The music of Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons - not just for babys and toddlers, but for parents and grandparents, too!

‘Jersey Boys’ Encore: ‘Jersey Babys’

By ALLISON SCHIFF
Special to Twin-Boro News

“Jersey Boys” is a big hit on Broadway. And almost everyone has heard of Jersey girls.

But now there are “Jersey Babys.”

“Jersey Babys” is the result of the hard work and dedication of Danielle Gaudio-Lalehzar, daughter of Bob Gaudio, an original member of the Four Seasons and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It is an inventive instrumental reinterpretation of the Four Seasons’ major hits geared toward a new audience – children.

The 13 tracks on the “Jersey Babys” CD, which were all originally written by Bob Gaudio, are soothing, gentle adaptations of Four Seasons hits — minus the lyrics.

In the words of Gaudio — who agreed to the project after much cajoling and coaxing from Danielle — working on the album was like “trying to create a musical playground” in which the tunes were boiled down to their most basic elements, “naked if you will,” and then dressed again in new clothes.

First simplified into their essential melodies, the songs were then re-imagined using violins, flutes, pianos and mellow electric beats – in the process becoming both something new and yet remaining comfortingly recognizable to the accustomed ear.

Each song is uniquely crafted. “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” is sweetly jaunty; “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” becomes the love song of a parent to a child; and “Ronnie” is rendered into a tranquil lullaby.

“My father had to strip the songs and start from scratch to create new arrangements,” said Danielle, who grew up in the Bergenfield/New Milford area and in Mullica Hill.

“So in the end, they’re very familiar, but also like completely different songs – like a brand new way to appreciate the music in its raw form,” said Danielle, who now lives with her family in Garden City, Long Island.

“Though the lyrics are great and add another level of meaning, the music is also able to speak without them, which really shows their power,” she said.

‘Beatles for Babies’

The idea for “Jersey Babys” came to Danielle about eight years ago after hearing a “Beatles for Babies” album at a friend’s house when her older son was just a toddler.

“I liked what I heard so much I ran out and bought it for myself and for all of my friends who were having babies,” said Danielle, who has a degree in elementary education.

“There are a number of variations and versions of the ‘Beatles for Babies’ albums,” she said, “and I actually ended up buying the whole series.”

“Then I went out and bought Elvis for Babies, which was equally as good,” she said.

“And it made me start to think of dad’s music,

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and how much I would love to have something like the Beatles album with his music for my kids.”

What resulted ultimately became a family affair.

But, from the time the concept first began to germinate in Danielle’s mind to the moment the album was completed, she had quite a lot of work and a great deal of convincing to do in order to bring it to fruition.

“It was about five years before the thought turned into something real,” she said. “I mentioned my idea to my father, but it didn’t go anywhere for a while.”

Though negotiations with potential labels dragged on for another year and one-half — with the usual amount of enervating corporate hemming and hawing — Danielle clung to her vision, and when “Jersey Boys” became a bona fide hit in 2005, she was able to get her father more excited about her idea, and the project really started to take off.

Robby Robinson, Frankie Valli’s longtime musical director and keyboard player, agreed to co-produce; and Gaudio himself put up the money to bankroll the venture.

Danielle’s brother, Shannon, a graphic designer by trade, handled the art direction and designed the CD cover.

Because Robinson was on tour with Valli at the time, he would periodically send clips via e-mail of what he was working on to

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“At the beginning, it wasn’t right,” said Danielle, who has known Robinson since she was a little girl.

‘Music box’ music

“It sounded a little like elevator music,” she said, “so I wrote back to say I wanted it to sound a little more like music from a music box.”

“I made him get the Beatles CD, and I made my father listen to it again,” she said. “By that time, I’d probably listened to it thousands of times. But I never get tired of it.”

It took about a year to complete, but when it was finished Danielle said “Jersey Babys” was exactly what she had had in mind.

“I didn’t just want to like it, I wanted to love it and I did,” said Danielle.

“I was so pleased with the music, and I was also happy my father was mixing it because he’s usually so busy with the play, but he’d taken the time out, and I knew he’d really done it for me.”

“He put a lot of work into mixing the tracks and tweaking them so they were just right because he’s a perfectionist, and that truly shows in his music,” she said.

“He didn’t just throw this together. And when I heard it, it brought tears to my eye because somehow it was even better than I had imagined.”

Despite being ostensibly geared toward kids, “Jersey Babys,” released on Rhino Records, is really for people of all ages.

