The blog's first obits of 2015 hark back to December 28th, 2014. On that date, two rather obscure singers died. One of them was Merrill Womach and the other, Frankie Randall.
For Randall fans, the question always was, "How come he never made it BIG?" I mean, BIG big. He did have a long career in live performances, a kind of junior Tony Bennett for fans of "good music," but somehow the handsome fellow didn't emerge as some kind of "Sinatra for the Kids" like Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka or Bobby Darin.
"If I'm being honest," as Piers Morgan loves to say, I only vaguely heard of Frankie Randall and oddly enough, don't even recall flipping through the bargain bin albums and seeing his stuff. Maybe it was prized by his adoring female fans, and they vowed to keep these treasures even as they parted with Richard Chamberlain singing, or the Sergie Franchi and Jerry Vale albums grandma gave them at Christmas.
The Frankie Who Would Be Frank died at the age of 76. Born Frankie Lisbona (January 11, 1938 – December 28, 2014) in Passaic, New Jersey, he wasn't a Jersey Boy original like Frankie Valli. Rather than a bizarre falsetto, Frankie sang smoothly, and if one of his songs was on the radio people might've asked, "Who is that? Jimmie Rodgers? Pat Boone? Steve Lawrence?" He was good, he was solid, but he wasn't quite the distinctive stylist with a signature voice. Maybe that's why the handsome fellow sort of got lost on the record shelves. He did have his shot, though. At the time Frankie Avalon was making beach pictures with Annette Funicello, Frankie Randall turned up in "Wild on the Beach" (1964) with Sonny and Cher. RCA Victor, already owning Eddie Fisher and Neil Sedaka, released "Frankie Randall Sings and Swings" (1965, note the reference to old-school music arranger Billy May) and "Going the Frankie Randall Way" (1966). The notorious "Mods and the Pops" (1968) included Frankie's pop version of "I Can See For Miles." He was star enough, or that cut campy enough, for it to be included on a "Golden Throats" CD nearly two decades later.
Randall aged into a reliable singer for a certain aging demographic, and did receive his star…it just wasn't on Hollywood Boulevard, it was via the "Palm Springs Walk of Stars." Always tan and good looking, Frankie was a favorite in those retirement areas loaded with tan and not-so-good looking men and women. They envied Frankie his looks and his voice, and certainly with good reason. He was a charmer, and never less than professional. He always gave a great show.
While this is an acerbic blog at times, there's no reason to disrespect a professional, and above all else, Mr. Randall was that. He was very good at what he did. And really, even if "I Can See For Miles" gets sniggers from some, it was kind of a pioneering effort back then. Thirty years later, survivors Paul Anka and Pat Boone offered "swinging the rock songs" albums, believing (as some fans do) that big band arrangements are not just a novelty, but can even bring out some nuances of lyric and melody. So give Frankie some cred for trying to bridge the generation gap way back when. Sure, he may have fallen off that bridge, but you can't say he didn't have a good smooth voice, or land with a splash.
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