Until his death a few years ago, Frankie Laine’s youngest brother, Phil LoVecchio, was the sole survivor of the LoVecchio siblings.
NOTE: I recently found it extremely ironic that there is another, younger (and as far as I know, unrelated), Phil LoVecchio, who heads up his own company in the St. Louis area. That company develops technical training courses. The name of that company? It is actually called Laine Educational Enterprises, Ltd.
Meeting Phil for the First Time
I first met Phil in 1993 at Frankie Laine’s 80th birthday party in San Diego. He had flown in with his wife from Chicago to surprise Frankie. I remember that Frankie’s wife, Nan, was in on the surprise. Early during the party, Phil walked up to the table where Frankie and Nan were seated, kind of out of Frankie’s sight of vision, posing as a waiter taking their order. When Frankie looked up—there was Phil! That was a great night, and I was able to chat with Phil and have a picture taken with him. He was very sweet.
Phil’s On-Camera Interview
My wife and I interviewed Phil in Chicago for the Frankie Laine documentary in September 2000. I recall that he was very chatty while we were setting up camera equipment.
Phil is an extremely interesting man in his own right. It was nice to talk with him. With the camera rolling, however, I was taken aback by Phil’s answer to my first question. I asked him what it was like growing up with Frankie. He answered in a straightforward fashion: “Well, I don’t remember him when I was a kid because he was gone—on the road—tryin’ to make it in show business. Therefore, I don’t remember him until, of course, he became famous.”
I wanted to know what the rest of their family had thought of Frankie’s success: “I think everybody was as thrilled as I was. You tend to bask in the reflective glory. I mean it was a kick. I was thrilled when I knew this was my brother, Frankie Laine. They were the same. Everybody was just as happy as they could be.”
Phil went on to say he’d realized Frankie was famous when he’d begun to hear Frankie’s records, such as Frankie’s first big hit, “That’s My Desire,” being played on the radio. It was intriguing to hear how Phil’s peers had reacted to Frankie’s fame: “The kids in the neighborhood all thought it was neat that I had a famous brother; it was ‘kicky.’”
Phil told me that when Frankie had become famous, Frankie had had their father retire and had relocated their mother and father, with Phil, to a house he’d bought them in Burbank, California. One of the best quotes from Phil, which made it into Jimmy’s birthday video for Frankie the following year, described Frankie’s newfound fame: “It was amazing—the people who wanted to get to see him backstage—all the kids; that was interesting. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of kids after every show.”
I eagerly asked Phil to name his favorite Frankie Laine recording. Phil agreed there were many but chose “Granada,” recorded by Frankie in 1953, as his favorite. Phil went on to relate how devastated Frankie had been when his friend, pianist, accompanist, and songwriting partner, Carl Fischer, died in 1954. They had been so close, and Frankie had been filled with grief: “They were like brothers because they started together. Frank kept his own career going. What else was there to do?”
Phil remembered that their mother especially had enjoyed Frankie’s fame. According to Phil, she’d had his pictures everywhere in the house. At any given moment, she could tell visitors where Frankie was playing an engagement. She’d known everything there was to know about her son. Phil recalled that his best gift from Frankie was when Frankie had flown his entire family to Las Vegas to celebrate their parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.
I asked Phil to say something to Frankie while looking directly into the camera. Phil spoke to Frankie: “Brother Frank, stay well. Keep on doin’ whatever it is you’re doin’. Keep on singin’. Because you are a singer—and this is your song.”