James Darren – A Quintessential Performer


James Darren is an American singer/TV and movie actor. Born James William Ercolani, Darren had a teen idol charisma which led to a career in films and in music. Darren appeared in films such as Gidget, The Guns Of Navarone, and on television such as The Time Tunnel and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Darren has been more active in films and TV than in music, though he also has had a string of pop hits such as “Goodbye Cruel World,” his biggest and most memorable song of his, as of yet. His appearance on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the role of Vic Fontaine the holographic singer somewhat revitalized his singing career; many of his Star Trek performances were recorded again This One’s From The Heartalbum in the late 90s. Darren also tackled directing, having worked on mostly televsion shows from the action-packed series such as Hunter to dramas like Beverly Hills, 90210.

Rising to prominence

Showbiz personality and former teen idol James Darren was born James William Ercolani in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 8, 1936. He is of Italian descent.

During his teens, Darren was discovered by a talent and casting director by the name of Joyce Selznick. In his heyday, Darren proved to everyone that he was not the typical teen idol. He initially worked in films, and rose to prominence for his role as Moodoggie in 1959’s Gidget.

Hitting the peak of his recording career with “Goodbye, Cruel World”

He also became a recording artist, signed to Colpix Records. Under that label Darren achieved a string of Billboard pop chart hits. His first charting single “Gidget,” barely missed the Top 40 in 1959. Afer a couple minor hits, he achieved his first Top 10 pop smash single with “Goodbye, Cruel World” which was composed by Gloria Shayne Baker (aka Gloria Shayne). It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#28 on the UK singles chart) in 1961. It sold over a million copies and was awarded with a gold disc.

Darren followed it up with Goffin-King’s “Her Royal Majesty,” which became his second and last Top 10 pop hit. It reached its peak position at #6 (#36 UK) in 1962. He immediately released his next single, this time Mann-Weil’s “Conscience” which just barely missed the Top 10 in April that same year.

Darren continued to churn out singles including “Mary’s Little Lamb” (#39 pop), “All” (#35 pop, #5 adult contemporary), “Pin a Medal on Joey” (#54 pop), “You Take My Heart Away” (#52 pop) and other very minor chart placing singles. He made thirteen albums and a smattering of compilations releases — these albums include joint collaborations with fellow teen idols Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen (Bye Bye Birdie, Teenage Triangle and More Teenage Triangle).

Later career

Darren continued to act on the big and small screen. Some of his film appearances include Gunman’s Walk, The Gene Krupa Story, All the Young Men, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, The Guns of Navarone, Diamond Head, Gidget Goes to Rome, Venus in Furs, and a few others. Television credits include The Donna Reed Show, The Flintstones and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place.

He was a great friend to the late Frank Sinatra, whose vocal style Darren emulated in his 1999 albumThis One’s From the Heart (where his singing performances from hisStar Trek stint also appear). His 2001 follow-up Because of You, on the other hand, followed Tony Bennett’s singing style.