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February 17, 2023

Singer Bobby Rydell, a 1960s teen idol, to be memorialized with Wildwood statue

The pop musician, who died last year at age 79, was a regular performer at the Jersey Shore long after his heyday

Wildwood will celebrate the musical legacy of the late Bobby Rydell with a new statue of the beloved singer, his family announced Friday.

Rydell, who grew up in South Philadelphia, is best-known for hits like "Wildwood Days," "Kissin' Time," "Sway," and "Wild One." He died last year at age 79, having performed up until his death.

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The charisma Rydell brought to the stage was apparent at age 8, when he won the national talent show "TV Teen Club." That led to an extended stint on the program, setting up his long and successful career as a touring musician who thrived in nightclub environments. He also became a fixture on TV in the 1960s and starred as Hugo Peabody in the movie version of the musical "Bye Bye Birdie."

The release of "Wildwood Days" in 1963 put the Jersey Shore town's fun-loving, doo-wop lifestyle on the national map and helped turn it into a vacation destination.

Rydell already has a mural on the Wildwood Boardwalk at Roberts Avenue, painted by artist Peter Bieling in 2014, and a street named after him. The location of the new, 6-foot-tall bronze memorial has not been revealed.

The street where Rydell grew up – the 2400 block of South 11th Street in Lower Moyamensing – was renamed Bobby Rydell Boulevard in 2013. 

Linda Hoffman, Rydell's wife, said the newly created Bobby Rydell Foundation will be dedicated to keeping her husband's music alive. The foundation's spokesperson will be Tommy Coniglio, the New Jersey singer known as "The Voice of Tribute" for his covers of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and many others. Coniglio worked with Rydell on a new arrangement of "Sway" that was released last year, and plans to release another collaboration in the near future.

"Bobby was such an icon to the Wildwoods and he performed many times on the island," Coniglio said. "The foundation can think of no better place for this statue. I am honored to be able to participate with this organization and perform Bobby's songs to keep the music alive. We recorded two songs and my time in the studio with Bobby is a memory I will never forget."

Fundraising efforts for the statue already have begun. They include an upcoming, sold-out event at Joey M.'s in Wildwood on Sunday, Feb. 26. A second event will be held at the Bolero Resort on Sunday, April 30th. It will feature an auction of Rydell's autographed items. Details will be released on Rydell's and Coniglio's Instagram pages.

"Stay tuned with us as we travel on this journey to memorialize the great Bobby Rydell," Coniglio said. "We have a lot more to come and we are all very excited to honor Bobby in this way."