Frankie Laine


Born: March 13, 1913
City and Country of Origin: Chicago, Illinois
Music Training: sang in the Church of the Immaculate Conception choir as a boy
Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th Annual Songwriters’ Hall of Fame awards
Top Recordings: "That's My Desire," "That Lucky Old Sun," "Mule Train," "Shine," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Mam'selle," "The Cry of the Wild Goose," "Jezebel," "High Noon," "Rawhide, "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Granada," "The Kid's Last Fight," "Moonlight Gambler," "Lord, You Gave Me A Mountain"
Frankie Laine Biography: Francesco Paolo LoVecchio was one of the most innovative and successful singers of the twentieth century. A song stylist with a voice that could fill a concert hall without a microphone. During his career he had more than 70 charted records, 21 gold records, and worldwide sales of over 250 million disks. Laine excelled in almost every music genre from pop standards to jazz to R&B to folk and even country and western.

Frankie the oldest of 8 children, grew up in Chicago's Little Italy the son of Sicilian immigrants John and Anne Lo Vechio. His family came from Monreale near Palermo on the island of Sicily. While attending Lane Technical High School he participated in basketball and track and field. He decided to become a singer after seeing Al Jolson's The Singing Fool. When he was 17 he performed before 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such enthusiastic applause that he ended up performing five encores, but success for Laine would prove elusive taking him another 17 years to achieve his goal.

His early influence came from Enrico Caruso, Carl Buti and Bessie Smith. 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 Bailey and Nat "King" Cole. During the Great Depression he toured with The Merry Garden company working dance marathons where he set the record of 3,501 hours with partner Ruthie Smith at Atlantic City's Million Dollar Pier in 1932. During the fifteen minute intermission the dancers were given every hour he would entertain.

He spent the next 10 years of his life alternating between singing at small jazz clubs and working odd jobs like that of a bouncer, dance instructor or used car salesman. The lowest point of his life found him sleeping on park benches in New York's Central Park while surviving on one $.04 Baby Ruth candy bar a day. He moved to the West Coast in 1943 where he found work in Hollywood singing in the background for several films. It was in 1944 that he befriended DJ Al Jarvis and composer/pianist Carl Fischer who would become his songwriting partner, musical director and piano accompianist until Fischer's death in 1954.

Finally, in 1946 while singing in at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles he was discovered by Hoagy Carmichael. This eventually led to a recording contract with newly formed Mercury Records. Later that year he would dust off a 15 year old song which he had added to his act some 12 years earlier from songstress June Hart, "That's My Desire." The song proved to be so dated that the audience at Berg's completely forgot it and mistook it for a new song. He soon cut the song on the fledgling Mercury label. The song shot to number 1 on the R&B charts where Laine was initially mistaken for being black. It rose to number 4 on the mainstream charts and earned Laine his first Gold Record. He soon followed his success with "Black and Blue," "Mam'selle," "Two Loves Have I," "Shine," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and "Monday Again" just to name a few.

In 1948 when Mitch Miller became the head of Arrangement and Repetoire at Mercury he and Laine teamed up to produce a number of hit songs starting with "That Lucky Old Sun" which climbed to number 1 on the charts in just 3 weeks earning Laine his fifth Gold Record. It was finally replaced at the top of the charts by Laine's next offering "Mule Train" an even bigger hit. Some other Miller, Laine collaborations at Mercury 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," "The Stars and Stripes Forever," "Nevertheless" and "The Cry of the Wild Goose." The biggest label of all was Columbia Records and when Miller left Mercury to succeed John Hammond he would soon sign Laine whose contract was expiring at Mercury.

At Columbia Laine quickly struck with a 2 sided hit "Jezebel"/"Rose, Rose, I Love You" proving that he had not lost his touch as the number 1 hitmaker of the early 50s. Other Laine hits from this period include, "High Noon," "Jealousy (Jalousie)," "The Girl in the Woods," "When You're in Love," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" (with Jo Stafford), "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Granada," "Hey Joe!," "The Kid's Last Fight," "Cool Water," "Someday," "A Woman in Love," "Love is a Golden Ring" (with The Easy Riders), and "Moonlight Gambler." While at Columbia Laine scored 39 hits.

Always exceedingly popular in England, he holds 2 records for longevity at the top spot on the charts. His 1953 recording "I Believe" held down the top spot on the British charts for 18 weeks and when combined with his hits "Hey Joe!" and "Answer Me" gave him 27 weeks at the top of the charts. He also broke attendance records at the London Palladium in 1952 and gave a Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, By the end of the decade he remained the most successful artist on the British charts out distancing Elvis Presley.

From the late 50s into the early 60s he released a number of theme albums like Rockin' (with Paul Weston's Orchestra), Jazz Spectacular (with jazz trumpet great Buck Clayton), Frankie Laine And The Four Lads (a gospel album that truly rocks), Reunion In Rhythm (with Michel Legrand), Balladeer (folk songs), Torchin' (Torch songs), Hell Bent For Leather (western songs), Call Of The Wild (outdoor songs), Wanderlust (the last four with John Williams' Orchestra).

Besides his singing Laine was also active in social causes. When Nat King Cole was unable to get a sponsor for his TV show Laine became the first white artist to make an appearance foregoing his $10,000 salary. During the 60s he joined several African American artists in a free concert for Martin Luther King supporters during the march from Selma to Montgomery. He has also been active in Meals on Wheels, The Salvation Army and organized a natinwide drive for Shoes for the Homeless.

Laine also had a career in both television and the movies. He appeared in a number of early Blake Edwards films including 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. His movies proved very popular in the UK, but failed to make him a movie star in the US. 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 Godfrey Show. He also made numerous appearances as a guest star on shows like The Steve Allen Show, The Toast of the Town, 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."

Frankie performed 3 times at the Academy Awards ceremonies: 1950 ("Mule Train"), 1960 ("The Hanging Tree"), and 1975 ("Blazing Saddles"). In 1963 he left Columbia to sign with Capitol Records, but only produced 1 album for the label. In the late 60s, after switching to ABC Records, he found himself back on the charts with "I'll Take Care of Your Cares." More hits followed with "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.

Seeking greater freedom he left ABC and signed with a smaller label Amos Records where he recorded 2 rock oriented albums. The first album featured a contemporary interpretation of his greatest hits like Your Cheatin' Heart," "That Lucky Old Sun," "I Believe," "Jezebel," "Shine," and "Moonlight Gambler." The second, A Brand New Day, featured new material like "Mr. Bojangles," "Proud Mary," "Put Your Hand in the Hand," "My God and I," and "Talk About the Good Times." When Amos folded Laine started his own label Score Records which is still producing albums.

During the 80s he began to slow down due to triple and quadruple bypass surgery. He has continued to record producing Wheels Of A Dream (1998), Old Man Jazz (2002) and The Nashville Connection (2004), and in 2005 appeared on the PBS My Music special despite a recent stroke. Frankie Laine is still alive and living in San Diego, CA.

Died: February 6, 2007

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