- Frankie Laine
Infobox musical artist
Name = Frankie Laine
Img_capt = Frankie Laine in November 1947.
Photo by Maurice Seymour.
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Francesco Paolo LoVecchio
Born = birth date|1913|3|30|mf=y
Near West Side, Chicago
Died = death date and age|2007|2|6|1913|3|30|mf=y
San Diego, California
Pop standards Jazz Rhythm and blues
Years_active = 1937–2005
Label = Mercury
URL = [http://www.frankielaine.com Official website]
Frankie Laine, born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio (
Chicago, March 30, 1913– San Diego, February 6, 2007), was a successful American musician, singerand songwriterwhose career spanned 75 years, from his first concerts in 1930 with a marathon dance company to his final performance of "That's My Desire" in 2005. Often billed as America's Number One Song Stylist, his other nicknames include Mr. Rhythm, Old Leather Lungs, Mr Steel Tonsils, and Old Man Jazz. His hits included "That's My Desire", " That Lucky Old Sun", " Mule Train", " Cry of the Wild Goose", "Jezebel", "High Noon", "I Believe", " Hey Joe!", "The Kid's Last Fight", " Cool Water", " Moonlight Gambler", " Love is a Golden Ring", "Rawhide", and " Lord, You Gave Me a Mountain". He sang well-known theme songs of notable movie soundtracks such as "", "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", and " Blazing Saddles", although he was not a country & western singer. He was a singer's singer who sang an eclectic number of songs, stretching from big band crooning to pop to western-themed songs to jazz and blues, all bent around his inimitable singing style. He did not sing the soundtrack song for " High Noon", which was sung by Tex Ritter, but his own version was released and became a hit.
A clarion-voiced singer with lots of style, able to fill halls without a
microphone, and one of the biggest hit-makers of late 1940s/early 1950s, Laine had more than 70 charted records, 21 gold records, and worldwide sales of over 250 million disks. [ [http://www.dailymail.com/story/Entertainment/+/2007020735/Mule-Train-singer-Frankie-Laine-dies-at-93/] [http://www.musicalnews.com/articolo.php?codice=9283&sz=2] [http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.1180212.0.frankie_laine_memories_for_our_colin.php] [http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/dailynews/3954926a1860.html] [http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070208/ent/ent5.html] [http://www.axcessnews.com/modules/wfsection/article.php?articleid=12914] ] Originally a rhythm and blues influenced jazzsinger, Laine excelled at virtually every music style, eventually expanding to such varied genres as popular standards, gospel, folk, country, western/Americana, rock 'n' roll, and the occasional novelty number. He was also known as Mr Rhythm for his driving jazzy style.
Laine was the first and biggest of a new breed of black-influenced singers who rose to prominence in the post-World War II era. This new, raw, emotionally charged style seemed at the time to signal the end of the previous era's singing styles; and was, indeed, a harbinger of the rock 'n' roll music that was to come. As music historian Jonny Whiteside wrote:
"In the Hollywood clubs, a new breed of black-influenced white performers laid down a baffling hip array of new sounds ... Most important of all these, though, was Frankie Laine, a big white lad with 'steel tonsils' who belted out torch blues while stomping his size twelve foot in joints like Billy Berg's, Club Hangover and the Bandbox. ... Laine's intense vocal style owed nothing to Crosby, Sinatra or Dick Haymes. Instead he drew from Billy Eckstine, Joe Turner, Jimmy Rushing, and with it Laine had sown the seeds from which an entire new perception and audience would grow. ... Frank Sinatra represented perhaps the highest flowering of a quarter century tradition of crooning but suddenly found himself an anachronism. First Frankie Laine, then Tony Bennett, and now Johnnie (Ray), dubbed 'the Belters' and 'the Exciters,' came along with a brash vibrancy and vulgar beat that made the old bandstand routine which Frank meticulously perfected seem almost invalid." ["Cry: The Johnnie Ray Story", Jonny Whiteside, Barricade Books Inc., 1994, p40.]In the words of Jazz critic Richard Grudens:
"Frank's style was very innovative, which was why he had such difficulty with early acceptance. He would bend notes and sing about the chordal context of a note rather than to sing the note directly, and he stressed each rhythmic downbeat, which was different from the smooth balladeer of his time." ["The Best Damn Trumpet Player:Memories of the Big Band Era and Beyond", Richard Grudens, Celebrity Profiles Publishing, 1997, p42.]His 1946 recording of "That's My Desire" remains a landmark record signalling the end of both the dominance of the big bands and the crooning styles favored by contemporaries
Dick Haymesand Frank Sinatra. ["Cry: The Johnnie Ray Story", Jonny Whiteside, Barricade Books Inc., 1994, p85. "Frank Sinatra represented perhaps the highest flowering of a quarter century tradition of crooning but suddenl found himself an anachronism. First Frankie Laine, then Tony Bennett, and now Johnnie [Ray] , dubbed "the Belters" and "the Exciters", came along with a brash vibrance and vulgar beat that made the old bandstand routine which Frank [Sinatra] meticulously perfected seem almost invalid. He had elevated popular song interpretation as no one since [Bing] Crosby, and now it seemed as if the public was defiantly turning their backs on him."] Often called the first of the blue-eyed soul singers, ["That Lucky Old Son", Frankie Laine, co-authored with Joseph F. Laredo, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993, p82.] [http://ktla.trb.com/news/ktla-laineobit,0,5648361.story?coll=ktla-news-1] [ [http://secure1.mppglobal.com/ishop/202/Frankie-Laine/Americas-Number-One-Song-Stylist!-Music-Download/281432/ProductInfo.aspx Frankie Laine - America's Number One Song Stylist! ] ] [ [http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07038/759961-42.stm Obituary: Frankie Laine / Had string of hits in the 1950s ] ] [ http://news.scotsman.com/obituaries.cfm?id=212722007.] Laine's style cleared the way for many artists who arose in the late 40s and early 50s, including Kay Starr, Tony Bennett, Johnnie Rayand Elvis Presley(who was initially described by critics as "a cross between Johnnie Ray and Frankie Laine"). [ [http://music.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,2008165,00.html "One of the first pop megastars, he set the pattern that led from Johnnie Ray to Elvis Presley."] ]
"I think that Frank probably was one of the forerunner of .... blues, of .... rock 'n' roll. A lot of singers who sing with a passionate demeanor -- Frank was and is definitely that. I always used to love to mimic him with 'That's...my...desire.' And then later Johnnie Ray came along that made all of those kind of movements, but Frank had already done them. --Throughout the 1950s, Laine enjoyed a second career singing the title songs over the opening credits of
Patti Page"Interviewed in "Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer", video documentary, 2003.] Hollywoodfilms and television shows, including: "Gunfight at the OK Corral", "", "Bullwhip" and "Rawhide". His rendition of the title song for Mel Brooks' 1974 hit movie " Blazing Saddles" won an Oscar nomination for Best Song, and on television, Laine's featured recording of "Rawhide" for the series of the same name became a popular theme song.
"You can't categorize him. He's one of those singers that's not in one track. And yet and still I think that his records had more excitement and life into it. And I think that was his big selling point, that he was so full of energy. You know when hear his records it was dynamite energy.--
Herb Jeffries" [Ibid.]
Frankie Laine was born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on
March 30, 1913to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (nee Salerno). His parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicilyto Chicago's "Little Italy", where his father worked at one time as the personal barber for gangster Al Capone. His family appears to have had several Mafiaconnections, and young Francesco was living with his grandfather when the latter was hit by some members of a rival faction.
The eldest of eight children, he got his first taste of singing as a member of the choir in the
Church of the Immaculate Conception's elementary school. He next attended Lane Technical High School, now known as Lane Technical College Prep High School, where he helped to develop his lung power and breath control by joining the track and field and basketball teams. He realized he wanted to be a singer when he cut school to see Al Jolson's current talking picture, "The Singing Fool." Jolson would later visit Laine when both were filming pictures in 1949, and around this same time Jolson remarked that the talented Laine was going to put them all (all the other singers) out of business.
