30 May 2013

Little Tony (1941-2013)

On 28 May, rock and roll singer Little Tony (1941) has died. The artist from San Marino achieved success in Great Britain during the late 1950s and early 1960s, as the lead singer of Little Tony & His Brothers. In 1962, he returned to Italy where he continued a successful career as a singer and film actor in many Musicarellos, the typical Italian youth musical of the 1960s.

Little Tony (1941-2013)
Italian promotional card by Dischi Durium.

Little Tony
Italian postcard by Edizione Diesse.

Little Tony
Italian postcard. Photo: Dutrium.

The Boy With The Ducktail
Little Tony was born as Antonio Ciacci in 1941 in Tivoli, Italy, but he is a citizen of San Marino. His parents were born there, and he has never applied for Italian citizenship although he lived there most of his life. His father was a singer and accordionist. Inspired by the new rock and roll sounds from the US, Antonio formed his own rock and roll group in 1957. He was the lead singer, with his older brother Alberto on bass and his younger brother Enrico on guitar. Little Tony was an emulation of Little Richard. The following year, Little Tony & His Brothers were signed by Durium Records, who released a series of covers of American rock and roll songs by them in Italy. Their hits included covers of Lucille, Johnny B. Goode, Splish Splash and Shake Rattle and Roll. In 1959, the Italian singer Marino Marini was in London to appear on the TV show Oh Boy!, and recommended the group to the producer Jack Good. Good visited Italy to see a Milan concert by Little Tony & His Brothers, was impressed, and signed them on the spot. They moved to England, where they would live and perform for some 18 months. They made their first appearance on Good’s new TV show Boy Meets Girls in September 1959, and released their first single in the UK, I Can't Help It - the 11th single of their career in Italy - on the Decca label. Tony was nicknamed ‘the boy with the ducktail’. Their third British single was for the first time recorded in London. The result, the rock ballad Too Good, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, reached # 19 on the UK singles chart in January 1960. It was their only chart success in Britain. The group continued to appear regularly on TV shows in Britain until 1962.

Little Tony
Italian postcard by Silvercart, Milano, no. 541/1.

Little Tony
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 192, 1969. Retail price: 0,20 M.

Raining Stones
Little Tony & His Brothers first revisited Italy in 1961 to appear at the San Remo Festival, where they reached the second place with 24 mila baci (24 thousand kisses). He also contributed songs to popular Musicarellos as I Teddy boys della canzone/The Teddy Boys Lyrics (Domenico Paolella, 1960) and the spoof Rocco e le sorelle/Rocco and the Sisters (Giorgio Simonelli, 1961). The following year the group returned more permanently in Italy. Little Tony then worked as a solo singer and started to sing in Italian. He had his first #1 in Italy with Il ragazzo col ciuffo in 1962. He also began to work as a film actor, notably appearing in 5 marines per 100 ragazze/5 Marines for 100 girls (Mario Mattoli, 1962) starring Virna Lisi, the crime comedy Un gangster venuto da Brooklyn/A gangster came from Brooklyn (Emimmo Salvi, 1966) with Akim Tamiroff, and the Musicarello Riderà!/Laugh! (Bruno Corbucci, 1967). One of his biggest hit songs was Cuore matto (Heart Of The Matter). It was #1 for nine consecutive weeks in 1967. Two years later, he formed his own record label, Little Records. He continued to record regularly since then. During his career he had also hits in several other countries (than Italy and England) in Europe and South America and had countless albums released in Italy. In 1993 he made a come-back in the cinema with a supporting part in Ken Loach’s acclaimed comedy-drama Raining Stones (1993). In all, he appeared in over 20 films. In 2006, he suffered a heart attack during a concert in Ottawa organised by the Italian-Canadian community. He recovered fully and returned at the San Remo festival in 2008. After a long illness (cancer), he passed away on 28 May 2013 in Rome. He was 72. Little Tony had one daughter, Cristiana (1972) and three grandchildren: Martina, Mirko and Melissa.

Little Tony, Eleanor Bron
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 219, 1969. Photo: publicity still for Cuore matto... matto da legare/Crazy Heart... Mad as a Hatter (Mario Amendola, 1967) with Eleonora Bron.

Little Tony, Marisa Solinas
East-German prostcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 9/70, 1970. Retail price: 0,20 M. Photo: publicity still for Riderà!/Laugh! (Bruno Corbucci, 1967) with Marisa Solinas.

Sources: Dik de Heer (BlackCat Rockabilly), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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