One of the remarkable aspects of being an admirer of Frankie Laine’s music is the yearning to locate other popular singers who have the same high-quality singing talents as Frankie. Since becoming a Laine fan, I have found it difficult to settle for second-best as I partake in my ongoing search for popular singers to enjoy. Along with my enjoyment of Frankie’s recordings, I have always admired “boy” singers such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat Cole, Mel Tormé, Johnnie Ray, Gene Pitney, Johnny Mathis, Brook Benton, and Billy Eckstine. My “girl” singer list always includes Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Patti Page, Ella Fitzgerald, Eydie Gormé, Jo Stafford, and several others. In my opinion, all of these singers reside within the same category of excellence as Frankie Laine.
Recently, I have been conducting research on girl singers. What I have discovered is a world of magnificent recordings that have helped to create our wonderful musical heritage. A handful of these great talents have even allowed me to have a personal communication, for which I am eternally grateful.
I had detailed in a previous article about speaking with singer Connie Haines, actress Terry Moore and actress, singer, dancer Lucy Marlow on the telephone during the time I was assisting Jimmy Marino with work on the Frankie Laine documentary An American Dreamer, almost twenty years ago. I had even written to Jo Stafford, asking whether she would like to be interviewed for the documentary. Even though the interview was never to be, I received a personal voice message from Miss Stafford on my home answering machine recorder. I was thrilled to receive this personal recorded message, but disappointed because I had missed her call. All of these ladies spoke lovingly about Frankie Laine. They all clearly adored the man and his talent! And I am certain Frankie felt the same way about each of these talented women.
The Girl Singers of the 1960s
I had also written about my personal communication with Carol Fischer, the daughter of Frankie’s pal and musical partner, the late Carl Fischer. Carol and her older sister, Terry, later tasted fame in the girl trio, the Murmaids. I had also communicated with Sally Gordon, the other member of this group. Each of these ladies were happy to write back to me after I had initially contacted each. The Murmaids had the great 1963 hit “Popsicles and Icicles.”
I keep in touch with dear Dodie Stevens. She was the little girl singer, Geri Thorr, who sang, at the age eight, with Frankie on the Frankie Laine Show in 1954. Dodie had the 1959 hit “Pink Shoe Laces.” She has a remarkable, beautiful, melodic voice and has released several records. My favorite early recordings by Dodie are “Poor Butterfly” (1959), “Dancing on the Ceiling” (1962), “Hello Stranger” (1963), and “Sailor Boy” (1964).
Of course, Dodie speaks often and lovingly about Frankie Laine. Not too long ago, she listened to Frankie’s 2005 CD release The Story of Old Man Jazz and His Loves for the first time. She was enamored with the song “The Best of Love.” She especially loved the line in the chorus: Then you fell asleep in my arms and woke up in my heart.
In keeping with my high standards for musical excellence in recorded songs, I recalled how much I enjoyed a song at about the same time I had discovered Frankie Laine’s music for myself when I was in my teens. That song, “The Big Hurt,” was recorded in 1959 by the late Toni Fisher. Not only did Miss Fisher possess a unique voice, but this song was quite unique because it included an early electronic phase-shifting effect during key portions of the song. This recollection motivated me to seek out more of her recordings. Happily, I found several. There was one song of hers that stood out. It was as unique as “The Big Hurt,” in that there is what I would describe as a sci-fi sound used within the orchestration. It also occurred to me that this particular song, titled “Love Big,” would have been a perfect song for Frankie Laine! I think his voice would have been a perfect fit for this song! It is definitely worth checking out on Google.
I would certainly be remiss had I not mentioned Joanie Sommers. Her recordings are so beautiful. She sings upbeat tunes with a genuine enjoyment and with a truly specialized style. During her recorded ballads, her voice becomes as hushed as if listening to the breaths within a slow, beautiful saxophone melody. Her recordings of “Too Late Now” and “Autumn Serenade” are dreamy.
British Girl Singers
I have been a fan of all of the early 1960s British groups for many years. What a special sound these musicians and singers brought to the world’s musical heritage! I started looking for girl singers of the 1960s. I soon discovered three wonderful singers whom I would consider the best of the best: the late Jackie Trent, the late Cilla Black, and Helen Shapiro.
I began to wonder whether Frankie had ever heard these ladies sing. He had listened to many artists during his lifetime. I would like to think he had. The recordings by each of these remarkable singers are certainly up to Laine’s high standard.
Jackie Trent’s 1965 recording of “Where Are You Now (My Love?)” absolutely impressed me beyond words. What a great song and performance! It embraces the emotion of the singer, beautifully. Frankie would have appreciated that.
The powerful voice of Cilla Black was so exciting to hear. She was a great vocalist with tremendous voice control. I hope Frankie had gotten a chance to listen to her recordings. I am so glad that her recordings live on. One of my favorites by Cilla is her 1964 recording of “You’re My World.”
I saved Helen Shapiro for last. If I had to choose a favorite among the British girl singers, it would be Helen. She has an amazing voice! Her voice is full of warmth and feeling, along with a great tone. She recorded her first hit song, “Walkin’ Back to Happiness,” in 1961 when she was just fourteen.
Before Helen was sixteen years old, she had been voted Britain’s “Top Female Singer.” During the late winter and early spring of 1963, Helen went on a national tour of Britain. She was the headliner, and one of her opening acts were the Beatles!
My top three favorite songs by Helen Shapiro are “You Don’t Know” (1961), “Sometime Yesterday” (1962), and “I Wish I’d Never Loved You” (1964).
I have to believe that Frankie had gotten to hear this wonderful singer. I wondered whether Helen had ever met Frankie. My curiosity got the better of me, so I researched a way to write to her. Surely, I could somehow reach her and let her know how much I admire her recording career. After searching through many options, I located a musicologist who happily passed along contact information for Helen. I still find it hard to believe, but exactly one week later, I received a note from Helen!
She thanked me for my kind words regarding her voice and career. She informed me that she found it very interesting reading about my “involvement” with Frankie Laine. She added, “He certainly had a distinctive style.” Unfortunately, Helen never got to meet Frankie. She wrote, “I admired his talent.”
I enjoyed my research project regarding the “girl” singers. I have discovered some great recordings by these popular and talented singers. They all certainly exemplify my “Laine’s High Standard.”