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kikibalt
02-07-2007, 08:25 AM
Singer Frankie Laine dead at 93
By Claudia Luther, Special to The Times

Frankie Laine, the singer with the booming voice who hit it big with such songs as "That Lucky Old Sun," "Mule Train," "Cool Water," "I Believe," "Granada" and "Moonlight Gambler," died today at Mercy Hospital in San Diego. He was 93.

Laine entered the hospital over the weekend for hip replacement surgery but suffered complications from the operation, said his friend A.C. Lyles, the longtime producer at Paramount Pictures.

In all, Laine sold well over 100 million records and was hugely popular not only in the United States but in Britain and Australia.

Even after his popularity crested after the rise of rock 'n' roll, Laine was heard for many years singing the theme to the TV series "Rawhide," which featured a young Clint Eastwood and ran until 1966.

Most of those who remember Laine for his biggest hits would hardly know that his body of work included "Baby That Ain't Right," "Rosetta" and many other songs that were more in the style of what Laine considered his roots -- jazz and blues.

"Years before Elvis Presley, Laine brought a potent blend of blues, jazz and country to popular music," jazz critic Don Heckman said. "Rarely acknowledged in Laine's work, he sang with the easy, loose phrasing and imaginative articulation of jazz performers."

Laine started out in jazz but was sidetracked by arranger Mitch Miller, who fashioned Laine into the popular artist that he is best remembered for being.

"When I told him I'd probably lose all my jazz fans [with these songs], I was right. I did," Laine told David Kilby of Australian Broadcasting Corp. "But he said I would pick up a lot of other kind of listeners, and I did, so he was right, too."

Miller produced most of Laine's hits in the 1940s and 1950s, including "Mule Train" and "That Lucky Old Sun." He said he loved Laine's voice because it sounded like "the blue-collar man, the guy who didn't know where his next paycheck was coming from."

Laine at first refused to do "Mule Train."

"You can't expect me to do a cowboy song," he told Miller. "I won't do it!"

But Miller persuaded him to record it and it was one of Laine's biggest hits.

Though Laine was big of voice, he said he didn't like being referred to as a "belter."

"I was just trying to emphasize the rhythmic aspects of the songs I sang, using my voice the way a jazz soloist uses his instrument," he said in "That Lucky Old Son," his 1993 autobiography (written with Joseph F. Laredo). "'Crooning' may have the more commercial style, but it wasn't for me."

Francesco Paolo LoVecchio was born March 30, 1913, the eldest of eight children of Sicilian immigrants who settled in the Little Italy neighborhood in Chicago. His father was a barber whose customers included Al Capone; his maternal grandfather was the victim of a mob hit. Laine said he came from a "big and poor, but happy" family.

As a kid, Laine sang in the all-boy choir at church, but first became excited about music when he listened to one of his mother's records on a windup Victrola: Bessie Smith singing "Bleeding Hearted Blues," with "Midnight Blues" on the flip side.

"The first time I laid the needle down on that record I felt cold chills and an indescribable excitement," Laine would say later.

This record was his first exposure to jazz and the blues, which would draw him into music.

At 18, with the Depression underway and his father out of work, Laine hit the road as a dance marathoner. Altogether he participated in 14 marathons, coming in first on three occasions. He and his partner, Ruthie Smith, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for dancing 145 days straight (although he disputed Guinness, saying he and Smith danced for 146 days).

Laine said the life of a marathoner wasn't as grim as was portrayed in the 1969 film, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

"As bizarre as the whole business sounds today, it was a decent method of keeping body and soul together during the Depression," he said. "I gained experience, insights into human nature, and I learned how to handle big crowds."

Besides, he said, some of the attention he got then "helped light a spark of hope that maybe I had a shot at bigger and better things."

But Laine would not hit it big until his mid-30s. In between, he would live the tough life of an undiscovered musician in the shank of the Depression. He traveled from city to city, often without enough money for a hotel or a decent meal.

Times like this, which he described in his autobiography, were not unusual: "Armed with $40 and a letter of introduction from Hoyt [Kline]"-a friend of Louis Armstrong's-"I headed off for my second shot at New York. With my club experience and those new songs, I figured I'd be singing in about a week. It took me three days to get in to see the radio executive, and 15 minutes for him to show me the door."

Before long he had used up "my pathetic little bankroll" going from club to club for auditions. He would sneak into hotels and sleep on the floor at least until he got thrown out. Then he began sleeping on a Central Park bench, using his last 4 cents to buy four Baby Ruth candy bars, which he rationed to himself until he ran out of food and money.

Then he got a break-an audition at WINS radio station, where he got a $5-a-week job singing on a live half-hour show.

It was the program director at WINS who changed his name from Frank LoVecchio to Frankie Lane. (Laine added the "i" to avoid confusion with another singer with the same last name.)

Years more of moving around, working other jobs and testing his talent brought him eventually to Los Angeles, where he hung out at clubs like Slapsy Maxie's and Billy Berg's. It was at Billy Berg's that he met Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and many other legends. And it was there that he would occasionally get to sing for free before eventually being hired.

Even this did not provide an unbroken ladder to success, but eventually Laine did get a chance to record a few songs for Mercury Records. He decided he wanted to do an old song he'd heard years ago, "That's My Desire," but he couldn't remember it well enough to sing it the way it was written, so he improvised.

