The Royal Teens: The First Jersey Boys Come Home to Fort Lee
The Real Jersey Boys Return to Fort Lee - The Royal Teens Set to Perform in Free Concert at the Jack Alter Fort Lee Community Center Aug. 11 at 7 p.m.
Jersey is known for many things in the entertainment field, some good and some not so good. Jersey Shore has a rather odious connotation these days thanks to a “reality” show where the players are in reality not from New Jersey. But this article is not about some Jersey wannabes but rather about a Jersey boy made good from Fort Lee, Tom Austin.
Tom is a successful businessman who lives in Bergen County not so very far from his roots in the Coytesville section of Fort Lee. We met Tom several years ago when we were working on an exhibit in the Fort Lee Museum on the famed Riviera Nightclub that sat on the Palisades just north of the George Washington Bridge. Tom’s dad, Al Austin, was a special police officer at the Riviera when it was owned and operated by Bill Miller in the late 1940’s through its closure at the end of the 1953 fall season. Tom has a wonderful archive of photos of the Riviera and among these pieces is a treasure trove of shots of the famous celebrities who performed at the nightclub. Tom donated many of these stills to the Fort Lee Historical Society and they have been displayed in exhibits on the Riviera in our museum. Tom also recently wrote a book with Ron Kase titled “Bill Miller’s Riviera America’s Showplace in Fort Lee, New Jersey.”
As we became friends with Tom we learned that as a very young man in Fort Lee he was a musician and he formed a rock and roll band in 1956 with Bob Gaudio on piano, Tom on the drums, Billy Dalton on guitar and Billy Crandall on saxophone – they were The Royal Teens. They are best known for their hit single Short Shorts a song written by Tom and Bob Gaudio. In 1958 Bob met Frankie Valli and his group The Four Lovers and Bob left The Royal Teens and eventually became part of The Four Lovers. In 1960 songwriter / keyboardist Gaudio shook hands with Frankie Valli and formed The Four Seasons. Gaudio wrote the first Four Season’s #1 hit Sherry in 1962. So all of this great rock & roll history started with a Coytesville boy named Tommy Austin.
This coming Saturday night, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. at the outdoor stage of the Jack Alter Fort Lee Community Center (1355 Inwood Terrace) Tom Austin and The Royal Teens come back home to perform in this free concert as part of the Fort Lee Film Commission’s Movies & Music Under the Stars. So if you want to shake hands with a real Jersey Boy no need to go into NYC and see the Broadway show this week, just put on your poodle skirt and do your hair in a DA style and come on down to the Community Center, and don’t forget to wear your short shorts!