they had no hit records. They continued to do well for some years in Las Vegas, thanks to their energetic stage shows.
Freddie Bell died, aged 76, in 2008. The final surviving member, Jerry Mayo died, also aged 76, on June 10, 2011.
- Freddie Bell (September 29, 1931 – February 10, 2008)
- Frankie Brent (March 9, 1934 – August 26, 2002)
- Jerry Mayo (August 31, 1934 – June 10, 2011)
- Russ Conti aka Russell Caltabiano (October 20, 1933 – May 4, 1992)
- [dead link]
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- "The Swinging Set (1964) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb.com. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
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