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 An original 'Jersey Boy' returns to Bergenfield

Saturday, March 31, 2007

©2007 The Record (Bergen County, N.J.) / North Jersey Media Group. www.northjersey.com

BERGENFIELD -- Before "Jersey Boys" and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bob Gaudio was a 15-year-old musical whiz from Bergenfield who had to decide between staying in school and touring with Chuck Berry.

His parents wanted him to stay in school, but Paul Hoffmeister, who was Bergenfield High School principal then, convinced them otherwise. And it was this decision that Gaudio believes helped him become the world-famous songwriter he is today.

On Friday, the original member of The Four Seasons and composer of such hits as "Short Shorts" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" visited his former high school -- the current Roy W. Brown Middle School -- to receive honorary Class of 1958 jerseys and to listen to the school's big band.

Gaudio will return again this fall to receive an honorary high school diploma and field questions from students. Gaudio also answered questions during his visit Friday:

How does it feel to be back in Bergenfield?

It looks a lot like it used to. I remember a long walk to school like two miles. And I remember being out on that football field and separating a bone in my ankle and I had to walk home.

I understand you left high school at age 15 and the high school principal had something to do with it?

Yeah, Paul Hoffmeister told my parents that I should seek that opportunity and stay with it and I could always come back to get my high school education -- which I'm doing.

And how did that decision make a difference in your career?

Oh, you know, it was probably largely responsible for what has happened. I might have become an attorney [laughs].

How has your background -- growing up in Bergenfield and being from New Jersey -- influenced your music?

I think we're all inspired by our surroundings. I can't say specifically that a traffic light on the corner of Washington Street created a song in my mind. But I think we pick up just in general about our surroundings.

What is your earliest memory associated with music?

Wow, I'll say one of my most vivid memories is meeting Louis Armstrong when I was 15. We were doing a TV show, and he came over to say hello. Shaking that man's hand was probably a bigger thrill than meeting [Elvis] Presley.

What advice would you give to a kid who has similar dreams?

It sounds like a cliche, but if you have that fire burning if you don't, get a real job but if you really have that fire burning, you have to follow your dream. But it's a tough world out there, particularly in show business. You have to be really thick-skinned.

E-mail: parke@northjersey.com

E-mail: parke@northjersey.com

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