Even in the 1920s, his vocal abilities were remarkable enough to get him noticed by a slightly older "in crowd" at his school, who began inviting him to parties and to local dance clubs, including Chicago's
Merry Garden Ballroom. At 17 he sang before a crowd of 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such enthusiastic applause that he ended up performing five encores on his first night. But success as a singer was another 17 years away.
Some of his other early influences during this period included
Enrico Caruso, Carlo Buti, and, especially, Bessie Smith-- a record of whose somehow wound up in his parents' collection:
"I can still close my eyes and visualize its blue and purple label. It was a
Bessie Smithrecording of 'The Bleeding Hearted Blues,' with 'Midnight Blues' on the other side. The first time I laid the needle down on that record I felt cold chills and an indescribable excitement. It was my first exposure to jazzand the blues, although I had no idea at the time what to call those magical sounds. I just knew I had to hear more of them! -- Frankie Laine" ["That Lucky Old Son", Frankie Laine, co-authored with Joseph F. Laredo, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993, p15.]
Another singer who influenced him at this time was falsetto crooner
Gene Austin. Laine worked after school at a drug store, which was situated across the street from a record store that continually played hit records by Gene Austin over their loud speakers. He would swab down the windows in time to Austins songs. Many years later, Laine related the story to Austin when both were guests on the popular television variety show, " Shower of Stars." He would also co-star in a film, " Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder," with Austin's daughter, Charlotte.
Shortly after graduating high school, Laine signed on as a member of The Merry Garden's marathon dance company, and toured with them, working dance marathons during the
Great Depression(setting the world record of 3,501 hours with partner Ruthie Smithat Atlantic City's Million Dollar Pierin 1932). Still billed as Frank LoVecchio, he would entertain the spectators during the fifteen minute breaks the dancers were given each hour. During his marathon days, he worked with several up-and-coming entertainers including Rose Marie, Red Skeltonand a fourteen-year old Anita O'Dayfor whom he served as a mentor (as noted by Laine in a 1998 interview by David Miller).
Other artists whose styles began to influence Laine at this time were
Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong(more his trumpet playing, than his vocals), Billie Holiday, Mildred Baileyand, later, Nat "King" Cole. Laine befriended Cole in Los Angeles, when the latter's career was just beginning to take off. Cole recorded a song, " It Only Happens Once," that fledgling songwriter Laine had composed. They remained close friends throughout the remainder of Cole's life, and Laine was one of the pall bearers at Cole's funeral. Although they have vastly different styles on the million-selling hits from the 1950s, the two singers have surprisingly similar styles on many of their earlier (and jazzier) ballads.
His next big break came when he replaced
Perry Comoin the Freddy Carloneband in Clevelandin 1937. Como was another life-long friend of Laine's, who once lent Laine the money to travel to a possible gig. Como would never allow Laine to pay him back, but Laine returned the favor in spades when he saved Como's son from drowning. But Laine's rhythmic style was ill-suited to the sweet sounds of the Carlone band, and the two soon parted company. Success continued to elude Laine, and he spent the next 10 years "scuffling"; alternating between singing at small jazz clubs on both coasts, and a series of jobs including that of a bouncer, a dance instructor, a used car salesman, an agent, a synthetic leather factory worker, and a machinist at a defense plant. It was while working at the defense plant during the Second World War that he first began writing songs ("It Only Happens Once" was written at the plant). Often homeless during his "scuffling" phases, he hit the lowest point of his career, when he was sleeping on a bench in Central Park.
"I would sneak into hotel rooms and sleep on floor. In fact, I was bodily thrown out of 11 different New York hotels. I stayed inHe changed his professional name to "Frankie Laine" in 1938, upon receiving a job singing for the
YMCAs and with anyone who would let me flop. Eventually I was down to my last four cents, and my bed became a roughened wooden bench in Central Park. I used my four pennies to buy four tiny Baby Ruthcandy bars and rationed myself to one a day. -- Frankie Laine" [Ibid., p41] New York Cityradio station WINS. The program director, Jack Coombs, thought that "LoVecchio" was "too foreign sounding, and too much of a mouthful for the studio announcers", so he Americanized it to "Lane." Frankie added the "i" to avoid confusion with a girl singer at the station who went by the name of "Frances Lane." It was at this time that Laine got unknown songbird " Helen O'Connell" her job with the Jimmy Dorseyband. WINS, deciding that they no longer needed a jazz singer, dropped him. With the help of bandleader Jean Goldkette, he got a job with a sustainer (non-sponsored) radio show at NBC. Just as he was about to start, Germany attacked England and all sustainer broadcasts were pulled off the air in deference to the needs of the military.
Laine next found employment in a munitions plant, at what was then a whopping salary of $150.00 a week. He quit singing for what was perhaps the fifth or sixth time of his already long (albeit unsuccessful) career. While working at the plant, he met a trio of girl singers, and became engaged to the lead singer. The group had been noticed by
Johnny Mercer's Capitol Records, and convinced Laine to head out to Hollywoodwith them as their agent.
In 1943 he moved out to California where he sang in the background of several Hollywood films including "The Harvey Girls", and dubbed the singing voice for an actor in the
Danny Kayecomedy "The Kid From Brooklyn". It was in Los Angeles in 1944 that he met and befriended disc jockey Al Jarvis and composer/pianist Carl Fischer who was to be his songwriting partner, musical director and piano accompanist until his death in 1954. Their songwriting collaborations included " I'd Give My Life", " Baby, Just For Me", " What Could Be Sweeter?", "Forever More", and the jazz standard " We'll Be Together Again."
Unfortunately, the engagement fell through, with the songstess breaking up with the loyal singer-manager when success for her seemed just around the corner. When Al Jarvis later found out how the girl group had mistreated his friend, he pulled their records from his show, effectively breaking their career.
When the war ended, Laine soon found himself "scuffling" again, and was eventually given a place to stay by Jarvis, who allowed the singer the use of his apartment. Jarvis also did his best to help promote the struggling singer's career, and Laine soon had a small, regional following. In the meantime, Laine would make the rounds of the bigger jazz clubs, hoping that the featured band would call him up to perform a number with them. It wasn't until the end of 1946 when
Hoagy Carmichaelheard him singing at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles that success finally arrived. Not knowing that Carmichael was in the audience, Laine sang the Carmichael-penned standard " Rockin' Chair" when Slim Gaillardcalled him up to the stage to sing. This eventually led to a contract with the newly established Mercury records. Laine and Carmichael would later collaborate on a song, " Put Yourself in My Place, Baby".
At Beltone and Atlas
Laine cut his first record in 1944, for a fledgling company called "
Beltone Records." The sides were " In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning", (an uptempo number that's not to be confused with the moody Frank Sinatra of the same name) and a wartime propaganda tune entitled " Brother, That's Liberty." The records failed to make much of an impression, although "Wee Small Hours" is brilliantly executed and shows that the classic Laine style was already fairly mature at this time. The label soon folded, and Laine was picked up by Atlas Records, a " race label" that initially hired him to imitate his friend Nat "King" Cole. Cole would occasionally "moonlight" for other labels, under pseudonyms, while under contract to "Capitol", and as he had previously recorded some sides for Atlas, they figure that fans would assume that "Frankie Laine" was yet another pseudonym for "Cole."
