Four Aces to deal poetry, sentiment on Buhl DayBy Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Fred Diodati doesn't want to appear to be putting down Whitney Houston, but she can be a bit much to a man his age, 68.
"Whitney Houston is a wonderful singer but she sings power songs," said Diodati, lead singer for the Four Aces. "When you get older your ears get more sensitive."
The mellower stylings of Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, the Four Lads, which performs Monday at Buhl Day, and his group are better suited to older ears, he said.
Age not only affects the kind of music that is pleasing to a listener, but the poignancy of the lyrics.
"The older you get, the more sentimental you get and the more meaningful the words become to you," said the father of five and grandfather of seven.
Diodati, reached at home in West Chester, Pa., said the lyrics of the Aces' "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" is what he considers poetry.
"I don't think you have songs written like that today," he said. "There are good songs today, but not many."
Diodati joined the quartet in 1957, taking over the lead singing duties when Al Alberts opted for a solo career.
Diodati went to South Philadelphia High School, several years behind Alberts. It was the same school attended by Mario Lanza, Chubby Checker, Jack Klugman, Eddie Fisher, Al Martino, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Marion Anderson and other top singers and performers.
He said he considered the Four Aces "the best" when he was growing up, and knew many of their songs when he auditioned.
"When I auditioned with them I came home, it was 1 in the morning, and said to my wife, 'I think they're gonna pick me because we sounded so good together.' It was comfortable."
Eventually, tenor Dave Mahoney and baritone Sod Vaccaro left the group, and Diodati took over as the most tenured Ace when bass singer Lou Silvestri left in 1975. Diodati's version of the Four Aces battled in court with the original members over the use of the name, and Diodati won in 1975.
"The rest of the guys had retired and had been out of the business," Diodati said. "They wanted to come back and we didn't think that was right."
Diodati is joined on stage by Joe Giglio, a member since 1969, Harry Heisler, who hooked up in 1970, and Danny Colingo, who replaced Silvestri.
Since the court case, Diodati said he has had amicable conversations with Mahoney and Vaccaro. "If I ran into any of them I would love to talk to them," he said. "I have the greatest respect for them as entertainers."
The original group formed in Philadelphia in the late '40s. Decca signed them on the strength of their self-financed single "Sin," which became a minor hit in 1951. Later that year, "Tell Me Why" became the group's first big hit.
According to Norm N. Nite's book, "Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n' Roll," "Tell Me Why" set the precedent for male singing groups for the next five years, and the group charted 26 songs over eight years, including "Three Coins in a Fountain," "Sincerely," "Shangri-La," "Stranger in Paradise" and "Woman in Love."
By the time Diodati joined, the hits had stopped, although he recorded three albums and 15 singles with them.
The singers remain faithful to the original arrangements, Diodati said. They try to make themselves accessible to a younger audience by doing newer songs like "American Trilogy," which was a hit for Elvis Presley, and Harry Nilsson's "Without You," which Mariah Carey revived recently.
The group is on the road about half the year, he said. "At this stage in our lives it's a lot," he said. "The way we're working now is almost perfect."
The group gets booked on lots of cruises and Italian festivals. "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" remains the group's showcase song.
"It's our bread and butter," he said. "If I hated that song I would try to like it for no reason other than it's made a good living for my family."
The Four Aces sing at 6:45 p.m. Monday in the Performing Arts Shelter of Buhl Farm park, Hermitage, and then join the Carl Marks Orchestra for the grand finale. The Marks band starts playing at 7:30 p.m.