Cannon, Freddie “Boom Boom,” (Freddy Picariello)

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Cannon, Freddie “Boom Boom,” (Freddy Picariello)

Cannon, Freddie “Boom Boom,” (Freddy Picariello), the first “everyman” rock star; b. Lynn, Mass., Dec. 4, 1940.

A fixture on the oldies circuit as long as such a thing existed, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Freddy Cannon had eight Top 40 singles. The son of a dance-band leader, Cannon worked with the Boston-area vocal group the G-Clefs and recorded with the Spindrifts. Boston DJ Jack McDermott took a song Freddy and his mother wrote to producers Bob Crewe and Frank Slay. Titled “Rock ’n’ Roll Baby” Crewe and Slay added their own touches to the tune and retitled it “Tallahassee Lassie”; they also dubbed the songwriter Freddy Cannon. The record came out on Swan, a label partly owned by “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark, and (not surprisingly) Cannon became a fixture on the program. The tune hit #6 on the charts. They followed that up with a reworking of the hoary Crescent City chestnut “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.” It became Cannon’s biggest hit, reaching #3 towards the end of 1959 and going gold.

Between 1960 and 1965, Cannon had six more Top 40 hits. They ranged from a rock remake of Red Foley’s “Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy” to the #3 hit by Chuck Barris, “Palisades Park.” One of the few rock singers to survive the British revolution, Cannon hit #16 in 1964 with his Warner Bros, debut, “Abigail Beecher.” Dick Clark once again helped him to his final Top 40 single in 1965, “Action,” the theme to Clark’s television show Where the Action Is.

Cannon continued to record through the 1980s and 1990s, including a 1981 record with the Belmonts (Dion’s old backing group), “Let’s Put the Fun Back in Rock and Roll” and a charity Christmas trio with Johnny Tillotson and Brian Hyland on the Christmas Album, A Gift of Hope that also featured Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams Jr., Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson and other notables. Not bad company for someone who hadn’t had a hit in nearly a quarter century.


Happy Shades of Blue (1960); The Explosive Freddy Cannon (1960); Freddy Cannon Favourites (1961); Twistin’ All Night Long (1961); Freddie Cannon at Palisades Park (1962); Freddie Cannon Steps Out (1963); Bang On (1963); Freddie Cannon (1964); Steps Out (1964); Sings Abigail Beecher (1964); Action! (1965); Palisades Park (1985); Big Blast From Boston: Best 0/(1995).

—Hank Bordowitz