the four seasons Tommy devito Frankie Valli

Tommy Devito (far right) with Frankie Valli and the other members of the Four Seasons.

The bad “Jersey Boy” passes on: Tommy DeVito with a remembrance from Jerry Blavat

An original member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Tommy Devito passes away at age 92.

If you are a fan of the Four Seasons – the ultimate New Jersey working-class harmonists – Frank Valli and-or anything to do with their “Jersey Boys” musical and its several successful runs at the Forrest Theatre (to say nothing of its Broadway status and multiple Tony Awards), the death of Tommy DeVito will mean much to you. Not only was he a founding member of the Four Seasons, but DeVito was also the crucial pivot, the man that moved the needle, the one who truly made the drama that drove “Jersey Boys” into being more than just a jukebox musical. When Tommy DeVito passed on Monday night in Las Vegas, at age 92 with COVID-19 complications, much of the theatricality and danger of their tale went with him.

the four seasons Tommy devito
Tommy Devito

DeVito left the Four Seasons in 1971 after a long successful hit-making run. If “Jersey Boy” legend – with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice – is to be believed, his was a forced exit as DeVito owed scads of cash to loan sharks acquainted with the Jersey mob. DeVito was “sequestered” in Las Vegas where the mob could watch him, and the band would forever cover the debt, along with an additional $500,000 plus in unpaid taxes that Tommy kept hidden from the rest of the band.

“The writers were excited about our story – no holds barred, tough as we were – and here we are,” the Four Seasons’ songwriter Bob Gaudio told me at the time of the show’s Philly premiere. “We’re street guys…The street music of the time with the stuff that went on with guys on the corner.”

A.D. Amorosi: And guys on the corner didn’t always exactly do the right thing. 
Bob Gaudio: Noooo. (laughs). We just managed to make it spectacular.

the four seasons Tommy devito Frankie Valli

DeVito legendarily denied and downplayed much of the playwrights’ assertions of his mob ties. 

At the “Jersey Boys Blog,” DeVito even said, “There were a couple of things that didn’t jive with me when I first saw it… But it’s doing great, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” His change of attitude may have come from being cut in on the deal.

So is the truth somewhere in the middle?

“Tommy DeVito was the real guy who had all the connections,” said Jerry Blavat, the legendary Philadelphia on-air personality who aided and abetted in getting the Four Seasons signed based on his opinion of Valli, Gaudio and company having a golden sound.

Blavat recalled being in Florida with the Four Seasons’ producer, Bob Crewe, in 1962 not long after Crewe first produced several of the quartet’s signature songs, including “Sherry.”

Blavat recalled being in Florida with the Four Seasons’ producer, Bob Crewe, in 1962 not long after Crewe first produced several of the quartet’s signature songs, including “Sherry.”

the four seasons Tommy devito Frankie Valli

“Tommy called while I was down there, and said, ‘You’re friends with Morris Levy (independent publisher and founder/owner of Roulette Records). Crewe has the master to our songs with him in Florida. Go meet him.’ So, I go to where Bob is at the hotel bar, and he’s getting drunk. I go to congratulate him, and Bob looks, and says to me, ‘Congratulations my ass. Morris thinks they’re the worst piece of shit he ever heard.’ That’s when I picked up the phone and called (Ewart) Abner (the boss of Vee-Jay Records) in Miami. Abner loved it, but, remarked ‘It’s a white group. We are a black label.’ I assured them that race, color and religion had nothing to do with having a hit record. He bought it. I played it in heavy rotation, It was a hit. Tommy was the guy who got the deal rolling, however. He was a rebel like The Geator is a rebel.”


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