The movie is based on the career of artists manager Robert P. Marcucci who discovered and managed rock idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian during the 1950s and 1960s. Vincent 'Vinnie' Vacarri (Ray Sharkey) is based on Marcucci; Tommy Del Russo aka Tommy Dee (Paul Land) is based on Avalon; Guido Bevaloqua aka Caesare (Peter Gallagher) is based on Fabian and Vacarri's assistant, Brenda Roberts (Tovah Feldshuh), is based on Marcucci's real-life assistant at the time, Rona Barrett. Marcucci contributed his reminisces of the 50s & 60s music business to the film's script, did a cameo, and acted as a technical consultant to the production.
Actor Peter Gallagher has said the time he spent as Danny Zuko in the original stage production of "Grease" turned out to be good preparation for all the singing and dancing he had to do in this movie.
First time that actor Ray Sharkey sang on the big screen. Sharkey performs himself the film's final song, "I Believe It Can Be Done". Actor Peter Gallagher also performs on the film's soundtrack singing two songs, "Baby" and "However Dark The Night", the latter being an homage to Elvis Presley.
Robert P. Marcucci allegedly convinced producers Howard W. Koch Jr. (Hawk Koch) and Gene Kirkwood to green-light this movie into production in order to beat to the big screen his ex-partner Dick Clark's biographical music industry movie. Reportedly, Marcucci said to Kirkwood, "I got a great idea for a film called The Idolmaker (1980)." The producers liked the idea and the film went into development.
The film features the term "sock hops" which are informally sponsored American high school dances. In the film they are run by disc jockeys who need to be persuaded, impressed and even bribed to play a new artist's record.
Two characters connected to the mafia (one is in the mafia, the other knows him) are played by actors from The Godfather and The Godfather Part II: Richard Bright (from both Godfather films, including the third later on) and John Aprea (Part II).