Frankie Ford Biography

Francis Guzzo, 4 August 1939, Gretna, Louisiana, USA. A rocker from a suburb of New Orleans, Frankie Ford is second cousin to that other New Orleans legend Dr. John. His first major appearance was on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour Talent Show, where he sang with Carmen Miranda and Sophie Tucker. After winning a scholarship to South Eastern College, Hammond, he started his first band with school friends. By 1958 he was singing with the Syncopators, when he was asked to audition for Ace Records. Subsequently, he released his first single, ‘Cheatin’ Woman’, as Frankie Ford. Fellow musician Huey ‘Piano’ Smith (b. 26 January 1934, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA) had previously recorded with his group the Clowns a self-penned song called ‘Sea Cruise’, but Ace persuaded him to let Ford record a new vocal over Bobby Marcham’s original. They also added a few extra effects such as paddle-steamer whistle blows, which altered the song enough for Ford to claim a co-writing credit. Released under the title Frankie Ford with Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and his Clowns, it sold over a million copies and docked in the national Top 20.

It was perceived in retrospect as a rock ‘n’ roll classic, and was revived by Jerry Lee Lewis, Herman’s Hermits, Sha Na Na, John Fogerty and Shakin’ Stevens. Both ‘Sea Cruise’ and its follow-up, ‘Alimony’, were taken from original tapes recorded by composer Huey Smith with the Clowns; the lead vocals were then erased and Ford’s singing superimposed. As Morgus And The Ghouls, Ford and the Clowns also recorded ‘Morgus The Magnificent’, a novelty tribute to a local television personality. There was also an unissued homage to Fats Domino, written and recorded by Ford and Dave Bartholomew. Ford left Ace in 1960 to form his own Spinet Records and signed to Liberty Records in 1960, but never repeated the success of ‘Sea Cruise’. He also formed a ‘supergroup’ with Huey Smith, Robert Parker (hitmaker of ‘Barefootin’’) and Dr. John (under various pseudonyms due to contractual problems), and they recorded various New Orleans favourites. He continued to record for obscure labels throughout the 70s. In 1971, he opened a club in New Orleans’ French Quarter where he became a cabaret fixture and tourist attraction. Moreover, he still looked youthful enough to play his younger self in the 1977 movie American Hot Wax, set in the late 50s. As part of a package, he toured the UK in 1985 along with Rick Nelson, Bobby Vee and Bo Diddley. Ford resents the term one-hit-wonder, and rightly pointed out that his four recordings of ‘Sea Cruise’ have now sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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