He sang well-known theme songs for many movie Western soundtracks, including 3:10 To Yuma, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Blazing Saddles, although he was not a country & western singer. Laine sang an eclectic variety of song styles and genres, stretching from big band crooning to pop, western-themed songs, gospel, rock, folk, jazz and blues. He did not sing the soundtrack song for High Noon, which was sung by Tex Ritter, but his own version (with somewhat altered lyrics, omitting the name of the antagonist, Frank Miller) was the one that became a bigger hit, nor did he sing the theme to another show he is commonly associated with - Champion The Wonder Horse (sung by Mike Stewart), but released his own, subsequently more popular version.
Laine's enduring popularity was illustrated in June 2011, when a TV-advertised compilation called "Hits" reached No. 16 on the British chart. The accomplishment was achieved nearly 50 years after his debut on the U.K. chart, more than half-a-century after his U.S. debut and four years after his death.
Frankie Laine was born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio on March 30, 1913 to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (née Salerno). [His actual Cook County, IL birth Certificate, no. 14436, was already Americanized at the time of his birth, with his name written as "Frank Lovecchio", his mother as "Anna Salerno" and father as "John Lovecchio", with the "V" lower case in each instance, except in the "Reported by" section with "John Lo Vecchio <father>" written in. His parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicily to Chicago's "Little Italy", where his father worked at one time as the personal barber for gangster Al Capone. His family appears to have had several Mafia connections, and young Francesco was living with his grandfather when the latter was killed by members of a rival faction.
The eldest of eight children, he got his first taste of singing as a member of the choir in the Church of the Immaculate Conception's elementary school. He next attended Lane Technical High School, now known as Lane Technical College Prep High School, where he helped to develop his lung power and breath control by joining the track and field and basketball teams. He realized he wanted to be a singer when he missed time in school to see Al Jolson's current talking picture, "The Singing Fool." Jolson would later visit Laine when both were filming pictures in 1949, and at about this time, Jolson remarked that Laine was going to put all the other singers out of business.
Even in the 1920s, his vocal abilities were enough to get him noticed by a slightly older "in crowd" at his school, who began inviting him to parties and to local dance clubs, including Chicago's Merry Garden Ballroom. At 17, he sang before a crowd of 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such applause that he ended up performing five encores on his first night. Laine was giving dance lessons for a charity ball at the Merry Garden when he was called to the bandstand to sing:
Soon I found myself on the main bandstand before this enormous crowd, Laine recalled. I was really nervous but I started singing 'Beside an Open Fireplace,' a popular song of the day. It was a sentimental tune and the lyrics choked me up. When I got done, the tears were streaming down my cheeks and the ballroom became quiet. I was very nearsighted and couldn't see the audience. I thought that the people didn't like me.
Some of his other early influences during this period included Enrico Caruso, Carlo Buti, and, especially, Bessie Smith -- a record of whose somehow wound up in his parents' collection:
I can still close my eyes and visualize its blue and purple label. It was a Bessie Smith recording of 'The Bleeding Hearted Blues,' with 'Midnight Blues' on the other side. The first time I laid the needle down on that record I felt cold chills and an indescribable excitement. It was my first exposure to jazz and the blues, although I had no idea at the time what to call those magical sounds. I just knew I had to hear more of them! — Frankie Laine
Another singer who influenced him at this time was falsetto crooner Gene Austin. Laine worked after school at a drug store, which was situated across the street from a record store that continually played hit records by Gene Austin over their loud speakers. He would swab down the windows in time to Austin's songs. Many years later, Laine related the story to Austin when both were guests on the popular television variety show Shower of Stars. He would also co-star in a film, Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, with Austin's daughter, Charlotte.
Shortly after graduating high school, Laine signed on as a member of The Merry Garden's marathon dance company, and toured with them, working dance marathons during the Great Depression (setting the world record of 3,501 hours with partner Ruthie Smith at Atlantic City's Million Dollar Pier in 1932). Still billed as Frank LoVecchio, he would entertain the spectators during the fifteen minute breaks the dancers were given each hour. During his marathon days, he worked with several up-and-coming entertainers including Rose Marie, Red Skelton and a fourteen-year old Anita O'Day for whom he served as a mentor (as noted by Laine in a 1998 interview by David Miller).
Other artists whose styles began to influence Laine at this time were Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong (as a trumpet player), Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey and, later, Nat "King" Cole. Laine befriended Cole in Los Angeles, when the latter's career was just beginning to gain momentum. Cole recorded a song, It Only Happens Once, that fledgling songwriter Laine had composed. They remained close friends throughout the remainder of Cole's life, and Laine was one of the pall bearers at Cole's funeral.
His next big break came when he replaced Perry Como in the Freddy Carlone band in Cleveland in 1937; Como made a call to Carlone about Laine. Como was another life-long friend of Laine's, who once lent Laine the money to travel to a possible gig. Laine's rhythmic style was ill-suited to the sweet sounds of the Carlone band, and the two soon parted company. Success continued to elude Laine, and he spent the next ten years "scuffling"; alternating between singing at small jazz clubs on both coasts, and a series of jobs, including those of a bouncer, dance instructor, used car salesman, agent, synthetic leather factory worker, and machinist at a defense plant. It was while working at the defense plant during the Second World War that he first began writing songs ("It Only Happens Once" was written at the plant). Often homeless during his "scuffling" phases, he hit the lowest point of his career, when he was sleeping on a bench in Central Park.
