Indie label owner Robert P. Marcucci, who discovered teen idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian and served as the model for the title character in 1980 film “The Idolmaker,” died of natural causes on March 9 in Ontario, Calif. He was 81.
Philadelphia-born Marcucci and Peter DeAngelis’ label Chancellor Records fueled the teen idol craze of the late ’50s and early ’60s, the era following rock ‘n’ roll’s first explosion and before the British Invasion of ’64.
The imprint, distributed by powerful ABC-Paramount, clicked big with the handsome young vocalist Avalon (born Francis Avalone), who notched the No. 1 hits “Venus” and “Why” in 1959 and five other top 10 singles. Many were penned by Marcucci and DeAngelis.
The 16-year-old Philadelphian Fabiano Forte scored a trio of top 10 records under the moniker Fabian; among those was “Hound Dog Man,” the title song for his 1959 feature film debut.
Marcucci took songwriting credits on some of his charges’ movie vehicles, including Avalon’s “Beach Party” and Fabian’s “North to Alaska.”
Philly-based DJ and TV host Dick Clark was instrumental in the success of Marcucci’s acts. “It was very much ‘American Bandstand’ that helped launch Frankie Avalon and Fabian, both,” Marcucci told writer John Broven.
DeAngelis died in 1982. Marcucci sold Chancellor to Digital Music Group in 2006.
Screenwriter Edward Di Lorenzo took Marcucci as the inspiration for Vinnie Vacarri, a high-voltage record man played by the late Ray Sharkey in Taylor Hackford’s pic “The Idolmaker.” Marcucci served as technical advisor and had a bit role as a nightclub heckler in the film.
Marcucci went on to co-produce 1984 Bill Murray dramatic vehicle “The Razor’s Edge” and the 1985 TV remake of “A Letter to Three Wives.” He was later active in talent management.
Survivors include his son Marc. Son Robert Anthony Marcucci, an actor, predeceased him.