07 August 2014

Frankie Vaughan

British pop singer Frankie Vaughan (1928-1999) issued more than 80 recordings in his lifetime. He was known as ‘Mr. Moonlight’ after one of his early hits and was famous for his fancy tuxedo, top hat and cane. He also starred in cabaret shows in New York and Las Vegas, and in several films, including Let’s Make Love (1960) with Marilyn Monroe.

Frankie Vaughan
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. D. 651.
Frankie Vaughan
Dutch postcard by Uitgeverij Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 5160.

Delighted squeals from his adoring, mostly female, audience

Frankie Vaughan was born Frank Abelson in Liverpool, England in 1928. He was the son of a Russian-Jewish upholsterer who lived in a poor area of Liverpool. The name 'Vaughan' came from a grandmother whose first grandson he was, who used to call Frank 'my number one' grandson, in whose Russian accent 'one' sounded like 'Vaughan'. He was an evacuee in Lancaster during World War II.

At age 14 he received a scholarship to the Lancaster College of Art, where he sang in the dance band. After a stint in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II, he returned to art school, this time the Leeds College of Art. There he gained his Art Teacher's Diploma in 1950. When he won a prize to design a furniture exhibition stand, he left for London.

In London, Vaughan won the second prize on a radio talent show, and began his theatre career doing variety song and dance acts. He was known as a fancy dresser, wearing top hat, bow tie, tails, and cane.

In the 1950’s he worked for a few years with the Nat Temple band, and after that period he began making records, and became very popular in the UK. His first hit was Look at That Girl (1953) with Ken Mackintosh and his orchestra.

In 1955, he recorded what was to become his trademark song, Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl. He recorded a large number of songs that were covers of United States hit songs, including Jim Lowe's The Green Door (1956), The Garden of Eden (1957) and Jimmie Rodgers' Kisses Sweeter than Wine (1958).

His singing was reportedly accompanied by delighted squeals from his adoring, mostly female, audience. In early 1957 his cover of The Green Door reached #1 in the UK Singles Chart. The same year he was voted 'Showbusiness Personality of the Year'.

In 1961 Vaughan hit #1 for the second time in the UK with Tower of Strength, but the rise of beat music eclipsed his chart career for two or three years, before he returned to the Top 10 in 1967 with There Must Be A Way. Chart success eluded him after this although he did have two more Top 40 singles: Nevertheless and So Tired.

Frankie Vaughan
British postcard by Greaves Gravure, Scarborough, no. X 3.

Frankie Vaughan
German postcard by Krüger. Sent by mail in the Netherlands in 1964.

Frankie Vaughan
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/24. Photo: Terb Agency.

Let's Make Love

During the 1950s, Frankie Vaughan appeared in a series of British film musicals including Dangerous Youth (Herbert Wilcox, 1957) with Carole Leslie, and The Lady Is a Square (Herbert Wilcox, 1959) opposite Anna Neagle.

In 1960, he went to the United States to make Let's Make Love (George Cukor, 1960) with Marilyn Monroe. In Let’s Make Love, Vaughan had some nice numbers to sing.

That same year he appeared in another Hollywood film, The Right Approach (David Butler, 1961) with Martha Hyer, but his recordings were no chart hits in the USA.

In 1961 Vaughan returned to England and he was on the bill at the Royal Variety Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

In the late 1960s, he became involved with youth social problems in Easterhouse, a large housing estate in the outskirts of Glasgow, and was influential in attracting new resources and inward investment to the area.

Vaughan continued performing until 1985, when he starred to great critical acclaim in a stage version of 42nd Street at Drury Lane in London. He played a Broadway producer opposite his old friend Shani Wallis who had appeared in their first film together, the Western comedy Ramsbottom Rides Again (John Baxter, 1956). After a year, he suffered a near fatal bout of peritonitis and had to leave the cast.

Frankie Vaughan was created an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1965, and a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1996.

Frankie Vaughan died in 1999 from heart failure in Buckinghamshire, England, aged 71. According to the BBC obituary by Nick Higham, Vaughan was married to Stella Shock, from 1951 to 1999 and they had three children and several grandchildren. The Frankie Vaughan Archive, consisting of sheet music, scores, orchestral and band parts, was donated to Liverpool John Moores University by his widow Stella Vaughan in the summer of 2000.

Frankie Vaughan
German postcard by ISV, no. H 18.

Frankie Vaughan
French posrcard by E.D.U.G., no. 50.

Marilyn Monroe and Frankie Vaughan sing the title song in Let's make love (1960) - with Polish subtitles! Source: dorcia72 (YouTube).

Frankie Vaughan's Garden of Eden mimed by characters from the TV series Lipstick on Your Collar (1993) with Ewan McGregor. Source: Lipstick OYC (YouTube).

Sources: Denis Gifford (The Independent), Nick Higham (BBC), Wikipedia, and IMDb

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