Laine cut his first two numbers for Atlas in the King mode, backed by
r&bartist Johnny Moore's group, The Three Blazerswhich featured Charles Brownand Cole's guitarist (from " The King Cole Trio"), Oscar Moore. The ruse worked and the record sold moderately well, although limited to the "race" market. Laine cut the remainder of his songs for Atlas in his own style. These included standards like " Roses of Picardy" and " Moonlight in Vermont". It was also at this time that he recorded a single for Mercury Records: " Pickle in the Middle with the Mustard on Top" and " I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful)." He appears only as a character actor on the first side, which features the comedic sing of Artie Auerbach(a.k.a., " Mr. Kitzel" who was a featured player on the Jack Bennyradio show. In it, Laine plays a peanut vendor at a ball game and can be heard shouting out lines like "It's a munchy, crunchy bag of lunchy!" The flip side features Laine, and is a jazzy version of an old standard done in the singer's early, signature style (i.e., as a rhythm number). It was played by Laine's friend, disc jockey Al Jarvis, and gained the singer a small West Coast following.
"That's My Desire"
Even after Carmichael's discovering him, Laine still was considered to be only an intermission act at Billy Berg's. His next big break came when he dusted off a fifteen-year old song that few people remembered in 1946: "That's My Desire." Laine had picked up the song from songstress
June Harta half a dozen years earlier, when he sang at the College Inn in Cleveland. He introduced "Desire" as a "new" song -- meaning new to his repertoire at Berg's -- but the audience mistook it for a new song that had just been written. He ended up singing it five times that night. After that, Frankie Laine quickly became the star attraction at Berg's, and the record company executives took note.
Laine soon had patrons lining up around the block to hear him sing Desire. Among them was R&B artist Hadda Brooks, known for her
boogie woogiepiano playing. She went to listen to him every night, and eventually cut her own version of the song, which became a big-hit on the "harlem" charts. "I liked the way he did it" Brooks recalls, "he sings with soul, he sings the way he feels." ["That Lucky Old Sun", Todd Everett, Bear Family Records, 2000, p11.]
He was soon recording for the fledgling Mercury label, and "That's My Desire" was one of the songs cut in his first recording session there. It quickly took the #3 spot on the R&B charts, and listeners initially thought Laine was black. It also made it to the #4 spot on the Mainstream charts. Although it was quickly covered by many other artists, including
Sammy Kayewho took it to the #2 spot, it was Laine's version that became the standard.
"Desire" became Frankie Laine's first Gold Record, and established him as a force in the music world. He had been over $7,000.00 in debt, on the day before he recorded this song.." ["That Lucky Old Sun", Todd Everett, Bear Family Records, 2000, p86.] His first paycheck for royalties was over five times this amount. Laine paid off all of his debts except one -- fellow singer
Perry Comorefused to let Laine pay him back, and would kid him about the money owed for years to come. A series of hit singles quickly followed, including " Black and Blue", " Mam'selle", " Two Loves Have I", " Shine", " On the Sunny Side of the Street", " Monday Again", and many others.
Frankie Laine's name was synonymous with jazz in the late 40s ["The Jazz Singer: Timeless Hit Maker Frankie Laine One Of The Best Jazz Singers Forgotten In Pop Successes", Stephen Fratallone, Jazz Connection Magazine, May 2001, www.jazzconnectionmag.com.] when, accompanied by Carl Fischer (with whom he wrote the great standard "
We'll Be Together Again") and some of the best jazz men in the business, he was swinging standards like " By the River Sainte Marie", " Black and Blue", " Rockin' Chair", " West End Blues" " At the End of the Road", " Ain't That Just Like a Woman", " That Ain't Right", " Exactly Like You", and " Sleepy Ol' River" on the Mercury label.
Jazz purists, will often point to Laine's early recordings as evidence of his having had the potential to become a great jazz singer, ignoring the fact that he continued to alternate jazz and popular recordings throughout the remainder of his career -- culminating in his "
Old Man Jazz" album of 2005. But Laine had his greatest success after impresario Mitch Miller, who became the A&R man at Mercury in 1948, recognized a universal quality in Laine's voice which he began to exploit via a succession of chart-topping popular songs often with a folk or western flavor.
Laine and Miller became a formidable hit-making team whose first collaboration, "
That Lucky Old Sun", became the number one song in the country three weeks after its release. It was also Laine's fifth Gold Record. "That Lucky Old Sun" was something brand new to the musical scene in 1949: a folk spiritual which, as interpreted by Laine, became both an affirmation of faith and a working man's wish to bring his earthly sufferings to an end. With lines like "Fuss with my woman/Toil for my kids/Sweat till I'm wrinkled and gray", it's the existential lamentation of the modern, blue-collar " Everyman". And the voice of the "Everyman" was, what to a large degree, what Frankie Laine would come to represent over the years.
The song was knocked down to the number two position by Laine and Miller's second collaboration, "
Mule Train" which proved to be an even bigger hit, making Frankie Laine the first artist to ever simultaneously hold the Number One and Two positions on the charts.) "Mule Train", with its whipcracks and echo, has been cited as the first song to utilize an "aural texture" that "set the pattern for virtually the entire first decade of rock." ["Sinatra! The Song Is You", Will Friedwald, Da Capo Press, 1997, p174.]
"Mule Train" represents a second direction in which Laine's music would be simultaneously heading under the guidance of Mitch Miller: as the voice of the great outdoors and/or of the American West. "Mule Train" is a slice of life in the mid-19th century West, wherein the contents of the packages being delivered by the mule train provide a snapshot into frontier life: "There's some cotton, thread and needles for the folks a-way up yonder/A shovel for a miner who left his home to wander/Some rheumatism pills for the settlers in the hills." The mule train itself, comes to symbolize the indefatigable nature of The American Spirit.
The Laine/Miller collaboration was one of the most fruitful in the history of popular music, producing a seemingly endless run of top forty hits that lasted into the early years of the rock 'n' roll era. Other Laine/Miller Mercury hits included "Shine", "
On the Sunny Side of the Street", " Mam'selle", " Two Loves Have I", " Dream a Little Dream of Me", "All of Me", " Georgia on My Mind", " Blue Turning Grey Over You", " Stars and Stripes Forever", "Nevertheless", " The Cry of the Wild Goose", " Swamp Girl", "Satan Wears a Satin Gown", and " Music, Maestro Please".
"Shine" took advantage of the early confusion regarding Laine's race (many fans initially mistaking him for an African American artist), in a song which strikes an early blow for racial equality. Written in 1910 by
Cecil Mack(R.C. McPherson), a ground-breaking African-American songwriter and publisher, it is believed to be based on a real-life friend of vaudevillian George Walker, who was with him during the New York City race riots of 1900. The song takes what was then an ethnic slur, "shine", and turns it into what is essentially a badge of honor. It had been a hit for Laine's idol Louis Armstrong, who would cover several of Laine's hits as well.
Satan Wears a Satin Gown" is the prototype of yet another recurring motif in Laine's oeuvre, the "Lorelei" or "Jezebel" song (both of which would be the titles of later Laine records). The song, which has a loosely structured melody that switches, almost jarringly, in tone and rhythm throughout, is years ahead of its time. It was pitched to Laine by a young song plugger who would later go on to achieve success as " Tony Bennett". Laine recognized the younger singer's talent, and gave him words of encouragement, which he sorely needed at the time. " Swamp Girl" is another entry in the "Lorelei"/"Jezebel" in the Laine songbook, that was years ahead of its time as well. In this decidedly gothic tale of a ghostly female spirit who inhabits a more or less metaphorical "swamp", the title femme fatale attempts to lure the singer to his death, calling "Come to the deep where your sleep is without a dream." The swamp girl is voiced (in an obligato) by coloratura Loolie Jean Norman, who would later go on to provide a similar vocal for the theme song of the television series, " Star Trek". The coloratura contrasts well with Laine's rough, masculine voice, and disembodied female voices would continue to appear in the background of many of his records, to great effect.
Cry of the Wild Goose" would be Laine's last number one hit (on the American charts). It was written by folksinger Terry Gilkyson, of The Easy Riders fame. Gilkyson would write many more songs for Laine over the next decade, and he and The Easy Riders would back him on the hit single, " Love is a Golden Ring". "Cry of the Wild Goose" falls into the voice of the great outdoors category of Laine songs, with the opening line of its chorus, "My heart knows what the wild goose knows", becoming a part of the American lexicon.
