Assembling a Laine Collection (Summer Series: Part One)

The Records

There are many Frankie Laine collectors in the world. This trendsetting, unique, wonderful singer has musically enhanced the lives of millions of people.  As a result, many people love collecting Frankie Laine’s records. Most people, who collect Laine recordings these days, have relied on accumulating Frankie’s songs on CDs. Of course, before digital technology, many of us had acquired most of Frankie’s albums and 45 r.p.m. records.

Then there are fans who, in addition to collecting Frankie’s musical recordings, have perhaps also collected videotapes of concerts, TV shows, and movies. A great deal of these may be on the older VHS cassettes; however, some may include Frankie’s various works on DVDs.

Collectors are wonderful! They keep artists viable through personal enjoyment, or by sharing with others. In my opinion, Laine collectors are even more special. These collectors ensure that somewhere at any given time, the great voice of Frankie Laine is resonating.

Of course, this all leads up to the category of avid Laine collectors. I am one of these. This type of Frankie Laine collector is constantly searching for, and must have, as much Laine career material as is available.

Of course every song that Frankie has ever recorded is included, in addition to songs Frankie recorded that were never released to the public. The career list also includes everything from sheet music with Frankie’s picture on the front, to everything that Frankie was involved with such as audio and video of concerts, TV shows, movies, commercials, audio of radio programs, movie posters, autographs, written material in all forms, trinkets, and any memorabilia.

I pride myself with having a vast Frankie Laine Library. I think I have about everything that is available regarding Frankie Laine’s vast career. I am not alone. There are a few out there, like me, who are avid collectors. I know a few personally, and it is great fun to share items to add to our prospective collections. Tony Cooper from England (and with the Frankie Laine International Appreciation Society) is my wonderful friend and the most knowledgeable person I know of about Frankie Laine and his career. Tony is constantly locating elusive Laine material. Thanks to Tony, many of us collectors have enrichened our Laine collections with priceless gems over the years.

During this special series, I’d like to give readers a little background about how my Laine collection got started.

I had played drums since the sixth grade. I loved listening to Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich records. Therefore, I not only fell in love with the sound of a big band, but I also began to appreciate the singers who sang with these orchestras. Even though I was an avid fan of the Beatles, I loved listening to the full orchestras and the fine singers of jazz and popular music.

When I was around 14 years old, I heard that Ed Sullivan was going to broadcast a special show retrospective. I knew the Beatles would be featured in a clip, so I decided to tape the show with my audio cassette tape recorder next to the television speaker. I have to chuckle now when I think about this. These days all the Sullivan guest performances of the Beatles are available on DVD.

When I played my audio tape back, I was reminded of the singer, whose clip fascinated me from the retrospective, when I again heard the ending vocals of “Jezebel.” I asked my dad about Frankie Laine. Dad surprised me by saying, “Frankie was always one of my favorite singers.”

I was amazed at the vocal strength and emotion Frankie put into this song. Being a new musician, I was beginning to understand that music is an emotional art.

My collection started shortly thereafter when I bought the Columbia album Frankie Laine’s Greatest Hits. I fell in love with Frankie’s vocal style. His renditions were amazing, the orchestrations, flawless. I thought it strange that I never listened to Frankie before this. I thought I’d heard of him. After all, Frankie was at his peak of success during my parents’ generation.

I yearned to experience more Frankie Laine music. One day, while on a shopping trip with Mom, I searched the record store and bought two Frankie Laine albums offering songs that he’d recorded later in his career, in the early 1960s. The albums contained songs previously available on other records. One album was on the Columbia Records reissue label, Harmony Records, and the other on Pickwick, a Capitol label reissue. Surprisingly, the two collections were unlike the compilation of old Frankie Laine hit songs I was wearing out from constant use. Furthermore, I discovered that the two albums seemed quite different in both style and orchestration. The Harmony album offered cowboy songs. The Pickwick set featured an orchestrated pop style along with overtones of inspirational music. Even though I loved both albums, I was especially intrigued with the cowboy songs.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I quickly became convinced nobody could sing cowboy songs with as much style and feeling as Frankie Laine. His sound was that of a manly cowboy, who sang with feeling and integrity. Singer and orchestration meshed flawlessly. This was not simply a singer singing—this was a singer feeling each word. In addition to the overall unmatched vocal performance, Frankie topped off each song with amazing tone, interpretation, and form. In the album, I rediscovered the song “Rawhide.” I recalled that song. I thought I remembered hearing that on television as a child. Did I then first hear the name Frankie Laine? I guess there’s no way to know for certain. Regardless, it was fortunate that I had discovered Frankie Laine for myself. I was familiarizing myself with his music. My personal study of Frankie Laine’s art was beginning.

(To be continued in June)


About the Author:

Craig Cronbaugh, Director of the Legislative Information Office with the Legislative Services Agency at the Iowa State Capitol. As famed singer Frankie Laine’s special friend and a collector of Laine’s recordings and career memorabilia, Craig has written articles; has written, produced, directed, and hosted a distinctive radio program; and has appeared on Iowa statewide television regarding his Frankie Laine avocation. Craig has been highlighted briefly and has been given a research screen credit in the 2003 internationally distributed documentary Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer. Craig’s book, a memoir, Reaching for a Star, featuring his friendship with Laine, was published in 2005.