“We had the record company put a sticker on the album to say that it’s not just for children,” said Danielle. “This is an album for the young and the young at heart; and many adults have sent us letters and e-mails to tell us how much they love it.”

Broadway hit

In recent years, the Four Seasons’ fan base has been broadening in an ever-widening arc with the success of “Jersey Boys” on Broadway.

In addition to loyal fans, the group’s following has grown exponentially, especially among younger listeners, many of who weren’t even born when the original songs were released.

The music’s intergenerational appeal can provide a common ground between parents and their children.

Many young people don’t realize how much the Four Seasons have influenced contemporary pop culture – through Heath Ledger’s

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famous serenade in “10 Things I Hate About You,” the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack and numerous covers and remixes of the original tracks.

A Norwegian hip-hop group, MadCon, recently went to Number One in Norway with a cover of “Beggin,” which was first released by the Seasons in 1967.

“I think the music resonates because it’s timeless, and the lyrics have worth to people of all ages,” said Danielle. “Look at songs like ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ ‘Who Loves You, Pretty Baby’ and ‘Walk Like a Man’ – these songs can have meaning on different levels for children and for adults.”

“After seeing the show with their parents, kids and young teens who never thought they would like that kind of music or only listen to what’s ‘cool’ on the radio, will go and download the music for their i-pods and then go back and look up the original versions of the songs,” she said.

“And ‘Jersey Babys’ creates a whole new level of appreciation to be able to listen to the melodies without the lyrics, too.”

Students listen

And students at Franklin School in Bergenfield, for example, are doing just that.

When Danielle, who attended Franklin School in the second grade, happened to meet Principal Rosemary LaGamma at Bob Gaudio’s honorary graduation ceremony from Bergenfield High School at the beginning of February – Gaudio had left BHS in 1958 to pursue his music

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career – she gave her a copy of “Jersey Babys.”

LaGamma then passed the album on to Franklin School first-grade teacher Marie Sokolowski, who uses music in her classroom on a daily basis. She played the CD for her students; they loved it immediately.

“When I played it, it made them happy and totally relaxed them,” said Sokolowski. “It has a really soothing effect on the kids, and we can all use a little rest and relaxation.”

“I had the ‘Jersey Babys’ CD playing when they walked into the classroom one morning, and they just immediately sat down and listened,” she said.

“One little girl even asked if the song that was playing was from ‘Jersey Boys.’ Her sister and father had just gone to see the show, and she recognized the tune.”

Sokolowski, who has been teaching for 35 years, wrote her master’s thesis on integrating music into the classroom experience and using it to facilitate the learning process.

She sings to the children and uses musical cues to indicate changing activities. Sokolowski also uses song to teach her students phonetic concepts, syllabification and reading skills.

She plays Mozart to help her students relax, and when they need an energy

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release, she puts on a snappy tune and lets them jump around for a little bit.

When they need to be active, Sokolowski makes a point of harnessing their enthusiasm instead of repressing it into silence.

“Sometimes the kids just need to get up and move around in the middle of the day,” she said. “I mean, I can’t sit around all day either!”

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Influencing taste

“I think there is a lot parental influence on children’s tastes, and often your music tastes are molded by what you’re exposed to when you’re young. And they become a part of you and what you lean towards,” said Danielle.

“If parents listen to ‘Jersey Babys’ and enjoy it like I did – and I’m not just saying that because it’s my father’s music – so will their kids.”

Danielle’s children are big Four Seasons and Beatles fans, and are very proud of their grandfather.

“It’s so nice now, as a grownup, to see dad get the recognition he deserves because he had to sacrifice a lot of family time to be able to do what he does best,” she said. “But now it’s great to have my kids be able to recognize his songs in department stores, on the TV, when we’re in the supermarket. They know it right away.”

“I was with my older son, Cyrus, in a pharmacy when he was 6 and they were playing a Barry Manilow version of a Four Seasons song, and he yelled out, ‘This is grandpa’s song!’ ” said Danielle, who has “Jersey Babys” music as the ringtone on her cell phone, as well as a “Jersey Babys”-inspired license plate.

“He knew it from the first few notes because I would play the music all the time for him.”

Now that her brainchild is a reality, Danielle said she could not be more pleased with the result, the quality of which she attributes to her father and to Robinson.

“They’re professionals,” she said, “but they also have a real love for music. And when you put your heart and soul into something and it has meaning to you, that’s when it comes out best.”

“It’s not just people doing a job here,” said Danielle. “This was a real labor of love.”

Free streaming audio samples of “Jersey Babys” tracks are available at www.jerseybabys.com.