When “Walk like a Man” began its three-week run at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, March 2, 1963, it was their third number one song within a six month period. “Sherry” (5 weeks), “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (5 weeks), and “Walk like a Man” (3 weeks) topped the charts for a total of 13 weeks, making the Four Seasons the most successful American group of 1962-1963. During the first half of the Beatles era, they were one of very few American artists to consistently enjoy commercial success.
All three of their number one hits were similar in style and sound. Nick Massi’s bass vocal provided the foundation for the harmonies and Frankie Valli’s falsetto sang the lead. It was early 1960s slick uptempo pop at its best. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored it as one of The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
It was quite a recording session that yielded the hit. The building caught fire while the group was recording. Producer Bob Crewe heard the fire alarms and ultimately the fire trucks, but kept the machines rolling until they were forced to evacuate. Crewe kept the tape safe.
All was not well between the Four Seasons and their label. Vee Jay had been founded in 1953 and was primarily known as the home for such rhythm & blues artists as Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, The Dells, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Dee Clark, and the Staple Singers. They began litigation to break their contract over royalty issues. They held back future hits “Dawn (Go Away)” and “Rag Doll” until they signed with Philips. It was not a good couple of years for Vee Jay as The Beatles also opted out of their contact with the label.
The Four Seasons would continue to be a hit-making machine for Phillips during the rest of the decade and then resurrect themselves during the 1970s disco era. Frankie Valli continues to tour with a version of the Four Seasons.
The group was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and remains one of the most successful in American music history. Fifty years ago this week they were sitting on top of the music world.