Riddle died of complications from pneumonia at Jefferson Hospital, according to a statement released by Maria Novi, his marketing and events coordinator.
Riddle, who was credited with prolonging his life in 2012, was 79 years old.
Along with James Darren, Fabian, and Frankie Avalon, Riddle was among a wave of useful teen idols who emerged after Elvis Presley and before the rise of the Beatles.
Between 1959 and 1964, he had nearly thirty singles including “Wild One,” “Volare,” “Wildwood Days,” “Cha-Cha-Cha,” and “Forget Him,” a consolation song for a hated girl. that helped inspire the Beatles classic “She Loves You.”
He had recurring roles on “The Red Skelton Show” and other TV shows, and rewritten “Bye Bye Birdie” in 1963 to give Rydell a lead role as Ann-Margret’s boyfriend. He didn’t want to move to Hollywood, however, and “Birdy” became his only significant movie role—even though the high school hit in the popular 1970s lyrical Grease was named after him.
Riddle has never strayed from his Philadelphia roots, having lived in the area for most of his life. The 11th Street block where Bobby Riddle Boulevard grew up was christened by his hometown in 1995.
Robert Ridarelli was born in a South Philadelphia neighborhood who would also produce teen idols Darren, Fabian, and Avalon. They knew each other as kids – Riddell played drums with Avalon on trumpets in a group called Rocco and the Saints.
Before adorning magazine covers and teen movie screens, Riddle made his bones as a youngster in Philadelphia clubs.
He made his performance debut as a 7-year-old drummer, not a singer. His first drum set was a gift from his father, Al Ridarelli, who inspired his son’s choice of instrument by taking him to watch Gene Krupa perform.
At the age of nine, he made his debut on an amateur television show and became a regular drummer for three years.
Rydell got his big break in 1959 on “American Bandstand,” which was originally broadcasting from Philadelphia. His first hit, “Kissing Time” soon followed, and the slender 17-year-old with a pompadour haircut rose to stardom. Rydell and fellow artists from Philadelphia were perfect for “Bandstand” host Dick Clark, who sought to make rock and roll palatable for young and old. He also appeared live across the country on a tour organized by Clarke.
Changing musical tastes heralded by the Beatles and the rest of the British invasion defused the successful careers of Riddell and his countrymen, and he continued to perform and record music with limited success into the late 1960s and 1970s. But in 1985 he joined his old friends Avalon and Fabian for what they thought would be a few times. Dubbing themselves “The Golden Boys of Bandstand,” the shows were so successful that the trio ended up touring for three years and had 300 shows nationwide.
“Wildwood Days” 1963 is the national anthem of the popular South Jersey town. Wildwood continues to play the Rydell song to this day to welcome visitors to the coastal destination.
“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Riddle a few times. A brilliant artist and most importantly, a true gentleman. Despite his success, he never forgot his roots. He really loved Wildwood. I hope it’s every day off and every night,” Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron said Tuesday night. : “Rest in peace, Wildwood’s favorite son.”
Those who knew Riddle personally say he never forgot where he came from and always gave back to his community.
“He was always very generous with his time and volunteered for many charities,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny.
Ann Catania, of Ten Pennies Florist, was a friend of the Rydells family. She even designed flowers for his daughter’s wedding.
“I will never forget his music, his love or his friendship. I am sad that we lost someone like him,” she said.
For over 30 years, singer Rydell has performed in hundreds of shows across the country. He was scheduled to perform in June at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.
Jerry Blavat, aka The Geator with the Heater, has played many Rydell songs over the years.
“That was the sound before Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff,” said Plavat. “Rock and roll was at the height of rock and roll. Bobby was an experienced performer.”
Riddle’s girlfriend and first wife, Camille, passed away in 2003.
He is survived by his second wife, Linda Hoffman, whom he married in 2009 with son Robert Ridarelli, daughter Jennifer Doolin, and five grandchildren.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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