Laine's influence on today's music can be clearly evidenced in his rendition of the
Hoagy Carmichaelstandard, "Georgia on My Mind." Laine's slow, soulful version is an obvious model for the iconic remake by Ray Charlesa decade later. Charles would follow-up "Georgia" with remakes of other Frankie Laine hits, including " Your Cheatin' Heart", and " That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)." ( Elvis Presleyalso remade several of Laine's hits, and his early influence on The Beatleshas been well documented.)
In a recent interview, Mitch Miller described the basis of Laine's appeal:
"He was my kind of guy. He was very dramatic in his singing ... and you must remember that in those days there were no videos so you had to depend on the image that the record made in the listener's ears. And that's why many fine artists were not good record sellers. For instance,But the biggest label of all was
Lena Horne. Fabulous artist but she never sold many records till that last album of hers. But she would always sell out the house no matter where she was. And there were others who sold a lot of records but couldn't get to first base in personal appearances, but Frankie had it both. -- Mitch Miller" Columbia Records, and in 1950 Mitch Miller left Mercury to embark upon his phenomenally successful career as the A&R man there. Laine's contract at Mercury would be up for renewal the following year, and Miller soon brought Laine to Columbia as well. Laine's contract with Columbia was the most lucrative in the industry until RCAbought Elvis Presley's contract five years later. [http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/entertainment/view/257082/1/.html, http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?we_cat=7&art_id=37785&sid=12107390&con_type=1&d_str=20070208, http://www.ofuzi.com/category/uncategorized/personalities/.]
Laine began recording for
Columbia Recordsin 1951, where he immediately scored a double-sided hit with the single "Jezebel" (#2)/" Rose, Rose, I Love You" (#3), confirming his reputation as the premiere hitmaker of the early 50s. Other Laine hits from this period include "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)" (#5), " Jealousy (Jalousie)" (#3), " The Girl in the Woods" (#23), " When You're in Love" (#30), " Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" (with Jo Stafford) (#26), " Your Cheatin' Heart" (#18), "Granada" (#17), " Hey Joe!" (#6), " The Kid's Last Fight" (#20), " Cool Water", "Some Day" (#14), " A Woman in Love" (#19), " Love is a Golden Ring" (with The Easy Riders) (#10), and " Moonlight Gambler" (#3).
One of the signature songs of the early 50s, "Jezebel" takes the "lorelei" motif to its ultimate end, with Laine shouting "Jezebel!" (read "Whore!") at the woman has destroyed him. In Laine's words, the song uses "flamenco rhythms to whip up an atmosphere of sexual frustration and hatred while a guy berated the woman who'd done him wrong." ["That Lucky Old Son", Frankie Laine, co-authored with Joseph F. Laredo, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993, p113.]
"High Noon" was the theme song from the highly popular western
motion picturestarring Gary Cooperand Grace Kelly. It had been sung by cowboystar Tex Ritterin the film, but it was Laine's recording that became the big hit. From this point on, Laine would be the one to sing the theme songs over the opening credits of many Hollywoodand television westerns. He would become so thoroughly identified with these title songs that Mel Brookswould hire him to sing the theme song for his classic-cult film western spoof " Blazing Saddles".
At this time, Laine's popularity in the
United Kingdomsurpassed that of his popularity in the States (and he was still a perennial Top Forty hitmaker stateside. Many of his hit records in the UK were only minor hits in his native country. Songs like " The Gandy Dancer's Ball", " The Rock of Gibraltar", and " Answer Me, O Lord" were much bigger hits for him abroad. "Answer Me" would later provide the inspiration for Paul McCartney's composition " Yesterday." It was also there that he broke attendance records when appearing at the legendary Palladium, and where he launched his first successful television series (with songstress Connie Haines.
Laine was a consummate duettist, so Mitch Miller teamed him up with many of Mercury and Columbia's biggest artists. He scored hits with
Patti Page("I Love You for That") at Mercury, Doris Day("Sugarbush"), Jo Stafford ("Hey Good Lookin'", " Gambella (The Gambling Lady)", " Hambone", " Floatin' Down to Cotton Town", " Settin' the Woods on Fire", and many others), Jimmy Boyd("Tell Me a Story", " The Little Boy and the Old Man"), the Four Lads(" Rain, Rain, Rain") and Johnnie Ray(" Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)"). Although he certainly had the vocal prowess to overwhelm his singing partners, Laine never attempts to compete with them; choosing, instead, to complement their styles. This gracious approach to collaborations carried over to his film career as well, where he would offer to sing duets in the key of his lesser known co-stars.
Frankie scored a total of 39 hit records on the charts while at Columbia, [http://www.markalson2.com/lainefan/frankiehits.html.] and it is many of his songs from this period that are most readily associated with him. His "Greatest Hits" album, released in 1957, has been a perennial best seller that has never gone out of print. His songs at Columbia included everything from pop and jazz standards, novelties, gospel, spirituals, r&b numbers, country, western, folk, rock 'n' roll, calypso, foreign language, children's music, film and television themes, tangos, light operetta, and some that defy characterization. His vocal style could range anywhere from shouting out lines from rhythm numbers to soft, intimate romantic ballads. And, although his recordings were always immediately recognizable as "Frankie Laine songs", his versatility appears to have worked against him. Modern critics tend to pigeonhole singers into one or two styles, and have tagged Laine as a "cowboy" or "novelty" singer, while ignoring the larger body of his work.
Both in collaboration with Jo Stafford and as a solo artist, Laine was one of the earliest, and most frequent, Columbia artists to bring country numbers into the mainstream. While these early country crossovers were arranged and recorded as much in the pop tradition as that of country, Laine's records were much closer in spirit to the originals than the more traditional adaptations used by fellow Columbia artists like
Rosemary Clooneyand Tony Bennett. Late in his career, Laine would go on to record two straight country albums (" A Country Laine" and " The Nashville Connection") that would fully demonstrate his ability to inflect multiple levels of emotional nuances into a line or word, proving him to be a true master of this genre as well. Many of his pop-country hits from the early 1950s featured the steel guitar playing of "Speedy" West (who played a custom built, 3-neck, 4-pedal model) and sounded surprisingly close to rock 'n' roll.
His duets with Doris Day are interesting in that they were folk-pop adaptations of traditional South African folk songs, translated by folk singer
Josef Marais. Marais would also provide Laine and Jo Stafford with a similar translation of a song which Stafford seems to have particularly disliked called " Chow Willy". The Laine-Day duets are marked by a barely hidden sexual context that seems to have put one over on the censors. The sexual double-entendre of "Sugarbush" is, today, blatantly apparent from its title, and one doubts that the phrase went over the heads of many listeners even during the time of its release (the song was released during the Korean War, and as was the case with World War II, the censors tended to be more lenient for the duration. The flip-side, " How Lovely Cooks the Meat" is equally blatant in its thinly disguised sexual content. Although "Sugarbush" brought Laine & Day a gold record, they would never team up again -- possibly because Day's husband-manager, Marty Melcherwas jealous of Laine who had been romantically linked to Day by the tabloids in 1949.
In 1953 he set two more records (this time on the UK charts): weeks at No 1 for a song ("I Believe", which held the number one spot for 18 weeks), and weeks at No 1 for an artist in a single year (27 weeks: a little over half the year, when "Hey Joe!" and "Answer Me, O Lord" became number one hits as well). In spite of the popularity of rock 'n' roll artists like
Elvis Presleyand The Beatles, fifty-plus years later, both of Laine's records still hold. [http://www.retrocharts.com/mostweeksatno1.html, http://xrrf.blogspot.com/2007/02/jazzobit-frankie-laine.html, http://www.ukmix.org/articles/charts/1950s.html.]
