Ferdinando Toscano, more known as Freddy Frogs, died of a heart attack Tuesday while visiting his sister in Vero Beach, Fla. He was 66.
Frogs and his doo-wop, rockabilly and swing projects played everywhere from Max's Kansas City in Manhattan to Mirelle's in Westbury.
And while leading those groups - The Ribitones, The BMT's, No Frills Band and Four on the Floor - he met and encouraged other Long Island musicians.
Tommy Byrnes, now Billy Joel's guitarist, was in high school when he played with Frogs in the early '80s punked-up rockabilly band The BMT's. "Tommy called me last night," said Frogs' nephew, Anthony Roman. "He said he used to jump in and sing harmony when Billy Joel would play around with doo-wop, and when Billy asked him where he learned that old stuff, Tommy told him 'Freddy Frogs'."
When The BMT's returned from a tour of England - their song "Crazy Little Mama" was a U.K. hit - Frogs ran into some pals in a Massapequa rockabilly band. "He completely encouraged [Brian] Setzer and the Stray Cats to go to England," said Chris Cassidy, an independent filmmaker in Brooklyn who's finishing a Frogs documentary. "And, of course, they just take off after that."
Born in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Sept. 21, 1942, Frogs moved to Greenwich Village in the '60s. He was part of the Fourth Dimension and later Mr. Flood's Party, which recorded for Atlantic.
In the 1970s he opened a clothing store in Valley Stream - Frogs. The store sold designer jeans, but it also led to his name. His nephew Roman, then a child, started saying "Ribbet, ribbet, ribbet" in the backseat. When asked what he was doing, Roman - who leads post-punk band Radio 4 - told his uncle, "Frogs!"
Frogs, who also painted houses, split time between Ocean Beach on Fire Island and Valley Stream. Every year, he'd go to Vero Beach, Fla., to spend time with his sister, Marie Roman, and for spring training.
Memorial services will be tomorrow at Edward F. Lieber Funeral Home, 266 N. Central Ave., Valley Stream, from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. A memorial Mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, 201 N. Central Ave., Valley Stream.