" 'da Boomah" : The Story of Freddy Cannon©2005JCMarion


Frederick Picariello was born in Revere, Massachusettes in December of 1940. He inherited his love for music from his father who by day was a truck driver, and on weekends became Fred Carmen musician who played trumpet led his own orchestra reliving hits of the big band era in the local area of greater Boston. In his early years the family moved to nearby Lynn, where young Fred attended high school. By that time he was a budding guitarist and a member of a local rock & roll combo called The Hurricanes. His guitar playing was enough of a talent that in 1956 he was brought in by Jack Gold to a recording session in Boston and is credited with the galloping solo on the G-Clefs vocal group rocker called "Ka-Ding Dong" which was released on the local Pilgrim record label.

Cannon at the time was using the same stage name as his father, Fred Carmen (sometimes spelling it Karmon). A local Boston area dj named Jack McDermott took notice of the Hurricanes at one of the many local record hops the band was playing at the time and signed on as manager for Freddy. An original tune by the band that McDermott thought had promise started out as a few lines of poetry by Freddy's mother. This was the genesis of the song "Tallahassie Lassie" which McDermott pitched to Frank Slay and Bob Crewe who had developed a rock 'n roll empire in Philadelphia in the late fifties. And of course, at the time they had a professional relationship with Dick Clark who by that time had become the most important person in all of American popular music. Soon a recording session was set up in Boston and guitar player Kenny Paulson was the last ingredient in the mix and so a rock classic was born. Once a good "take" was in the can it was time to sell the sound. They brought it to Clark, and he thought a few alterations should take place, and so there were a few splices, an overdub or two, and the finished version of "Lassie" was ready.

In the early spring of 1959, Philadelphia based Swan Records decided to release the record. Pushed by local Boston dj Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg, the record on Swan # 4031 (with "You Know" on the flip side) hit the streets as by Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon. Fred Karmon (Carmen) was now history. American Bandstand picked up on the tune and Freddy Cannon made the first of many many appearances for Dick Clark. "Lassie" turned out not only to be a big seller in Boston and Florida but across the country getting to be a top five seller and remaining on the charts for three months, and eventually selling more than a million copies. Freddy also introduced the world to the shouted "whoos!" that became his vocal trademark. As a follow-up Slay and Crewe showed next to no imagination with "Okeefenokee" which was a musical (and regional) direct copy of "Talahassie Lassie" for Swan #4038 (with "Kookie Hat" on the flip) and predictably the record went nowhere. Freddy was now aprehensive about fleeting fame as he readied a third try for Swan Records.

This time a change was introduced as early jazz plus big band sound meets rock 'n roll which sounded in 1959 as a sure ticket to failure. The song "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" somehow struck the right notes with record buyers and radio listeners as the tune on Swan # 4041 (paired with "Fractured") took off like a shot after being released late in the year. The song had an irresistable beat, stomping piano, thumping bass drum on the bridge, blasting tenor sax, and big band sound with the trumpet section. The rocking vocal and ever present "whoos" completed the sound and the public responded with Cannon getting to the number three mark in the country and on the top charts for three months. It became the second million seller for Cannon. Two huge hits from such differing sources showed Freddy that his style of music could succeed with a wide array of songs.

In 1960 Swan again showed little originality as they played off the popularity of "New Orleans" with another "southern" based pop hit with "Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy" a huge country and pop number one hit in 1950 for Red Foley. Released on Swan # 4050 (with "Boston's My Home Town" on the other side) it barely charted for Cannon and he looked for other opportunities. "Jump Over" (with "The Urge") on # 4053 was another minor hit during the year and did better than his previous record. Following were some poor sellers - "Happy Shade Of Blue" / "Cuernavaca Choo Choo" on # 4057; "My Blue Heaven" / "Humdinger" on # 4061; "Muskrat Ramble" / "Two Thousand-88" on # 4066; and "Buzz Buzz A-Diddle-It" / "Opportunity" on # 4071. Cannon did not hit the charts for over a year until the fall of 1961 with a tune aimed at the teen market with the song "Transistor Sister" on # 4078 (with "Walk To The Moon" on the flip side). The record charted for only one week on the low end of the best sellers. Two others were not even that successful - "For Me And My Gal" / "Blue Plate Special" on # 4083, and "Teen Queen Of The West" / "Wild Guy" on # 4096 which was noteworthy for the guitar playing of future superstar Roy Buchanan. There would be a change for the better however, just around the corner that began with a chance meeting between Bernie Binnick of Swan Records and an employee of the ABC television network that was trying to break into the music scene as a songwriter.

