Frankie Vaughan Biography

Frank Abelson, 3 February 1928, Liverpool, England, d. 17 September 1999, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. While studying at Leeds College Of Art, Vaughan’s vocal performance at a college revue earned him a week’s trial at the Kingston Empire music hall. Warmly received, he went on to play the UK variety circuit, developing a stylish act with trademarks that included a top hat and cane, a particularly athletic side kick, and his theme song ‘Give Me The Moonlight, Give Me The Girl’ (Albert Von Tilzer - Lew Brown). His Russian-born maternal grandmother inspired his stage name by always referring to him as her ‘Number Vorn’ grandchild. After registering strongly in pre-chart days with ‘That Old Piano Roll Blues’, ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, ‘Look At That Girl’, and ‘Hey, Joe’, during the mid-to-late 50s Vaughan was consistently in the UK Top 30 with hits such as ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’, ‘Happy Days And Lonely Nights’, ‘Tweedle Dee’, ‘Seventeen’, ‘My Boy-Flat Top’, ‘Green Door’, ‘Garden Of Eden’ (number 1), ‘Man On Fire’/‘Wanderin’ Eyes’, ‘Gotta Have Something In The Bank Frank’ (with the Kaye Sisters), ‘Kisses Sweeter Than Wine’, ‘Can’t Get Along Without You’/‘We Are Not Alone’, ‘Kewpie Doll’, ‘Wonderful Things’, ‘Am I Wasting My Time On You’, ‘That’s My Doll’, ‘Come Softly To Me’ (with the Kaye Sisters), ‘The Heart Of A Man’ and ‘Walkin’ Tall’.

In spite of the burgeoning beat boom, he continued to flourish in the 60s with hits including ‘What More Do You Want’, ‘Kookie Little Paradise’, ‘Milord’, ‘Tower Of Strength’ (number 1), ‘Don’t Stop Twist’, ‘Loop De Loop’, ‘Hey Mama’, ‘Hello Dolly’, ‘There Must Be A Way’, ‘So Tired’ and ‘Nevertheless’ (1968). With his matinée idol looks he seemed a natural for films, and made his debut in 1956 in the Arthur Askey comedy, Ramsbottom Rides Again. This was followed by a highly acclaimed straight role in These Dangerous Years, and a musical frolic with the normally staid Anna Neagle in The Lady Is A Square. Other screen appearances included The Heart Of A Man with Anne Heywood, Tony Britton and Anthony Newley, and It’s All Over Town, a pop extravaganza in which he was joined by then-current favourites such as Acker Bilk, the Bachelors, the Springfields, and the Hollies. In the early 60s, Vaughan began to experience real success in America, in nightclubs and on television. He was playing his second season in Las Vegas when he was chosen to star with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand in the 20th Century-Fox picture Let’s Make Love. Although he gave a creditable performance, especially when he duetted with Monroe on Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s ‘Incurably Romantic’, his disaffection with Hollywood ensured that a US movie career was not pursued. At home, however, he had become an extremely well-established performer, headlining at the London Palladium and enjoying lucrative summer season work, appealing consistently to mainly family audiences.

In 1985, he was an unexpected choice to replace James Laurenson as the belligerent Broadway producer Julian Marsh in the West End hit musical, 42nd Street. A one-year run in the show ended with ill health and some acrimony. His career-long efforts for the benefit of young people, partly through the assignment of record royalties to bodies such as the National Association of Boys’ Clubs, was recognized by an OBE in 1965 and a CBE in 1996. He was also honoured in 1993 when the Queen appointed him Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire. In the preceding year he had undergone a life-saving operation to replace a ruptured main artery in his heart. However, in cabaret at London’s Café Royal in 1994, the legendary side kick was still (gingerly) in evidence. He was awarded the CBE in 1997, and a year later BBC Radio 2 celebrated his 70th birthday with a documentary entitled Mr. Moonlight. In 1999 he experienced further health problems, leading to his death in September.

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

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