In 1954, Laine gave a Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II which he cites as one of the highlights of his career. By the end of the decade he remained far ahead of
Elvis Presleyas the most successful artist on the British charts. See the [http://www.ukmix.org/articles/charts/1950s.html "Chart of All Time"] for details. "I Believe" is listed as the second most popular song of all time on the British charts as well. [http://www.ukmix.org/articles/charts/coat.html.]
"I Believe" marked yet another direction for Laine's music: that of the spiritual. A devout
Roman Catholicfrom childhood, Laine would continue to record songs of faith and inspiration throughout his career; beginning with his rocking gospel album with the Four Lads, which, along with the hit song "Rain, Rain, Rain", included classic renditions of such soul-stirring songs as " Remember Me", " Didn't He Moan", " I Feel Like My Time Ain't Long", and " I Hear the Angels Singing." Other Laine spirituals would include " My Friend", "In the Beginning", " Make Me a Child Again", " My God and I", and " Hey! Hey! Jesus."
1953 was also the year that Laine recorded his first long playing album that was released, domestically, solely as an album (prior to this his albums had been compiled from previously released singles). The album was titled "
Mr. Rhythm", as Laine was often referred to at that time, and featured many jazz-flavored, rhythm numbers similar in style to the work he'd been doing at Mercury. The album's songlist was made up of " Great American Songbook" standards, each of which could lay a strong claim for being the "definitive" version. The tracks were " Some Day, Sweetheart", " A Hundred Years from Today", " Laughing at Life", " Lullaby in Rhythm", " Willow, Weep for Me", " My Ohio Home", "Judy" and " After You've Gone." The final number features a rare vocal duet with his accompanist/musical director, Carl Fischer. Paul Weston's orchestra provided the music.
Portrait of New Orleans
Released as a 10" in 1953, and a 12" in 1954, this album features the talents of both Mr. Laine, Jo Stafford and bandleader Paul Weston, a
Tommy Dorseyalumnus who lead one of the top bands of the 1950s -- and just happened to be married to Jo Stafford. An album of New Orleans styled tunes was probably Weston's idea, as he was heavily into the New Orleans sound at the time. The album was a mix of both solo recordings and duets by the two stars, and of new and previously released material including Stafford's hits single, " Make Love to Me", " Shrimp Boats", and " Jambalaya." Laine and Stafford duetted on " Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", " Floatin' Down to Cotton Town", and " Basin Street Blues"; and Laine soloed on " New Orleans" (not to be confused with " New Orleans" a.k.a. " The House of the Rising Sun" which Laine later recorded), " Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans", and " When It's Sleepy Time Down South", along with a pair of cuts taken from his "Mr. Rhythm" album.
No album was ever more appropriately named. This one featured not only exhilarating jazz vocals by Laine, who seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself, but classic jazz licks on trumpet by a former featured player in the
Count Basieorchestra, Buck Clayton, and trombonists J. J. Johnsonand Kai Windling, and piano by Andre Previn. The tracks included several songs that had long been a standard part of the Laine repertoire over the years: " Sposin'", " Baby, Baby, All the Time", and " Roses of Picardy" along with great jazz standards like " Stars Fell on Alabama", " That Old Feeling", and " Taking a Chance on Love". The album proved to be popular with both jazz and popular music fans, and was often cited by Laine as his personal favorite as well. An improvised tone is apparent throughout, with Laine at one point reminiscing with one of the musicians about the days they performed together at Billy Berg's.
Frankie Laine and the Four Lads
The Four Lads (
Bernie Toorish, Jimmy Arnold, Frank Busseriand Connie Codarini) had started out as a Canadian-based gospel group, who first gained fame as the backup singer on Johnnie Ray's early chart-busters (" Cry", " The Little White Cloud that Cried"), but had since begun to garther a following on their own with songs like " The Mocking Bird", and " Istanbul (Not Constantinople)." Several of their collaborations with Laine out-rock even their famed Johnnie Ray numbers. The album produced one big hit, " Rain! Rain! Rain1", but tracks like " Remember Me", " I Feel That My Time Ain't Long", and " Didn't He Moan". These are soul-stirring gospel-revivalist songs of faith, and clearly illustrate the complicated interrelationships between pop, country & western and blues/rhythm and blues which would eventually morph into rock 'n' roll. The last four tracks were recorded at a slightly later session (after rock 'n' roll had just begun to make its presence felt), and could easily be looked at as rock 'n' roll songs with religious themes.
One of Laine's most popular albums, this album reset several of his former hits in a driving, brassy orchestration by Paul Weston and his orchestra, calculated to serve as a classic pop variant of/forerunner to rock 'n' roll. A couple of the remakes ("
That Lucky Old Sun", and " We'll Be Together Again,") have since gone on to become the best known (and consequently best remembered) versions of the songs (supplanting the original hit versions). Other songs on this album include: " Rockin' Chair", " By the River Sainte Marie", " Black and Blue", " Blue Turning Grey Over You", "Shine", and " West End Blues". The album's title is less a reference to rock and roll (although Columbia executives surely did nothing to discourage it), as a reference to the Duke Ellingtonsong of that same name. Unlike Mitch Miller, Laine liked the new musical form known as "rock 'n' roll", and was anxious to try his hand at it. And, although they were never hits, due more to his age than to the quality of the recordings themselves, they remain some of the most fascinating rock performances of the decade.
With Michel Legrand
Michel Legrandteamed up with Laine to record a pair of albums in 1958. The first album, " Foreign Affair", was built around the concept of recording the tracks in different languages: English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Unfortunately the international air of the albums didn't carry over to the fans who, regardless of country, only wanted records in their own language. Legrand's arrangements were well-suited to Laine's stylings, and the songs still come across regardless of any language barriers. The album did produce a pair of international hits: " La Paloma" in Argentina, and " Nao tem solucao" in Brazil.Other tracks included "Mona Lisa", " Mam'selle", " Torna a Sorriento", " Besame Mucho", and "Autumn Leaves."
Laine and Legrand teamed up for a second album of jazz standards, appropriately titled "
Reunion in Rhythm", with the vocals limiting themselves to English (and an occasional segue into French). The resulting album proved to be much more popular with fans. Laine sang the complete lyrics (including the rarely reprised introductions) to such favorites as " Blue Moon", " Lover, Come Back to Me", " Marie", " September in the Rain", " Dream a Little Dream of Me" " I Would Do Most Anything for You", " Too Marvelous for Words", and " I Forget the Time." Legrand's arrangements are ear-catching and original, and perfectly complement Laine's equally inventive, high-octane vocals.
With Frank Comstock
Laine wrote the lyrics for the title song on another 1958 album, "
Torchin'", which was also his first recorded in stereo. He was backed by trombonist Frank Comstock's orchestra, on a dozen classic torch songs including: " A Cottage for Sale", " I Cover the Waterfront", " You've Changed", " These Foolish Things", " I Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good)", " It's the Talk of the Town", and " Body and Soul". As with his Legrand album, he sings the entire lyric for each song, and delivers them with just the perfect mix of impassioned torch singing (a form of belting) and delicate emotion. It is rewarding to compare Laine's style on these numbers to that of Frank Sinatra, whose suicidal-torch albums from this period are slow, and almost dirge-like by comparison.
A second collaboration with Comstock, also recorded in 1958, left off the torchin' and focused on intimacy. Conceived as a love letter to his second wife, actress
Nan Grey(who appears on the cover with him), "You Are My Love" is easily Laine's most romantic work. His voice was once described (by a British disk jockey) as having "the virility of a goat and the delicacy of a flower petal," ["Time" magazine", [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,794629,00.html?iid=chix-sphere "Feels Good That Way"] , Monday, February 14, 1949. ] and both of these elements are well showcased here (particularly the delicate nuances). His recording of the wedding standard, "Because", exemplifies the singer's delicate mode at its most exquisite. He opens the song a cappella, after which a classical, acoustic guitar joins him, with the full orchestra gradually fading in and out before the guitar only climax. Also among the love ballads on this album are heartfelt versions of: " I Married an Angel", " To My Wife", " Try a Little Tenderness", " Side by Side", and a stirringly beautiful version of " The Touch of Your Lips", which elevates sensual love to the realm of the Divine.
