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Teen Idols of the Past: Fabian

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Teen Idols of the Past

Introduction to Fabian

Fabian (born Fabiano Anthony Forte in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943) is an American entertainer who rose to become a teen idol in the 1950s-1960s. He made his mark in show business as a singer and recording artist, singing tunes written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. His well-known songs during his heyday include “I’m a Man,” “Turn Me Loose,” “Tiger,” “Come on and Get Me,” “Hound Dog,” “This Friendly World,” “String Along” and “About This Thing Called Love.” All of these singles were released on Chancellor label, and also became Top 40 hits. When Fabian was 18, he elected to buy out his contract from his manager Bob Marucci and withdrew from singing as well. Fabian moved on to acting, appearing on films (Hound-Dog Man, North to Alaska, High-Time, Mr. Hobbs Take a Vacation, Up Close and Personal) as well as on television (The Eleventh Hour, The Rat Patrol). He briefly made a comeback to singing in the 1970s and then in the 1980s and beyond.

Early life and entering show business

Fabian is best remembered as a teen idol especially during the 50s music era and also for his breakthrough hit “Tiger” in 1959. Fabian was born Fabiano Anthony Forte on February 6, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of three children. His father, a police officer, died early due to heart attack. Therefore, the 10-year old Fabian had to help his family to make ends meet by being employed as a janitor assistant in their apartment buiding. He attended South Philly High School where he played for several sports teams and joined the glee club.

Fabian grew up in the the Philadelphia’s South Side where the other teen idols Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell originated. Chancellor Records founders Bob Marucci and Peter DeAngilis went to the area as they thought it was the ideal place to look for new talents. Reportedly, Marucci discovered Fabian while the latter was grieving over his father, who was about to be taken in an ambulance. Marucci did not hesitate to give his card to Fabian. With the support of his family, Fabian accepted the offer because his father was not yet able to work after returning from the hospital.

Marucci and DeAngelis did a complete makeover on Fabian and also worked on his singing voice as well.

Life and Career

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, American teenagers idolized Fabian Forte, also known as Fabian. On February 6, 1943, he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Bob Marcucci, a record producer, first saw Fabian when he first started to sing in 1957. Marcucci was seeking a new teenage idol to compete with Elvis Presley, and he saw Fabian’s attractiveness and vocal ability as having promise. Marcucci gave him the name “Fabian” in honor of the infamously slow-moving Roman commander Fabius Maximus.

In 1959, “I’m a Man” became Fabian’s first successful single and peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. He had many more successes after that, including “Turn Me Loose,” “Hound Dog Man,” and “Tiger.” He also had appearances in a number of motion pictures, including “Hound-Dog Man” (1959), “High Time” (1960), and “North to Alaska” (1960).

As the British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones gained prominence in the middle of the 1960s, Fabian’s popularity started to decline. But he kept on performing, and in the 1970s he started appearing in films and television programs as an actor.

Fabian has a background in performing and singing in addition to producing and directing. His filmography includes “The Righteous Apples” (1964) and “The Hard Ride” (1971), while his television work includes “Laverne & Shirley,” “The Facts of Life,” and “Coach.”

In general, Fabian’s popularity as a teen idol in the late 1950s and early 1960s paved the way for subsequent pop performers, and his music is still adored by followers of the time.

Early Life – Discovery

Owners of Chancellor Records Bob Marcucci and Peter DeAngelis made the discovery of Forte in 1957. Record companies at the time searched the South Philadelphia communities for talented teenagers with attractive appearances.

Marcucci was close with the person who lived next door to Fabian. When Fabian’s father suffered a heart attack one day, Marcucci saw Fabian as he was being rushed away in an ambulance. He approached me and said, “So if you’re ever interested in the rock and roll business…,” and handed me his card. Fabian later recalled, “He kept staring at me and looking at me. I had a crew cut, but this was the day of Rick Nelson and Elvis. I looked at the guy like he was out of his mind. I told him, “Leave me alone. I’m worried about my dad.”

Fabian and his family were accommodating, and he agreed to record a song after Marcucci insisted because Fabian’s father could not work when he got home from the hospital. Another South Philadelphian, Frankie Avalon, mentioned Forte as a potential candidate. They gave me a pompadour, some clothing, and those goddamned white bucks, and off I went, as Fabian later remarked. Marcucci subsequently noted, “He was the right look and right for what we were going for.”

Peak years

In 1958, Fabian issued his debut single on Chancellor called “Shivers”(b/w “I’m in Love”). Bigger successes for Fabian followed, releasing the singles “Turn Me Loose” and “Tiger.” Both songs registered on the Top 10 of the Billboard chart at #9 and #3 respectively. The latter also made to the R&B chart at #15. “Tiger” was noted as Fabian’s biggest hit throughout his career.

When he had his debut appearance on American Bandstand, his previous single “I’m a Man” started to sell. Another single made to the Top 10 in 1959 with “Hound Dog Man” (#9) that would later become his first movie as well and performed the title song. It led to several movie appearances in 1960 like High Time and  North to Alaska.

