It is no secret that I love the music of Frankie Laine. I also had a wonderful friendship with him. I always surmised that Frankie thought I was kind of special because he seemed always a bit amused by the fact that this young kid idolized him. Whatever his feelings were regarding me, he was always very gracious. He truly appreciated things like the newspaper articles I wrote about him and my radio program special The Laine Project.
I was 29 years old when I first met Frankie Laine in person. To him, I was a “kid.” People have asked me several times over the years why I am interested in Frankie Laine’s music. After all, my dad would have been just 13 years old, my mom 11, when Frankie’s first gold record was established in 1947.
My initial allurement to Frankie’s music was his emotional delivery. I was awestruck! Frankie felt each song so deeply, no matter what the genre of the tune.
I started playing drums while in grade school. I was mesmerized by the Beatles when their records were beginning to be played on the radio in late 1963. Ringo Starr was my first influence on the drums.
Later, I listened to the jazz drummers. My early influences were Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Joe Morello, Louie Bellson, and Ed Shaughnessy. They were so skilled, and their performances were wonderful. When I first discovered Krupa and Rich records, the music was from the era of the big bands. This fascinated me because the drums skillfully complimented full horn sections. Somewhere within these recordings the inevitable singer would croon a tune. I began to admire this studious type of singing. They sang with soul-stirring richness, great phrasing, and beautiful vibrato.
I began to collect some of the recordings by these singers. I enjoyed listening to Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Vaughn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, and others. Gradually, I also began to enjoy the singers who had established themselves as soloists. I reveled in hearing great music performed by Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Patti Page, and, of course, Frankie Laine.
It became a natural transition from being a young drummer and listening to my drummer idols with full orchestras, to appreciating the great vocalists.
A few weeks ago, my wife, Marlene, and I threw a 40th birthday party at our home for my wife’s niece, Lisa. Lisa has a son who is 17 years old. Of course, he attended the party, and he brought along a couple of his friends who were around 18 or 19. One of the friends was a guy, the other a girl. The girl sported two-toned pink hair.
During the party, I was showing the Lisa’s son and his friends my collection of old radio sets from the 1940s. They seemed fascinated. This teenage crew then asked me whether I had any “vinyl.” They knew I had a turntable in our theater room, so they were certain I had some old records.
To be sure, I was taken aback by this unusual request from these thoroughly contemporary teens, and to my utter surprise, one of them asked whether I had any Frank Sinatra!
I could scarcely believe my ears! Instantly, I began enthusiastically obliging my three visiting youngsters. I began to retrieve records from our collection in the storage room to play on our turntable for them. I asked the young lady what her favorite type of music was, and she answered, “Classic rock is my favorite, but I like all kinds.”
This crew seemed very interested in watching the records spin. To top it off, they appeared to be entranced by the music. I couldn’t believe it! I was entertaining a group of Gen Z teenagers by playing them songs by Sinatra, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Gene Pitney—and they were digging it!
When my initial exhilaration and incredulity in what I was witnessing began to subside, I began to have doubts. These kids are only pretending to enjoy this type of music because they could see how happy it made me to play it for them, I presumed. However, my uncertainty vanished when I played “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys and noticed the girl with the pink hair mouthing the lyrics!
Soon, the true moment of magic happened. I played Frankie Laine’s beautiful 1957 version of “That’s My Desire” for the bunch. I glanced at the face of the pink-haired girl. As Frankie’s voice filled the room, her eyes slowly closed as if in a soft trance. She was being carried away by the enchantment all lovers of great music experience when touched deeply by a great song. It was then that I began to realize that even the youth of today appreciate great recordings—they do value class. They just have to be exposed to it. My faith in the musical tastes of the youth of today was very much renewed by this experience. They do know greatness when they hear it!
I had an endearing smile on my face for the remainder of the party. I slept wonderfully that night.