Recorded in 1959, "
Balladeer", is a folk-blues album that was (and still remains) years ahead of its time. Laine had helped pioneer the folk music movement a full ten years earlier with his hit folk-pop records penned by Terry Gilkyson and others, and it was only fitting that he release a hard folk album now that the movement was becoming more popular. Orchestrated and arranged by Fred Katz(who'd brought Laine the innovative "Satan Wears a Satin Gown") and Frank DeVol, this album has a truly timeless feel to it. Laine and Katz collaborated on some of the new material, along with Lucy Drucker(who apparently inspired the " Lucy D" in one of the songs). Other songs are by folk, country and blues artists like Brownie McGhee, James A. Bland, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and Hungarian composer Rudolf Friml. The closing track, " And Doesn't She Roll" (co-written by Laine), with its rhythmic counter-chorus in the background foretells Paul Simon's celebrated "Graceland" album two decades later.
Included are powerful renditions of "
Rocks and Gravel", " Careless Love", " Sixteen Tons", " The Jelly Coal Man", " On a Monday", " Lucy D" (a chilling, original melody that sounds like the later Simon and Garfunkelhit, " Scarborough Fair", but depicts the murder of a beautiful young woman by her unrequited lover), " Carry Me Back To Old Virginney", " Stack of Blues", " Old Blue", " Cherry Red", and "New Orleans" (better known as " The House of the Rising Sun", which would become a hit for the British rock group, The Animalsa few years later.
John Williams arrangements
Laine's last four albums at Columbia, "
Hell Bent for Leather", " Deuces Wild", "Call of the Wild", and "Wanderlust" were arranged by a young John Williams. Williams recently said the following words about Laine:
"Frankie Laine was somebody that everybody knew. He was a kind of a household word like Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darin or Peggy Lee or Ella Fitzgerald -- Frankie Laine was one of the great popular singers and stylists of that time. ... And his style ... he was one of those artists who had such a unique stamp -- nobody sounded like he did. You could hear two notes and you knew who it was and you were right on the beam with it right away. And of course that defines a successful popular artist, at least at that time. These people were all uniquely individual and Frank was on the front rank of those people in his appeal to the public and his success and certainly in his identifiability. -- John Williams."
Hell Bent For Leather
This classic album of western classics by Laine established him as "a cowboy singer" for many young fans who grew up in the 1960s. The album's title is taken from a line in the popular t.v. theme song Laine recorded for the popular
Clint Eastwoodwestern "Rawhide", which, naturally appears on the album. The track include stereo remakes of several of his biggest western/great outdoors hits: "The Cry of the Wild Goose", "Mule Train", "Gunfight at O.K. Corral", and "3:10 to Yuma", as well as new material, including the classic western rocker, "Wanted Man", and one of his most rousing musical narratives, " Bowie Knife". The remakes aren't quite as good as the originals, but they're close enough -- and the new material is simply phenomenal.
Laine's next album continued both the western theme (at least on several of the numbers), while following up (somewhat belatedly) on his last big hit single, "Moonlight Gambler" (a stereo remake of which appears on the album). Most of the songs have a gambling theme, although the opening track hasn't got so much as a deck of cards in it. Instead, "
The Hard Way" is a rip-roaring story about a hard-luck case who gets blown to bits by a cannon ball while fight in the Civil War (for the Confederacy, of course), only to wind up eternally shoveling coal in Hell. The second track, Stephen Foster's " Camptown Races", is far and away the definitive version of this song (beating out even the version by the great Al Jolson). Under Laine's sure hand, the song sounds neither like a museum piece nor an antiquated novelty tune. It's brimming with a timeless energy that fully captures the excitement that the original song must have had. When Laine blasts out lines like "Runnin' a race with a shootin' star", you believe it! Other songs on this album include: " Luck Be a Lady" (from the hit musical " Guys and Dolls"), which Laine performed in an off-Broadway, touring company version of; " Get Rich Quick;" the wonderfully politically incorrect " Horses and Women" (which Laine may have supplied the lyrics to); " Deuces Wild", which Laine did provide the lyrics to; and " Dead Man's Hand."
Call of the Wild
This album continued to play up Chicago-born Frankie Laine's western image with songs like "
On the Trail", and what has got to be the definitive version of " Tumbling Tumbleweeds", written by one of the founding members of The Sons of the Pioneers", Bob Nolan. But the majority of its tracks focus more on "the great outdoors", with titles like: " The Song of the Open Road", " North to Alaska" (which probably had John Waynekicking himself in the head for having Johnny Hortonsing this title song over the credits of his film); " Beyond the Blue Horizon, " Rolling Stone" (not to be confused with the Bob Dylansong of the same title); and " The New Frontier", which appears to show Laine's support of President John F. Kennedy. The arrangements on many of these songs have an almost classical feel to them, reflecting the classical training of Johnny Williams, who would go on to conduct the Boston Popsfor many years.
"Wanderlust" was Laine's final album with Columbia Records. It featured a collection of songs only arguably, at best, in keeping with its title theme; but many rank among the singer's richest tracks. "
De Glory Road" is one of both Laine's and his fans personal favorites. His vocal gymnastics on this one are certainly of a gold medal calibre. Other great songs on this album are what for many is the definitive version of " Riders in the Sky" and one of his all-time greatest cuts, a swinging version of Sigmund Romberg's Serenade, from the operetta, " The Student Prince"; although Laine's joyously finger snapping version has nothing of the operetta in it. Also included on this album is a version of " I Let Her Go" which is even better than the singer's original hit version of it from 1953; an infectious (and uncensored) version of a song that figured prominently in his nightclub act, " On the Road to Mandalay", based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling; and a classic version of " Wagon Wheels" which he'd been singing (though not recording) as far back as his days with the Merry Garden Ballroom marathon dance company in the early 1930s.
Laine's albums from this period represented some of the best recordings of his long and illustrious career, but they were not competing well on the teen-oriented market of the early rock 'n' roll generation. Laine had met with Columbia officials to renew his contract on the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The meeting was canceled, and neither Laine nor Columbia pressed to reschedule it.
At Capitol, ABC, and Beyond
In 1963 Frankie Laine left Columbia for
Capitol Records, but his two years there only produced one album and a handful of singles (mostly of an inspirational nature). He continued performing regularly at this time, including a South African tour.
After switching to
ABC Recordsin the late 1960s, he found himself right back at the top of the charts again, beginning with the first song he'd recorded there, "I'll Take Care of Your Cares". Written as a waltz in the mid-1920s, "Cares" had become the unofficial theme song of the Las Vegas call girls but was virtually unknown outside of the strip. Laine recorded a swinging version that made it to number 39 on the national and to number 2 on the adult contemporary charts. A string of hits followed including "Making Memories", "You Wanted Someone to Play With", "Laura, What's He Got that I Ain't Got", " To Each His Own" "Born to be with You", "I Found You", and "Lord, You Gave Me A Mountain" (which was written for him by country legend Marty Robbins. The last song was a number one hit on the adult contemporary charts (#24 national), and proved that Laine was as big a hit-maker as ever. His last single to hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart (Peaking at #86 national) was the forceful reminder that "Dammit Isn't God's Last Name".
Seeking greater artistic freedom, Laine left ABC for the much smaller
Amos Records, where he cut two albums in a modern, rock-influenced vein. The first album contained contemporary versions of his greatest hits, such as "Your Cheatin' Heart", "That Lucky Old Sun", "I Believe", "Jezebel", "Shine", and "Moonlight Gambler." The new arrangements worked surprisingly well and many of the cuts can stand alongside of the originals. [ [http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/3353511/a/22+Greatest+Hits.htm. Frankie Laine 22 Greatest Hits CD ] ] His second album for Amos was called "A Brand New Day" and, along with the title song, features all new material including " Mr. Bojangles", "Proud Mary", "Put Your Hand in the Hand", "My God and I", and "Talk About the Good Times." It is one of Frankie Laine's personal favorites. ["That Lucky Old Son", Frankie Laine, co-authored with Joseph F. Laredo, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993, p69.] Unfortunately for Laine, Amos, which was soon to fold from lack of funds, couldn't adequately promote them at the time. However, they are still available through CD re-releases. After Amos folded, Laine started his own label, Score Records, which is still producing albums today.
