Tuesday, March 19, 2013


What are the stats? It seems to me that quite often, people who are nearing the end seem to hang on until they reach their next birthday. They shoot for that milestone, and then they're shot. Exhausted. A few drop dead right on the finish line, and Fran Warren was one of them, entering the world on March 4 (1926) and exiting on March 4 (2013).

While she wasn't the most famous of big band singers, she had a few hits on 78 rpm in the 40's and 50's. By the late 50's, she could only get a label deal with the era's budget companies. Her debut "Hey There! Here's Fran Warren" was issued by Tops in 1957, and "Something's Coming" was on the obscure Warwick label in 1960. When I started haunting dollar bins in record stores, I sure knew who Fran Warren was. She was the one getting in the way of the used Julie London albums and cut-out still-sealed movie soundtracks that hadn't listed for $1.99.

The former Frances Wolfe first gained attention with Claude Thornill's big band in the late 40's. Thornhill had both a girl singer and boy singer, and in about 4 years in the late 40's Fran recorded some 14 sides (which have now been collected on CD by Collectors Choice). In 1950 she joined another Jewish vocalist with a "straight" name, Tony Martin, for the Top 10 cutie-pie duet "I Said My Pajamas And Put On My Prayers."

The pleasant-looking performer had one chance in a feature film. In 1952 she was the brunette Lady Jane in "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd," playing second fiddle to blonde Hillary Brooke as beautiful Captain Bonney. Fran recorded singles for Columbia, RCA and ended her attempts to make the Top 10 with MGM around 1955. Not exactly competing as a pure vocalist she now found better luck as an actress-singer in stage musicals, and was hired for the touring version of "Pajama Game," which had starred Janis Paige on Broadway.

The big hit in "Pajama Game" was "Hey There," and at least she convinced Tops that fans seeing her in the touring show might prefer hearing her do the number rather than Janis Paige. Promoting the 1957 "Hey There" album, Fran managed to get booked for a week on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show." She didn't make a return visit until 1962 when Johnny Carson took over. She sang for Johnny in 1966 and 1967 and managed two appearances on Joey Bishop's talk show in 1968 and 1969. Her album output over those years was sparse as well.

Warren seemed to have achieved a balance in the 70's and 80's between a private life and work in nightclubs, and as you can see on this page, looked the part of a successful veteran performer when cameras snapped that 1981 shot of her and easy going Tony Martin.

Below, a four-song sampler from her prime decade of recordings, 1947-1957: "Just About This Time Last Night," a pleasant ballad with Claude Thornhill's band in 1947, "I Said My Pajamas" the mild novelty duet from 1950, the whitebread tango "Kiss Me and Kill Me With Love," which was a 1955 MGM single, and her sweet and dreamy cover of "Hey There."

In the 60's, for budget-minded music lovers who couldn't afford Eydie Gorme, June Christy, Peggy Lee, Julie London, Dinah Shore, Jeri Southern, Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald, or some of the other major label warblers who were singing the standards and show tunes, Fran Warren gave you some audio bang for your literal buck.

FRAN WARREN Four Classic Songs

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