I am always trying to find those elusive pieces that I am missing from my Frankie Laine library. Frankie Laine was a guest on several television shows throughout his career. A number of these shows—spanning from the earliest days of television, either seem to be missing, or otherwise next to impossible to obtain copies. For us, the collectors of the Laine career, this is unfortunate. To be able to complete our study of Frankie Laine, we who collect the works of his career, cannot complete our research without viewing these lost gems. More important, we want to be able to complete our collections by owning a copy of everything Frankie Laine was part of during his long and distinguished career.
It has been largely conceded that these shows are either owned by the production companies owning the rights to them, seemingly never to be released to the public; the Paley Center for Media; or even possibly resting in someone’s attic. Admittedly, some of these shows were probably destroyed or perhaps never filmed, been recorded via kinescope, or videotaped. An example from some of the stages of the Laine career are his guest spots on The Jerry Colonna Show in 1951, Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person in 1957, The Tonight Show episodes 1963-1966, The Joey Bishop Show, spanning 1967-1969, and even Celebrity Bowling guest spots from 1973-77. There are, of course, more. Perhaps what we collectors of all things Laine covet the most are the entire two seasons of Frankie Laine Time for CBS, 1955-56. We want copies of these; we do not have copies of these! Our study of Frankie Laine cannot be quite complete without these 16 Laine shows. To my knowledge, there are only three of these shows available to the public on poor quality video. Hopefully, the collector gods will someday smile on us and CBS will make these available in a digital format. The Laine legacy demands it.
Singing or Not
The Laine career encompasses his having sung several movie and television show theme songs. I do consider us collectors of Laine material to be lucky, because most of us have copies of these on our library shelves. In fact, I have always been proud of the fact that I was certain that he did not sing to three filmed theme songs on which he sometimes receives credit. Two are movies, High Noon and The Hanging Tree, and one is a television show, The Adventures of Champion (Champion the Wonder Horse). Frankie Laine recorded all three of the title songs for release on records, but he never sang the title themes on these films. Tex Ritter sang the theme for High Noon; The Hanging Tree theme was sung by Marty Robbins in the movie. Case solved.
Frequently, I search the Internet to see if any of the obscure shows from the Laine career somehow materialize and become available to collectors. Imagine my surprise when I saw The Adventures of Champion is available on DVD. I played the intro on YouTube. I was extremely surprised! The singer for the show isn’t credited. Going back in my mind, whenever I was asked whether Frankie Laine sang this television show theme, I always answered that the TV theme was an instrumental. I never knew the show featured a vocal rendition.
Listening, I thought it sounded like Frankie Laine singing! Have I been wrong all these years? So, I listened again. There were certain nuances in the singing that Frankie never used. This singer had, indeed, been trying to sound like Frankie. But I was still puzzled. And I was also disillusioned as to why I didn’t have a copy of this in my Laine Library! I checked the Internet Movie Database and it listed the singing was by Frankie Laine!
Despondent about this, I wrote to my friend Tony Cooper of FLIAS (Frankie Laine International Appreciation Society) in England. Nobody knows more about Frankie Laine’s career than Tony.
Then, ironically, a few minutes after I had written to Tony, I discovered some trivia online specifically about The Adventures of Champion. It stated that singer Mike Stewart sang the song “Champion the Wonder Horse” for the television show.
Tony got back to me acknowledging this. He revealed that Frankie was never featured on the television soundtrack. The show’s producers had wanted Frankie Laine to sing the soundtrack for the show’s initial run, but Frankie had been unavailable to do so at the time, due to his busy schedule. Later, after Frankie’s own recording of “Champion the Wonder Horse” became popular, the show’s producers couldn’t afford to hire Frankie to sing the theme for the show. Therefore, Mr. Stewart, with his Laineful singing style, performed the theme task.
I added a copy of the show’s intro to my Laine Library, however. I feel that the Laine connection alone merits its inclusion. After all—there’s a story to tell there!
Patti, Teresa, and Frankie
It recently came to our attention that a 1977 television broadcast of “#1 Billboard Music Awards” featuring Patti Page, Teresa Brewer, and Frankie Laine had somehow evaded notice within the Frankie Laine circle of collectors. Where is this elusive show? How can we obtain a copy? Rest assured, all us Laine collectors are hot on the trail for this, yet another, television show featuring the wonderful Frankie Laine! For now, it has been added to our list of missing shows that merit inclusion in our mutual Frankie Laine collections.