Film and television
Beginning in the late 1940s, Frankie Laine starred in over a half dozen backstage musicals, often playing himself; several of these were written and directed by a young
Blake Edwards. The films were: "Make Believe Ballroom" - Columbia, 1949; "When You’re Smiling" - Columbia, 1950; "Sunny Side Of The Street" - Columbia, 1951; "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" - Columbia, 1952; " Bring Your Smile Along" - Columbia, 1955; " He Laughed Last" - Columbia, 1956; and " Meet Me in Las Vegas" - MGM, 1956. The last, a big budget MGMmusical starring Cyd Charissefeatures Laine performing "Hell Hath No Fury" and provides us with a glimpse of what his 1950s Las Vegas nightclub act must have been like.
His films were very popular in the United Kingdom, but failed to establish him as a movie star in the United States. State side, Laine gained more popularity in the new medium of television.
On television he hosted three variety shows: "The Frankie Laine Hour" in 1950, "The Frankie Laine Show"(with
Connie Haines) 1954-5, and "Frankie Laine Time" in 1955-6. The Last was a summer replacement for "The Arthur GodfreyShow" that received a Primetime Emmyfor Best Male Singer. "Frankie Laine Time" featured such high-powered guest stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Johnnie Ray, Georgia Gibbs, The Four Lads, Cab Calloway, Patti Page, Eddie Heywood, Duke Ellington, Boris Karloff, Patti Andrews, Joni James, Shirley MacLaine, Gene Krupa, Teresa Brewer, Jack Teagardenand Polly Bergen.
"He had a different sound, you know and he had such emotion and heart. And of course you recognized Frankie, just like Sinatra had that sound that you'd always recognize. That's what made for hit records, as well as being a great singer. But you have to have a real special sound that never changes. He could do it all ... but again, you always knew that it was Frankie Laine. -- Connie Haines"Interviewed in "Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer", video documentary, 2003.]He was a frequent guest star on various other shows of the time including "
Shower of Stars", "The Steve AllenShow", " The Ed Sullivan Show", " What's My Line?", " This is Your Life", " Bachelor Father", "The Sinatra Show", " The Walter Winchell Show", " The Perry Como Show", "The Gary Moore Show", " Masquerade Party", " The Mike Douglas Show", and " American Bandstand".
In the 1960s, he continued appearing on variety shows like "
Laugh-In", but took on several serious guest-starring roles in shows like "Rawhide", "Burke's Law", and "Perry Mason". His theme song for "Rawhide" proved to be popular and helped to make the show, starring a young, unknown actor named Clint Eastwooda hit. Other TV series' for which Laine sang the theme song included "Gunslinger", and " Rango". In 1976, Frankie recorded The Beatlessong, " Maxwell's Silver Hammer" for the ill advised documentary " All This and World War II".
Frankie Laine performed at three Academy Awards ceremonies: 1950 ("Mule Train"), 1960 ("The Hanging Tree"), and 1975 ("Blazing Saddles"). Only last two of these ceremonies were televised. In 1981 he performed a medley of his hits on "
American Bandstand"'s 30th Anniversary Special", where he received a standing ovation from the many celebrities present. Later appearances include " Nashville Now", 1989 and "My Music", 2006.
Along with opening the door for many R&B performers, Laine played a significant role in the civil rights movements of the 1950s and '60s. When
Nat King Cole's television show was unable to get a sponsor, Laine crossed the color line, becoming the first white artist to appear as a guest (forgoing his usual salary of $10,000.00 as Cole's show only paid scale). Many other top white singers followed suit, including Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney, but Cole's show still couldn't get enough sponsors to continue.
In the following decade, Frankie Laine joined several African American artists who gave a free concert for
Martin Luther King's supporters during their Selma to Montgomery marcheson Washington DC. [http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:66NLyQgj-LwJ:www.byways.org/browse/byways/2050/Selma_to_Montgomery_March_Byway_print_n_go_2050.pdf+martin+luther+king,+frankie+laine,+selma&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us.]
Laine, who had a strong appreciation of African-American music, went so far as to record at least two songs that have being black as their subject matter, "Shine" and
Fats Waller's "Black and Blue". Both were recorded early in his career at Mercury, and helped to contribute to the initial confusion among fans about his race.
Laine was also active in many charities as well, including
Meals on Wheelsand The Salvation Army. Among his charitable works were a series of local benefit concerts and his having organized a nationwide drive to provide "Shoes for the Homeless". He donated a large portion of his time and talent to many San Diego charities and homeless shelters, as well as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul Village. He was also an emeritus member of the board of directors for the Mercy Hospital Foundation.
His career slowed down a little in the 1980s due to triple and quadruple heart bypasses, but he nevertheless continued cutting albums including "Wheels Of A Dream" (1998), "Old Man Jazz" (2002) and "The Nashville Connection" (2004).
In 1986, he recorded an album, "Round Up" with
Erich Kunzeland the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, which made it to the classical charts. Laine was reportedly pleased and amused, [ [http://frankielaine.com/fl_career.shtml frankielaine.com] "In 1987 Laine released a compact disc of Western musical Americana which he recorded with Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Entitled, 'Roundup,' Frankie couldn't help but chuckle when it shot up Billboard's classical CD rankings. 'The last place I ever expected to find myself,' he noted, 'was on the classical music charts!'"] ] having also placed songs on the country, rhythm and blues, and popular charts in his time.
He recorded his last song, "Taps/My Buddy", shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attack on America. The song was dedicated to the New York City Fire Fighters, and Laine has stipulated that profits from the song are donated, in perpetuity, to the NY Fire Fighters.
Frankie Laine's 70-plus year career spanned most of the 20th century and continued into the 21st. Laine was a key figure in the golden age of
popular music. On June 12 1996, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th Annual Songwriters’ Hall of Fameawards ceremony at the New York Sheraton. On his 80th birthday, the United States Congress declared him to be a national treasure. [TRIBUTE TO FRANKIE LAINE -- HON. RANDY `DUKE' CUNNINGHAM (Extension of Remarks - March 25, 1993) [Page: E787] HON. RANDY `DUKE' CUNNINGHAM in the House of Representatives THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 1993 "Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a true American original, Frankie Laine, of San Diego, CA, who celebrates his 80th birthday Tuesday, March 30, 1993.
"With a song in his heart and a bold, strong voice, Frankie Laine revives the old spirit of the American frontier. He reminds us of a time when the work was hard and the pleasures and conveniences of life were few, but simple; a time of `Rawhide' and `Mule Trains'; a time we sometimes forget, but for the timeless music of Frankie Laine, we warmly remember again.
"One would think that following a career gilded with 21 gold records, Frankie Laine would ease into retirement. Not so. In his adopted hometown of San Diego, Frankie has provided shoes to the homeless, friendship to the friendless, and countless hours of selfless service to the community and to the Salvation Army. The man called the Squire of Point Loma has been a prince of a good neighbor.
"On his 80th birthday, Tuesday, March 30, 1993, let it be recorded in the permanent Record of the Congress of the United States that Frankie Laine is a national treasure, an American original, and a great and generous friend to the people of this Nation."] Then, a decade later on March 30, 2003, Frankie celebrated his 90th birthday, and several of his old pals,
Herb Jeffries, Patti Pageand Kay Starrwere welcomed to his birthday bash in San Diego, as each of them gave him a helping hand in blowing out the candles.