Music Career

Fabian, a teen favorite of the late 1950s and early 1960s, was known for his bouncy, poppy tunes that drew significantly from rock and roll. Although he was condemned for not having musical skills and was marketed as a manufactured celebrity, young females flocked to him because of his attractiveness and engaging nature. Fabian continued to perform and record music throughout the 1970s and 1980s in addition to his music career. He also worked as an actor in a number of movies and TV series. Overall, Fabian’s music career had a big impact on how the teen idol genre and the larger cultural scene of the day developed.

Acting Career

Fabian began his acting career in 1959 with the release of “Hound-Dog Man,” and went on to feature in a number of additional motion pictures and television programs, frequently portraying a young, romantic protagonist. Even though his acting career was not as successful as his singing career, his roles in films from the 1950s and 1960s served to establish his reputation as a major cultural figure. On these performances, Fabian frequently performed musical pieces, advancing his musical career. Despite criticism for his limited range as an actor, Fabian was a well-liked character both on and off the screen thanks to his attractive appearance and affable demeanor.

Influence on Pop Culture

Fabian’s prominence in the adolescent idol genre of the late 1950s and early 1960s might be considered evidence of his impact on pop culture. He served as a teen idol for a new musical period that was more concerned with young culture and the notion of “teenage rebellion.”

Rock & roll was a big influence on Fabian’s music, which had a big impact on how the pop music business developed. His compositions, which were written to appeal to a young audience and had energetic rhythms and appealing melodies, contributed to the sound of the time.

Furthermore, Fabian’s status as a popular cultural symbol influenced the period’s dress and style. He became a style idol due to his attractive looks and endearing demeanor, and many adolescent lads tried to imitate his appearance and sense of style.

The manner in which Fabian was marketed and pushed as a celebrity is another indication of his impact on popular culture. His popularity helped to develop a new paradigm for the music industry where superstars were sold as goods rather than just artists. He was one of the first performers to be actively marketed and pushed by his record company.

Fabian’s status as a trailblazer in the teen idol genre and his impact on the music, fashion, and marketing of the time may be considered the sum of his influence on pop culture.

Discography

All of Forte’s albums go with the moniker Fabian. Before signing with Chancellor Records, Forte released two albums on his own, one of which included the song “Old Time Rock and Roll” in its original form. However, neither album was a financial success.

Year Album Label
1959 Hold That Tiger Rumble Records
1959 Fabulous Fabian Hallmark Music & Entertainment / Hallmark Recordings
1960 The Hit Makers Chancellor
1960 Façade Young & Wonderful Chancellor
1960 Good Old Summertime Chancellor
1961 Rockin’ Hot Chancellor
1974 Fabian EMI Music Distribution
1987 The Tiger Chancellor
1987 Fabulously Grateful Chancellor
1997 Schone Lieder, Live Roof

Later career

From late 1959 to late 1960,  Fabian’s releases became minor hits such as “Come and Get Me” (#29), “Got the Feeling” (#54), “This Friendly World” (#12), “Strike Along” (#39) and “About This Thing Called Love” (#31). After that, he move to Los Angeles and became more focused on his acting career.

Fabian, with his own share of misdemeanors and lousy career choices – including posing nude for Playgirl magazine in 1973 – soldiered on. He is still active singing, playing about “25 shows a year,” according to Fabian himself. In addition to that, he and his current third wife are also employed for Gladys Magazine.

Fabian’s songs are truly loved by fans, young or old, who truly realize the beauty of the 1950s-1960s oldies music.

Personal Life

He applied for military duty during the Vietnam War but was turned down. Forte was deemed 4F (unfit for service).

He was detained in 1982 when it was claimed that he lit his cigarette in the mouth of a passenger who ordered him to put it out in a non-smoking area of an airplane. Despite the fact that the passenger turned out to be a district attorney, no charges were ultimately filed.

Race-car collision

In Watkins Glen, New York, in 1978, Fabian was taking part in a charity race. Under the guidance of seasoned driver Bill Simpson, he was training at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park when his car overturned, resulting in minor scratches and bruises.

He received $32,000 in an out-of-court settlement in 1982 after a jury found him 40% responsible for the accident (Fabian testified that Simpson repeatedly urged him to drive faster while Simpson testified that Fabian suddenly and wildly increased his speed despite his orders to slow down). In 2021, that amount would be $90,000.

Marriages

Three marriages have taken place for Forte. In September 1966, he wed model Kathleen Regan; they had two children together, Julie and Christian, before divorcing in June 1975. After a confrontation with Regan in October 1975, during which he was alleged to have assaulted her, Forte was taken into custody. He was given a two-year probationary period. The pair were divorced in 1979. “My fault,” Fabian said.

In 1980, he wed Kate Netter; their divorce was finalized in 1990.

He got married to Miss Pennsylvania USA and former Bituminous Coal Queen Andrea Patrick in 1998; the resort where they were wedded afterward sued them for unpaid fees.

To be nearer to his wife’s family, Fabian moved from Los Angeles to Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He and his wife were later sued by the builder of their home for unpaid payments. They reside in a house that his wife created on 20 acres (8.1 hectares) of land in southwest Pennsylvania. In 2013, he said that playing “25 shows a year. It gets me out of the house… I’ve never been happier. [At home] I ride my ATV and tractor and cut the grass. Where I grew up, there was not any grass.” made him happier than ever.

Philanthropy

The American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and Forte’s Celebrity Golf Tournament in North Carolina have all benefited from the involvement of Fabian and Andrea Forte.

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