Frankie Sings ‘Silent Night’

Before I continue with part five of my story about my first meeting with Frankie Laine, I would like to convey a couple of my thoughts about Frankie.

Those Knit Ties

Shortly after becoming famous in the late 1940s, Frankie Laine undoubtedly was attempting to start a fashion trend by wearing knit neckties exclusively. In most of his photographs of this time period, one can see his smiling face above these rather ugly (in my opinion) ties. I never understood why he thought this type of necktie was appealing. Thankfully, this all changed after Frankie married Nan Grey in 1950. I have heard Frankie state that Nan did make improvement upon his wardrobe. From the summer of 1950 onward throughout the decade, Frankie can be seen in photographs wearing his trademark print ties and occasion bow ties. Then, all was fine.

Frankie’s Songs

Frankie Laine does not simply sing a song, he tells the story the song was meant to convey. When I listen to Frankie sing, I am transported, as if by magic, to the situation the lyrics intend. The sound of his voice alone can create feeling. Whether sentimental, majestic, rugged, or mystical, Frankie Laine’s interpretations transform the listener. I invite all to play a song from the wonderful legacy Frankie Laine left us—and take a journey!

(Continued from January blog)

We arrived at the center. Father Joe Carroll greeted Frankie, and Frankie introduced me. One of the things that I will never forget during this first visit into Frankie’s world is that Frankie would introduce me to people during the day by using both my first name and last name. This was not only a testament to his great memory, but also a respectful acknowledgement.

Father Carroll and Frankie discussed the center’s programs, and soon Father Carroll whisked us away on a tour of the various areas within the center.

When it was time for the videotaping project to begin, we were led into a room where the video camera was set up and the crew bustling. Jimmy Namaro, Frankie’s accompanist, was already there setting up his electric keyboard. Frankie and I immediately went over to Jimmy, and Frankie introduced me to him.

Frankie informed me that Jimmy was to supply the background melody during the taping.

The director of the video asked Frankie whether he knew the words to “Silent Night,” which, of course, he did. Because the announcement would air during the Christmas season, and since Frankie was a popular singer, a Christmas song would be the perfect beginning.

The videographer was soon ready to proceed with the taping, and it was time for Frankie to begin a short rehearsal. I felt honored to be in the same small room where Frankie was going to sing. This must be a dream!

Initially, my plan merely involved shaking hands with Frankie Laine. I had sought him out and traveled two days and two nights on a bus to get to San Diego just for a brief handshake. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever expect to ride in the same car with Frankie, have lunch with him, visit his home, and now watch and hear him sing from only a few feet away!

The director handed Frankie a tan knit sweater. Frankie was more than happy to put the sweater on, thus completing his camera-friendly Christmas wardrobe. He seated himself on a chair directly in front of the camera. The videographer placed a large cue card with Frankie’s brief message written out in longhand in front of, and just underneath, the camera.

The director wanted Frankie to complete the announcement without wearing his glasses. Since Frankie usually sang and appeared in photos without glasses, the director reminded Frankie that most people had a mental picture of Frankie Laine without his spectacles. Frankie was fine with that, but without them, he couldn’t see clearly enough to read the cue card.

As everyone pondered the problem, Frankie rehearsed his simple rendition of “Silent Night” with Jimmy playing the melody on the electric piano.

Fortunately, the director came up with a brilliant, yet simple solution to Frankie’s optical dilemma. The director instructed Frankie to hold his glasses while he sang “Silent Night,” then casually place them on his face before beginning to speak. That worked beautifully and was extremely effective. Frankie read through his lines, and “take one” was ready to begin.

It was soon a wrap, and Jimmy, shortly thereafter, took his leave. I asked the videographer to take a few photographs of Frankie and me, using my camera. He gladly consented. Frankie was also more than happy to oblige. As luck would have it, the professional video lighting—softened by the photo umbrella—was still in place from the video shoot.

As the photographs were taken, Frankie delighted me by placing his arm around my shoulder. Wow! 

(Continued next month)

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

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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.