“I had the good fortune to spend my peak years as a recording artist during the golden age of the TV variety show,” Mr. Rydell wrote in his autobiography. “Throughout the early ’60s, I appeared on almost all of them.” Those included shows hosted by, among others Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Perry Como, Jack Benny, Milton Berl and, most notably, Red Skelton.
After making two appearances on “The Red Skelton Hour” on which he just sang, he appeared in sketches intermittently from 1961 to 1969 as various characters, including Zeke Kadiddlehopper, cousin to Skelton’s country-bumpkin character Clem Kadiddlehopper.
“Mr. Skelton fell in love with Bobby,” Mr. Rydell’s personal assistant, Linda F. Ms. Hoffman, said in 2013. “His son had passed away, and Bobby always felt he was looked upon by Mr. Skelton as a son. They were very close.”
New York Times reviews of two rock ‘n’ roll revival shows at Madison Square Garden suggested reasons for both his lesser place in the rock firmament and his future career longevity. In 1975, Ian Dove wrote: “Mr. Rydell is not your hard rocker — his era was in the late 1950s, when rock was being softened and made less frightening. With such songs as ‘Volare,’ he emerges more like a crooner than a rocker.” Reviewing a 1977 show, Robert Palmer wrote that Mr. Rydell “seemed uncomfortable with his rock ‘n’ roll hits and would probably have become an Italian crooner had he not grown up in the rock ‘n’ roll era.”
After his television appearances dwindled, he continued to perform in nightclubs and nostalgia shows, and to tour Australia, until the promoter Dick Fox put the Golden Boys together in 1985, initially or a PBS special. Mr. Rydell, Mr. Avalon and Fabian would perform their own songs and then sing together; there would also be tributes to Frank Sinatra and to Mr. Rydell’s favorite singer, Bobby Darin.
“When the three of us are onstage, we’re having fun,” Mr. Rydell said in a 2012 interview with the writer Pat Gallagher. “We’re not trying to fool anybody. Everybody has known us for the better part of 50 years. We just go out there and have fun and the audience can see that.”