"Desire" was the song that proved the breakthrough for Laine, although it took almost a year. First it hit the so-called "Harlem" pop charts which recorded sales to black record buyers.

"That didn't surprise me," Laine said. "In my leaner days I failed many an audition because, I was told, I sounded 'too black.' I'm certain the confusion was the direct result of the music that influenced me while I was developing my style. I guess I became the first of the so-called blue-eyed soul singers."

During 1947, "Desire" got more and more airplay, even in Europe. By fall, Laine got his first royalty payment for the song: $36,000. He was 34.

After rock 'n' roll hit big, Laine was considered old hat. He remained popular in Europe and Australia, and he caught a second wind recording the theme songs for "Rawhide"; Mel Brooks' movie "Blazing Saddles," and many commercials, including one for Campbell Soup's Manhandlers soups ("How do ya handle a hungry man? Manhandlers!").

He also kept performing, traveling widely with his wife, actress Nan Grey. After her death in 1993, he stayed closer to his home in San Diego, where the couple had lived since 1968. He remarried in 1999 to Marcia Ann Kline.

In "Off the Record," a book of interviews of popular music icons, Laine told author Joe Smith, the former chief executive of Warner Bros., Elektra and Capitol Records, that if he could change anything about his success, it would be to "make it happen maybe 10 years sooner."

"Ten years is a good stretch of scuffling," Laine said. "But I scuffled for 17 years before it happened, and 17 is a bit much."

Laine is survived by his wife, Marcia, and two stepdaughters, Pam and Jan from his marriage to Grey and two grandchildren.

Services are pending.

DscribeDC
02-07-2007, 12:07 PM
Laine supposedly thought the theme for "Saddles" was "beautiful" and sang it totally straight, without getting that it was a joke. Mel Brooks didn't have the heart to tell him.

TKO11
02-07-2007, 02:38 PM
Actually, I agree with him. The themesong to "Blazing Saddles" is a really terrific melody - maybe not quite "beautiful", but certainly very memorable. And as far as getting the joke, if Laine hadn't read the script, there's no way he could know it was a joke. The lyrics were only as melodramatic as any other western movie themesong of the day.

I really liked Laine's voice, but didn't have much use for the material he recorded with it. Blazing Saddles is easily my favorite of his songs.

dongee
02-07-2007, 02:42 PM
I've missed the old days quite a lot. Especially when recalling the first time I saw Mr. Nice Guy Frankie Laine perform on stage at the old Orpheum Theatre on Broadway, between 8th and 9th streets in L.A.

Hollywood Disc Jockey Al Jarvis, who originated "The Make Believe Ballroom" radio show, liked to dabble in talent searching. In the mid-1940s he put together a fine group of relatively unknown performers that included a handsome, well-knit singer, prematurely, yet totally bald, named Frankie Laine.

Jarvis called his revue "On Stage Everybody" and contracted the group for a week's engagement at the Orpheum. Frankie Laine's was the only act that stayed in my mind as I left the theatre.

Here was a guy with an incredibly fresh delivery of an old standard (Sunny Side of the Street).It was so unusual that some of the audience tittered in muffled laughter at the sight of Frankie emphasizing his phrasing by bending at the knees, almost touching the floor with his fists for effect. I remember, too, that he was quite the fashion plate, dressed in eggshell flannel trousers and a cocoa brown sports jacket.

As time went on I often thought of how the folks who had failed to grasp what Frankie Laine's singing style was all about, felt upon watching him soar as he did to occupy a rather unique place in American music.

Living in San Diego, as we both did for so many years, I often saw him perform at various venues, and always looked forward to his candid chats on local talk shows.

Frankie married Nan Grey, a promising actress who was previously wed to famed jockey Jackie Westrope.

Rest in Peace, consummate artist.

hap navarro

kikibalt
02-07-2007, 06:27 PM
http://i12.tinypic.com/2h680w4.jpg

Mike DeLisa
02-08-2007, 05:33 PM
Frankie did a jazz record with Buck Clayton that is GREAT!

kikibalt
02-08-2007, 05:39 PM
Frankie did a jazz record with Buck Clayton that is GREAT!
So what is the name of the record?

Mike DeLisa
02-08-2007, 08:18 PM
JAZZ SPECTACULAR on COLUMBIA RECORDS (#CL 808 1956)

Tracks are --

1. S'posin'
2. Stars Fell On Alabama
3. Until The Real Thing Comes Along, (It Will Have To Do)
4. My Old Flame
5. You Can Depend On Me
6. That Old Feeling
7. Taking A Chance On Love
8. If You Were Mine
9. Baby, Baby All The Time
10. Roses Of Picardy

kikibalt
02-08-2007, 08:34 PM
JAZZ SPECTACULAR on COLUMBIA RECORDS (#CL 808 1956)

Tracks are --

1. S'posin'
2. Stars Fell On Alabama
3. Until The Real Thing Comes Along, (It Will Have To Do)
4. My Old Flame
5. You Can Depend On Me
6. That Old Feeling
7. Taking A Chance On Love
8. If You Were Mine
9. Baby, Baby All The Time
10. Roses Of Picardy

That Old Feeling; I have