The fledgling writer named Chuck Barris was peddling a song he thought would work for Dion now recording as a solo artist. The original title of the song was "Amusement Park". Soon Binnick, along with Slay and Crewe heard the song and saw hit potential in it with Freddy Cannon. But first the trio decided on a name change for the song to "Palisades Park" after a long time alternate fun place to Coney Island right across the river in New Jersey. In the spring of 1962 "Palisades Park" is released along with a Cannon original "June, July, and August" on Swan # 4106. Originally "June" was the featured side and got very little airplay or favorable word of mouth. However in the Midwest "Palisades Park" was playing on the radio and listeners were hooked. The record took off and before long it had fooled all the "experts" and become the biggest seller for Freddy Cannon. More than three months on the hit charts, a solid number three nationally and a million selling single made the tune the sound of the summer of the year and one of the biggest hits of 1962. As the popularity of his biggest hit record began to wane, there were big changes ahead for Freddy Cannon.

A continuing string of records for Swan did not make their mark on the best seller charts however. There was "What's Gonna Happen When Summer's Gone?" / "Broadway" on # 4117; "If You Were A Rock And Roll Record" / "The Truth Ruth" on # 4122; "Four Letter Man" / "Come On And Love Me" on # 4132; "Patty Baby" / "Betty Jean" on # 4139; and "Everybody Monkey" / "Oh Gloria" on # 4149. In late 1963 Freddy moved with his family to California and signed on with a new record label Warner Brothers. His first effort for his new label featured a song which was produced by old Philadelphia partner Frank Slay. The song "Abigail Beecher" for Warners # 5409 was a moderate hit that made the top fifteen and had a six week stay on the national charts. The real wave of the future however could be seen in a move by his old label. Swan Records got the rights to release a 45 single by a new vocal instrumental group from England called The Beatles. "She Loves You" on Swan # 4152 was a number one million selling record that helped usher in the British Invasion of 1964 which dealt a severe blow to many American rock & rollers of the time. Swan continued releasing Cannon records even as he readied his new release for Warner Brothers. "Do What Hippies Do" / "That's The Way Girls Do" on # 4155; "Sweet Georgia Brown" / "What A Party" on # 4168; and "The Ups And Downs Of Love" on # 4178.

A cover of Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" backed with "Little Autograph Seeker" on Warners # 5487 did not sell, but the next move in the story of Freddy Cannon is once again tied to the career of Dick Clark. The American Bandstand emcee had a new afternoon television program with a pop music theme to be called "Where The Action Is" and had a theme song called "Action" written by Boyce & Hart for the program. Clark did not favor the version by Paul Revere & The Raiders, and Del Shannon was not interested and suddenly Freddy Cannon's name surfaced. Freddy recorded the song backed up by guitar wizards Glen Campbell and James Burton, and coupled the song with "Beachwood City" on # 5645. The record eventually became a million seller which was the fourth gold record of his career. Some other releases by Cannon for Warners include "The Old Rag Man" / "Let Me Show You Where It's At" on # 5666, and "The Dedication Song" / "Come On Come On" on # 5693 his last charted record until the nineteen eighties when he got together with The Belmonts for "Let's Put The Fun Back In Rock & Roll" and "Your Mama Ain't Always Right" for MiaSound in 1981.

During the ensuing years Freddy Cannon has made many appearances on the oldies circuit, and many club dates across the country, and with Dick Clark's "Rock, Roll, and Remember" themed shows. Freddy also spent some time during the nineteen seventies as a record promoter working at another side of the music business. After all these years Freddy Cannon can still put over a song and his original records have that signature sound that after a few short bars you know who is singing. It's not that easy to be that original in the world of American pop music. Two available CDs let you hear all the essential music. They are both from Varese - The first is "Palisades Park : The Best of Freddy Cannon - 1959-1963" and has all of the Swan singles, the hits, near misses, and flip sides. The second is "Where The Action Is : The Best of Freddy Cannon - 1964-1981" and includes the sides for Warner Brothers and subsequent labels up to and including his side with The Belmonts. These thirty eight tracks let you experience the unforgettable sound of Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon.

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