Avalon was born Francis Thomas Avallone on September 18, 1940, in Philadelphia, the son of Mary and Nicholas Avallone.
He was on U.S. television playing his trumpet by the time he was 11, performing on such programs as The Jackie Gleason Show.
Two singles showcasing Avalon’s trumpet playing were issued on RCA Victor’s “X” sublabel in 1954.
In 1951, at age 12, he was in a band called Rocco and the Saints, which included another soon-to-be famous teen singer, Bobby Rydell.
In 1952 he was performing at a private party held for singer Al Martino.
A talent scout who was also at the party was impressed enough by Avalon to get him an appearance on Jackie Gleason’s TV show, which led to more television appearances as mentioned before.
In 1954, he made two singles for “X” Records, an RCA Victor subsidiary.
Both were instrumentals featuring Frankie Avalon playing his trumpet: “Trumpet Sorrento” and “”Trumpet Tarantella.”
Avalon eventually landed a recording contract with Philadelphia’s Chancellor Records, and he recorded “Cupid” and “Teacher’s Pet”.
As a teenager he played with Bobby Rydell in Rocco and the Saints.
In 1959, “Venus” and “Why” went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
She was a former beauty pageant winner, and Avalon met her while playing cards at a friend’s house.
He told his friend that Kay was the girl he was going to marry.
His agent warned Avalon that marriage would spoil his teen idol mystique.
Still together, they have eight children – Frankie Jr., Tony, Dina, Laura, Joseph, Nicolas, Kathryn and Carla and ten grandchildren.
He began to get somewhat bigger parts and had his first starring role in Drums of Africa (1963).
His movie career really took off, however, when he was paired with former Mousketeer Annette Funicello in Beach Party (1963) and its string of sequels.
These films, with their combination of surfing, low comedy, dancing and bikinis, struck a nerve with teenage audiences, were produced for peanuts and made a fortune.
Avalon still recorded songs for Chancellor and other labels, but now he was far better known among younger audiences for his movies than for his records.
In 1985 he began touring with fellow teen idols Rydell and Fabian in an oldies show called “The Golden Boys of Bandstand,” which was a rousing success.
The 1980 film The Idolmaker, written by Ed Di Lorenzo and directed by Taylor Hackford, was a thinly-disguised biography of Avalon (“Tommy Dee” in the film) as well as 1950s teenage star Fabian Forte (called “Caesare” in the film), along with songwriter/producer Bob Marcucci (called “Vinnie Vacarri”).
In the movie, Dee clashes with the record producer and younger singer Caesare, who he feels threatens his career.
Eventually, Dee and Caesare quit the label, but their record careers collapse just as the British Invasion begins. The real Fabian threatened a lawsuit, despite the filmmakers’ insistence that the film presented only fictional characters (though Marcucci was a paid consultant).
Avalon denied most of the movie’s events.