December 24, 2000 – Nick Massi was born Nicholas Macioci in Newark, New Jersey on September 19, 1927. Bass singer and bass guitarist for the Four Seasons, he had been playing with several bands before joining The Four Lovers in 1958.
After the group evolved into the Four Seasons in 1961, he handled bass vocals and vocal arrangements throughout the band’s glory days, which resulted in international hits such as “Sherry,” “Dawn (Go Away),” and “Rag Doll”. During his tenure, the group made the Billboard Top 40 chart 17 times and toured throughout the United States and overseas, melding doo- wop vocals with a contemporary beat. He remained with the group until 1965, when he grew tired of touring and the first antics that landed some of the band members briefly in jail. He continued his career in music however as he worked as an arranger, vocal coach, and engineer in numerous New Jersey studios, with bands such as the Baby Toys, the Carmels, and the Victorians.
It was Massi’s pop savvy that allowed the Four Seasons to be one of the few American bands, along with the Beach Boys, to weather the British invasion, as they continued to release successful singles after the arrival of The Beatles such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Rag Doll,” which friends said was his favorite.
Whatever your feelings about the group, though, there’s no denying their considerable importance. No other white American group of the time save the Beach Boys boasted such intricate harmonies, though the Four Seasons were much more firmly in the Italian-American doo wop tradition. Their uptown production values were contemporary and, in certain respects, innovative. The R&B influence in their music was large, and some of their early singles enjoyed success with the R&B audience; in fact, some listeners thought that the Four Seasons were black when the group landed their first hits. And they were immensely successful, making the Top Ten thirteen times between 1962 and 1967.
The Four Seasons had been around for a while before they got their first hit in 1962. Frankie Valli had already made his first record way back in 1953, and in 1956 made a little noise with the Four Lovers’ “Apple of My Eye.” In the early ’60s, the group was mostly doing backup vocals for other artists.
Then Philadelphia producer Bob Crewe started working with the group in 1962, and his contributions would be inestimable in the following years. Not only did he produce all of their big ’60s hits, but he would write much of their material in collaboration with group member Bob Gaudio, which then landed in Massi’s area of expertise: harmonies!
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Front man Franki Valli said that Massi, who was by far the oldest one in the group had been his musical mentor.
“He could do four-part modern harmonies that would amaze musicians who had studied for years,” he said. “And he did it all in his head without writing it down”.
He died of cancer on Dec. 24, 2000 in West Orange, N.J. at age 73.