I would sneak into hotel rooms and sleep on floor. In fact, I was bodily thrown out of 11 different New York hotels. I stayed in YMCAs and with anyone who would let me flop. Eventually I was down to my last four cents, and my bed became a roughened wooden bench in Central Park. I used my four pennies to buy four tiny Baby Ruth candy bars and rationed myself to one a day. — Frankie Laine
He changed his professional name to "Frankie Laine" in 1938, upon receiving a job singing for the New York City radio station WINS. The program director, Jack Coombs, thought that "LoVecchio" was "too foreign sounding, and too much of a mouthful for the studio announcers", so he Americanized it to "Lane." Frankie added the "i" to avoid confusion with a girl singer at the station who went by the name of "Frances Lane." It was at this time that Laine got unknown songbird Helen O'Connell her job with the Jimmy Dorsey band. WINS, deciding that they no longer needed a jazz singer, dropped him. With the help of bandleader Jean Goldkette, he got a job with a sustainer (non-sponsored) radio show at NBC. As he was about to start, Germany attacked Poland and all sustainer broadcasts were pulled off the air in deference to the needs of the military.
Laine next found employment in a munitions plant, at a salary of $150.00 a week. He quit singing for what was perhaps the fifth or sixth time of his already long career. While working at the plant, he met a trio of girl singers, and became engaged to the lead singer. The group had been noticed by Johnny Mercer's Capitol Records, and convinced Laine to head out to Hollywood with them as their agent.
In 1943, he moved to California where he sang in the background of several films, including The Harvey Girls, and dubbed the singing voice for an actor in the Danny Kaye comedy The Kid from Brooklyn. It was in Los Angeles in 1944 that he met and befriended disc jockey Al Jarvis and composer/pianist Carl Fischer, the latter of whom was to be his songwriting partner, musical director and piano accompanist until his death in 1954. Their songwriting collaborations included "I'd Give My Life", "Baby, Just For Me", "What Could Be Sweeter?", "Forever More", and the jazz standard "We'll Be Together Again."
The engagement fell through, with the songstresses breaking up with the loyal singer-manager when success for them seemed just around the corner. When Jarvis discovered how the girl group had mistreated Laine, he pulled their records from his show, effectively breaking their career.
When the war ended, Laine soon found himself "scuffling" again, and was eventually given a place to stay by Jarvis. Jarvis also did his best to help promote the struggling singer's career, and Laine soon had a small, regional following. In the meantime, Laine would make the rounds of the bigger jazz clubs, hoping that the featured band would call him up to perform a number with them. In late 1946, Hoagy Carmichael heard him singing at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles, and this was when success finally arrived. Not knowing that Carmichael was in the audience, Laine sang the Carmichael-penned standard "Rockin' Chair" when Slim Gaillard called him up to the stage to sing. This eventually led to a contract with the newly established Mercury records. Laine and Carmichael would later collaborate on a song, "Put Yourself in My Place, Baby".
Francesco Paolo Lo Vecchio (Chicago, 30 de marzo de 1913 - San Diego, 6 de febrero de 2007) más conocido como Frankie Laine, era un cantante estadounidense con fuerte vozarrón de barítono. Le pusieron el apodo de Sr. Ritmo.
Tuvo un gran éxito en los años cuarenta y cincuenta. Entró en el mundo del espectáculo participando en los maratones de baile que en su país se popularizaron durante la Gran Depresión.
Más tarde, en 1937, fue contratado como vocalista de la orquesta de Freddy Cardone, sustituyendo a Perry Como, en un momento en que se cantaba sin amplificación y se debía hacer escuchar por encima de la orquesta.
Durante la II Guerra Mundial, trabajó para la industria militar, al tiempo que seguía actuando en clubes modestos.
En 1945 grabó con el sello Exclusive, lo que le valió para fichar con Mercury y, luego, con Columbia Records.
Su primer gran éxito fue en 1947, That's My Desire. Al que siguieron otros éxitos como That Lucky Old Sun, Swamp Girl, Cry of the Wild Goose y Mule Train. Colocó más de 60 canciones en las listas de éxitos, bien en solitario o colaborando con otros artistas, como Doris Day, Four Lats, Easy Riders o Jo Stafford.
En Reino Unido alcanzó enorme popularidad, con I believe estuvo cuatro meses en el número uno.
En 1964 participó en el Festival de Sanremo, formando sendos duetos con Domenico Modugno y Bobby Solo.
Pero el filón lo encontró usando su voz viril para canciones en películas del oeste. Entre sus grandes éxitos está el tema High Noon, de la banda sonora de la película homónima, en castellano Sólo ante el peligro. Su voz era tan popular que Mel Brooks le pidió en 1974 que cantara en su famosa parodia del género: Sillas de montar calientes.