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FRANKIE LAINE 30th March 1913 - 6th February 2007
Frankie Laine, born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio (Chicago, March
30, 1913), was one of the most successful American singers of
the twentieth century. Often billed as America's Number One
Song Stylist, his other nicknames include Mr. Rhythm, Old
Leather Lungs, 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".
His career as an entertainer spanned approximately 75 years,
from 1930 (when he sang in between sets with a marathon dance
company) to 2005 (when he sang "That's My Desire" in a PBS
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. Originally a rhythm and blues influenced
Jazz singer, 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 Jonnie
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 feet 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.
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.
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 favoured by contemporaries Dick
Haymes and Frank Sinatra. Often called the first of the
blue-eyed soul singers, Laine's style cleared the way for
many artists who arose in the late 40s and early 50s,
including Kay Starr, Tony Bennett, Johnnie Ray and Elvis
Presley (who was initially described by critics as "a cross
between Johnnie Ray and Frankie Laine").
I think that Frank probably was one of the forerunners of
.... blues, of .... rock 'n' roll. A lot of singers who sing
with a passionate demeanour -- 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. -- Patti Page
Throughout the 1950s, Laine enjoyed a second career singing
the title songs over the opening credits of Hollywood films
and television shows, including: Gunfight at the OK Corral,
3:10 to Yuma, 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
Frankie Laine was born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on March 30,
1913 to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (nee Salerno). His
parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicily to 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 Mafia connections, 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, 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 Smith recording 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 jazz and 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
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 Smith at Atlantic City's Million Dollar Pier in
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
Skelton and a fourteen-year old Anita O'Day for whom he served
as a mentor (as noted by Laine in a 1998 interview by David
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,
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 Como in the
Freddy Carlone band in Cleveland in 1937. Como was another
life-long friend of Laine's, who once leant Laine the money to
travel to a possible gig.
Como would never allow Laine to pay him back, but Laine
returned the favour in spades when he saved Como's son from
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 defence 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
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 in 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 Ruth candy bars and
rationed myself to one a day. -- Frankie Laine
He changed his professional name to "Frankie Laine" in 1938,
upon receiving a job singing for the New York City radio
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 Dorsey band. 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 Hollywood with
them as their agent.
Unfortunately, the engagement fell through, with the
songstress 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.
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
Kaye comedy 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 song writing partner, musical director
and piano accompanist until his death in 1954.
Their song writing 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."
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 Carmichael heard
him singing at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles that success
Not knowing that Carmichael was in the audience, Laine sang
the Carmichael-penned standard "Rockin' Chair" when Slim
Gaillard called 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 figured
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&b artist Johnny Moore's group, The Three Blazers
which featured Charles Brown and 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
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 Benny
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
"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 Hart a 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 woogie piano 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."
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 number one spot
on the R&B charts, where Laine was initially mistaken for
being black; and made it to the #4 spot on the Mainstream
charts. Although it was quickly covered by many other artists,
including Sammy Kaye who 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.. His first paycheck for royalties was over five
times this amount. Laine paid off all of his debts except one
-- fellow singer Perry Como refused 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 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 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 whip cracks
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."
"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
"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 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
"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 Carmichael standard, "Georgia on My
Mind." Laine's slow, soulful version is an obvious model for
the iconic remake by Ray Charles a 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 Presley also remade
several of Laine's hits, and his early influence on The
Beatles has been well documented.)
In a recent interview, Mitch Miller described the basis of
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, 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
But the biggest label of all was 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 RCA
bought Elvis Presley's contract five years later.
The legendary Jazz Spectacular album, with Buck Clayton
Laine began recording for Columbia Records in 1951, where he
immediately scored a double-sided hit with the single
"Jezebel"/"Rose, Rose, I Love You", confirming his reputation
as the premiere hitmaker of the early 50s.
Other Laine hits from this period include "High Noon
(Do Not Forsake Me)", 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",
"Some Day", "A Woman in Love", "Love is a Golden Ring"
(with The Easy Riders), and "Moonlight Gambler".
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."
"High Noon" was the theme song from the highly popular western
motion picture starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. It had
been sung by cowboy star Tex Ritter in 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 Hollywood and television westerns. He
would become so thoroughly identified with these title songs
that Mel Brooks would 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 Kingdom
surpassed 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
A consummate duettist, 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 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
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 virsatility 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 Clooney and 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
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 Melcher was 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
Presley and The Beatles, fifty-plus years later, both of
Laine's records still hold.
Laine with his most frequent duet partner, Jo Stafford.
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 Presley
as the most successful artist on the British charts. See the
"Chart of All Time" for details. "I Believe" is listed as the
second most popular song of all time on the British charts as
"I Believe" marked yet another direction for Laine's music:
that of the spiritual. A devout Roman Catholic from 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"
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.
MUSICAL 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 Dorsey alumnus 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 Basie orchestra,
Wilbur "Buck" Clayton, and trombonists J. J. Johnson and 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 standardslike "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
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 Busseri and
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-bussters ("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
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" are soul-stirring gospel-revivalist songs
of faith, and clearly illustrate the complicated relationships
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
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
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 Ellington song 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
French composer/arranger Michel Legrand teamed 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
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
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",Besame Mucho,
"Torna a Sorriento" 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
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
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," 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"), 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 Garfunkel hit, "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 Animals a few years later.
John Towner Williams
He billed as "Johnny Williams", then. Just starting out, he
would serve as Laine's arranger-conductor on his last four
albums at Columbia: Hell Bent for Leather, Deuces Wild, Call
of the Wild, and Wanderlust. As John Williams, he would later
go on to be one of the most influential motion picture
composers of the late 20th century, providing the scores for
such blockbusters as Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the
Lost Ark, and Schindler's List. He 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
It is during this period that many of Laine's fans consider
his voice to have been at its peak. "De Glory Road", from
his Wanderlust album of 1963 was one of Laine's personal
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
Eastwood western 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
Wayne kicking himself in the head for having Johnny Horton
sing this title song over the credits of his film); "Beyond
the Blue Horizon, "Rolling Stone" (not to be confused with the
Bob Dylan song 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 Pops for 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 cancelled, 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
After switching to ABC Records in 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
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.
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" -
The last, a big budget MGM musical starring Cyd
Charisse features 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
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 and 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
Teagarden and 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
He was a frequent guest star on various other shows of the
time including Shower of Stars, 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. His theme
song for Rawhide proved to be popular and helped to make the
show, starring a young, unknown actor named Clint Eastwood a
hit. Other TV series' for which Laine sang the theme song
included "Gunslinger", and "Rango". In 1976, Frankie recorded
The Beatles song, "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
(foregoing 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 marches on
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 Wheels and 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 Eric Kunzel and
the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, which made it to the classical
charts. Laine was reportedly pleased and amused, 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
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 Fame awards ceremony at the New York
Sheraton. On his 80th birthday, the United States Congress
declared him to be a national treasure. Then, a decade
later on March 30, 2003, Frankie celebrated his 90th birthday,
and several of his old pals, Herb Jeffries, Patti Page and Kay
Starr were 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. 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 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 humour,
along with the love he shared with so many." A memorial
mass for the late singer, who was a Roman Catholic, was held
on Monday, February 12, at the Immaculate 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.
Some other sites that may be of interest to "Laine" fans are:
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