Before Justin Bieber? Bobby Sherman, Baby!

Before Justin Bieber? Bobby Sherman, Baby!
SourceCorbis

Why you should care

Because sometimes there are indeed second (and even third and fourth) acts in American lives.

His looks were pure heartthrob. Pure 1960s heartthrob, but still. Windblown hair, cleft chin, easy smile and a sort of earnest soulfulness, Bobby Sherman had it all.

But one proviso? Letting the smooth taste fool you? Largely inadvisable, since Sherman didn’t one day get it all. No, he had probably had it all from the time he was about 11 years old, in 1954, when he could already play 16 different instruments. And then football, when he hit high school a few years later. And then doing the dance troupe thing.

It seems almost magical that someone with such a frothy start could have ended up so damn committed to doing something so not frothy.

See, the calculus had always been pretty simple for what he was heading toward: celebrity of some sort.

So when movie heartthrob Sal Mineo came calling on the 19-year-old Sherman — and, yes, teen heartthrobs probably DO have a union — and offered to write some songs for him, it was on. How on? So on that by 1976, not only was Sherman’s hearing permanently damaged by all of the high-frequency teenage girl screaming, he was also sitting on top of one platinum single, seven gold singles, five gold albums, millions of records sold, films, TV shows and massive amounts of love from an adoring public.

And then, in 1974, everything changed.

Sherman snagged a guest spot on one of Jack Webb’s many blue-collar TV series: Emergency!, a hit show about paramedics. While filming, Sherman had a road to Damascus moment, one that saw him dialing back on the celebrity stuff. Way back. So far back he had room to do what he felt ordained to do: Sherman became an emergency medical technician before joining the Los Angeles Police Department, where, in 1999, he was named reserve officer of the year. He retired in 2010 at age 67, but was it for a life of taking strolls, playing golf and strumming his guitar on the back 40?

Nope. Sherman formed a foundation to provide kids in Ghana with educational and musical opportunities they might not otherwise have. In his spare time, he worked on a handcrafted, painstakingly detailed scale model of Disneyland’s Main Street in the front yard of his house. Huh? What? Exactly.

When you’re listening to one of Sherman’s hits — the sort that you always think was first done by David Cassidy or maybe even the Monkees, spirit familiars and Sherman’s fellow travelers on the heartthrob road — it seems almost magical that someone with such a frothy start could have ended up so damn committed to doing something so not frothy. But maybe all credit is due Sherman for being interested in more than limos. “Look, teen idols in the modern age may have the disadvantage of being instantly crucified by TMZ and social media for their mistakes,” says Dave Pehling, music writer for SF Weekly and KTVU.com. “But it’s hard to imagine Bieber becoming an Oscar winner like Sally Field. Or a professor like Robby Benson. Or even lasting to the ripe old age of 66 like former Monkee Davy Jones.”

Which is maybe how and why Sherman endures.

OZY reached out to Bobby Sherman for comment but did not receive a response.

Comment

OZYFlashback

Tales from the past to titillate and educate while giving you a lens on the present and future.