After a brief marriage in the 1940s, Laine married actress Nan Grey (June 1950 - July 1993) and adopted her daughters from a previous marriage, Pam and Jan. Their forty-three year union lasted until her death. As an addendum, both Frankie and Nan guest starred on a Nov. 18, 1960 episode of
Rawhide: "Incident on the Road to Yesterday." They played long lost lovers.
Following a three-year engagement to Anita Craighead, which also ended in his partner's death, the 86-year old singer married Marcia Ann Kline in June 1999. This last pairing would last for the remainder of his life.
In 2005 he appeared in the
PBS"My Music" special despite a recent stroke. He performed the song that started it all for him, "That's My Desire," and received a standing ovation from the warmly appreciative audience. It proved to be his swansong to the world of popular music.
Laine died of heart failure on
February 6, 2007, at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, at 93. In a prepared statement Laine's family said, "He will be forever remembered for the beautiful music he brought into this world, his wit and sense of humor, along with the love he shared with so many." [ [http://newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/2/7/93624.shtml 'Rawhide' Singer Frankie Laine Dies at 93] ] A memorial mass for the late singer, who was a Roman Catholic, was held on Monday, February 12, at the Immaculata parish church on the campus of the University of San Diego. The following day, his ashes, along with those of his former wife, Nan Grey, were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
While Laine's influence on popular music, rock and roll and soul is rarely acknowledged by rock historians, his early crossover success as a singer of "race music", helped pave the way for other white artist who sang in the black style, like Kay Starr, Johnnie Ray and Elvis Presley; but helped to increase public acceptance for African-American artists as well. Artists inspired and/or influenced by Laine include Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Lou Rawls, The Kalin Twins, The Beatles, ["The Beatles: The Biography", Bob Spitz; Little, Brown and Company, 2005, pg36. "Reclining on the grass against their overturned bikes, they'd wait for (Lennon's) harmonica's long, slurry cue, then throw their heads back and sing: 'Keep a-movin' Dan, don't you listen to him Dan, he's a devil not a man...' (from 'Cool Water'). The boy's musical tastes stretched out considerably, thanks to overworked jukeboxes at Hilda's Chop Shop and The Dutch Cafe; where among their many discoveries were crooners such as Johnnie Ray, Frankie Laine, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Under the influence of the earthy, if gratuitously slick, Laine, the boys would wait until the bank's sight lines grew clear, then burst out singing: 'I'm just a-walkin' in the rain...' (from the Johnnie Ray record of that title, more or less), strangling each syllable with burbles of imagined heartbreak." ] Tom Jones, James Brown, Billy Fury, and many others.
* of "Basin Street Blues" by Laine and
Lyrics by Laine
*"It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That" (with
*"It Only Happens Once" (words and music by Laine)
*"Put Yourself In My Place" (with
*"We’ll Be Together Again" (with Carl Fischer)
*" Our Dream" (words and music)
*"I Haven’t The Heart" (with
*"I’d Give My Life" (with Carl Fischer)
*"What Could Be Sweeter?" (with Carl Fischer)
*"Baby, Just For Me" (with Carl Fischer)
*"Satan Wears A Satin Gown" (with
Jacques Wilsonand Fred Katz)
*"Don’t Cry Little Children" (with
*"When You’re In Love" (with Carl Fischer)
*"Only If We Love" (with
*"Torchin" (with Al Lerner)
*"The Love Of The Roses" (with Carl Fischer)
*"Magnificent Obsession" (with
*"Forever More" (with
*"You Are My Love" (with Carl Fischer)
*"My Little Love" (with
*"And Doesn’t She Roll" (with
Jack Wilsonand Fred Katz)
*"God Bless This House" (with Jack Wilson and Fred Katz)
*"Deuces Wild" (with
Mike Oatmanand Ray Barr)
*"Cow-Cow Boogie" (with
Don Raye, Gene DePauland Benny Carter)
*"The High Road" (with
Margaret Bristoland Leo Kempinski)
*" The Moment of Truth" (with
Nell Westernand Fred Katz)
*"What Am I Here For?" (with
*" End Of Session Blues"
Make Believe Ballroom" - Columbia, 1949.
When You’re Smiling" - Columbia, 1950.
*"Sunny Side of the Street" - Columbia, 1951.
Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" - Columbia, 1952.
Bring Your Smile Along" - Columbia, 1955.
He Laughed Last" - Columbia, 1956.
Meet Me in Las Vegas" - MGM, 1956.
ang the Title Song
Blowing Wild" - Warner, 1953.
Man Without A Star" - Universal, 1955.
Strange Lady In Town" - Warner, 1955.
*"Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" - Paramount, 1957.
*"" - Columbia, 1957.
*"Bullwhip" - Republic, 1958.
Blazing Saddles" - Warner/Crossbow, 1974.
Included in the Soundtrack
The Last Picture Show" - sang "Rose, Rose, I Love You", Columbia, 1971.
All This and World War II" - sang "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", Deluxe, 1976.
House Calls" - sang "On the Sunny Side of the Street", Universal, 1978.
Lemon Popsicle" - sang "My Little One", 1978.
Going Steady" - sang "My Little One", 1980.
Raging Bull" - sang "That's My Desire", United Artists, 1980.
*"Whore" - sang "The Love of Loves", 1991.
*"Chopper" - sang "Don't Fence Me In", 2000.
The Frankie Laine Hour" - 1950.
The Frankie Laine Show" - 1954-5.
Frankie Laine Time" - 1955-6.
*"Rawhide" 1959-66 (sang the theme song)
*"Gunslinger" 1961 (sang the theme song)
Rango" 1967 (sang the theme song)
The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo" 1979-81 (sang the theme song for the first season)
Guest star appearances
Perry Mason" - CBS, 1959.
*"Rawhide" - CBS, 1960.
Bachelor Father" - ABC, 1961.
Burke's Law" - ABC, 1963.
* [http://frankielaine.com/fl_merchframe.shtml "That Lucky Old Son"] , co-authored with Joseph F. Laredo, Pathfinder Publishing, 1993.
* [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1575790114 "The Best Damn Trumpet Player: Memories of the Big Band Era and Beyond"] by
Richard Grudens, Celebrity Profiles Publishing Co. ( June 1, 1996). Includes a Foreword by Frankie Laine as well as a chapter (by Grudens) on his music.
* [http://www.bear-family.de/tabel1/neuheit/fall2002/frankie_laine_e.htm A three volume set of table-sized Frankie Laine biographies, "That Lucky Old Sun", "I Believe", "'Rawhide"] "by
Todd Everett, accompany the Laine CD box-set collections put out by Bear Family Records.
* [http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~27134.aspx "Reaching for a Star"] , by
Craig Cronbaugh, AuthorHouse Publishing, 2005. Includes biographical information on Frankie Laine as well as detailing the author's meetings with him.
"Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer," 2003. Narrated by
Lou Rawls. Included are interviews with Patti Page, Kay Starr, Pat Boone, Clint Eastwood, Tom Jones, Howard Keel, Connie Haines, John Williams, Michel Legrand, Mitch Miller, Ringo Starr, Dick Clark, and many others.
List of best-selling music artists
* [http://frankielaine.com/ Official Frankie Laine Website]
* [http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/frankie_laine.htm Interview with Frankie Laine]
* [http://www.markalson2.com/lainefan/HOME.html Comprehensive fan site with full discography]
* [http://www.flias.com/ The Frankie Laine International Appreciation Society]
* [http://www.bigbandsandbignames.com/ Frankie Laine at the Latin Quarter, 1955 performance review]
* [http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ex-laine6feb07,0,5808785.story?coll=la-home-headlines Obituary] from the "Los Angeles Times"
NAME= Laine, Frankie
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= LoVecchio, Francesco Paulo
SHORT DESCRIPTION= American popular singer
DATE OF BIRTH=
March 30, 1913
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
February 6, 2007
PLACE OF DEATH=
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