Freddy Cannon takes us into the world of 1950s and early 60s rock ‘n roll with his autobiography, Where the Action Is. Cannon, whose real name is Frederick Anthony Picarello Jr., scored his first hit at age 19 in 1959, with a song written by his mother, “Tallahassee Lassie.” This spawned a series of hits based on geographical locations, including “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,” which made in to #3 in both the US and England, and his biggest hit, 1962’s “Palisades Park,” written by future Gong Show host Chuck Barris.
Although he was already secretly married to the woman who is still his wife when he had his first hit record, Cannon became a “teen idol” along with Fabian, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, and other young singers of that era of rock ‘n’ roll. Many of these artists found fame on packaged rock ‘n’ roll tours and on TV shows that featured rock ‘n’ roll and dancing teens, the most influential of these being Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.
American Bandstand was filmed in Philadelphia at first, and Freddy and his wife lived there, so since Dick Clark liked him and his music, he became the most frequent of all the acts who appeared on the show. The Cannons even moved to Los Angeles when the show began to film there.
Aside from American Bandstand, Freddy Cannon also appeared on the other major rock TV shows of the 60’s, including Shindig! Hullabaloo, and Clark’s Where the Action Is!, for which he recorded the theme song.
Cannon also traveled with Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars” tours and other package tours. He has interesting tales to tell about the acts he appeared with, including many of the great Motown and R’n’B acts that he greatly admired, like The Shirelles, The Supremes, The Drifters, and The Platters.
He recalls the problems they encountered in the South when they had to buy food for the black artists and take it to them on the bus because they could not eat in the restaurants. He also recalls how rock ‘n’ roll brought white teens and black teens together through the love of the music.
Among other interesting stories Cannon shares are those of the rock ‘n’ roll tragedies that touched his life because they involved people he knew and liked, like Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.
Cannon also has interesting encounters to relate involving Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and even The Beatles and The Stones, although like most of the other “teen idols” his career was drastically impacted by the arrival of the Beatles and the other British groups who dominated the mid-60s music scene.
While sometimes a bit repetitive, Where the Action Is is an enjoyable visit to an important part of American music history by a man who was right in the middle of the action.