Frankie who? FRANKIE FU**IN’ MILLER – That’s who!
Frankie is one of the legends of the British music scene, with a powerful voice that has drawn numerous comparisons. His distinctive voice and song writing ability have earned him the respect of his peers and that is reflected in the number of world renowned artists, including Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Cher, The Everly Brothers and Ray Charles, who have covered his songs.
Frankie was born on 2nd November 1949 in the east end of Glasgow and first became aware of the power of Rock and R&B through his mother’s record collection. She had a fondness for Ray Charles while his older sisters introduced him to Little Richard and Elvis Presley. He identified instinctively with Little Richard’s flamboyant aggression. “The music was alive, exciting, I loved it. I realised later that I could get my own aggression out through music. R&B and Soul Music, I just knew, was what I really loved“.
Frankie started writing songs at the age of nine after being given a guitar by his parents. He composed a song called “”But I Do” which caused tears of laughter amongst his family members but Frankie was to remain undeterred…
His infatuation with music and his natural vocal talent took a positive form in the shape of the succession of early groups. At school there was The Deljacks, West Farm Cottage and a soul outfit called Sock It To ‘Em JB which featured good friend Jimmy Dewar (Stone The Crows, Jude and Robin Trower).
He eventually joined The Stoics who were signed by Chrysalis in early 1970. A German tour supporting Ten Years After was followed by an appearance at The Isle of Wight Festival (as Howl) but the band unfortunately split before completing any recordings.
Frankie then met up with Ex Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower, Ex Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker and bassist Jimmy Dewar who had just left Stone The Crows. Together they formed one Rock’s first “supergroups” – Jude. Despite a number of college gigs in the London area, Jude never made it to the recording studio and also, sadly split.
After the demise of Jude, Frankie signed a solo contract with Chrysalis in 1972 and recorded his first album “Once in a Blue Moon” using ‘Pub Rockers’ Brinsley Schwarz as his backing band. Material wise the album showcased Frankie’s skills as a well above average song writer and “I Can’t Change It” was accorded what must have been for Frankie, the ultimate compliment when Ray Charles covered it on his album “Brother Ray Is At It Again”.
The Brinsleys ended up backing Frankie when he was given the support slot on Ten Years After UK Tour, bringing him back to Scotland to perform for the first time since the Stoics days. They also cut a four song BBC session for the Bob Harris Show which was released in 2002 on Hux Records.
Frankie’s career took off after that first album, when on hearing it, legendary producer Allen Toussaint (of Lee Dorsey – “Workin’ in a Coal Mine” fame) took him to New Orleans to record “Highlife” with Frankie’s soulful leanings being allowed a free reign.
Released in January 1974, reviews were good, though without the sales to match it, it was clear the collaboration would be a one off.
During this period, without a band or hit record to his name, Frankie helped his good friend Phil Lynott to write, perform and record a track for Thin Lizzy’s “Night Life” album. This turned out to be the classic “Still in Love with You” which became one of the highlights of Thin Lizzy’s shows for years to come. A brief collaboration with progressive rockers Procul Harum saw Frankie front them at The London Rainbow Farewell Show during which he featured songs from Highlife including “Shoo Rah Shoo Rah”, “Brickyard Blues” and “The Devil Gun”.
Many people had compared Frankie’s soulful style with that of Paul Rodgers and when former Free bass player Andy Fraser was looking for a new band, he clearly saw in Frankie a similar vocal talent. The two wrote and recorded together but nothing permanent came of it. Their search however for a permanent lead guitarist led them to Ex-Grease Band member Henry McCullough with whom Frankie would form The Frankie Miller Band. “The Rock“, released in September 1975 marked the band’s debut with bassist Chrissie Stewart, drummer Stu Perry and keyboard player Mick Weaver completing the line – up. “The Rock” was produced by Elliot Mazer (Neil Young- Harvest) and recorded in San Francisco in sight of the famous Alcatraz Prison. Frankie once commented that it was only music that had saved him from that kind of fate and dedicated the album’s title song to ‘prisoners everywhere’. The album also featured the legendary Memphis Horns and The Edwin Hawkins Singers who supplied vocal backing on classic songs like “A Fool in Love”, which enjoyed a lot of airplay on both sides of the Atlantic and was a sizeable hit in the U.S. “Aint Got No Money” became the album’s most covered song with notable versions from Cher, Chris Farlowe and Bob Seger.
When the band returned to the UK, Henry departed to record a solo album and Frankie put together his new “Full House” band, with Procul lyricist Keith Reid taking on a management role. The result was a year of hard graft on the road beginning with a 50 date UK tour, kicking off in May 1976 and finishing with a triumphant show at London’s Victoria Palace on 27th June. Frankie had added Ray Minhinnet on lead guitar, Jim Hall on Keyboards , ex Enwhistle’s Ox Graham Deacon on drums with Chrissie Stewart completing the solid backing band. Recordings for the “Full House” album began in November 1976 and combined Miller originals with choice covers including John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” which Frankie sings with great feeling and a first ever UK chart single – Andy Fraser’s “Be Good to Yourself” Full House disbanded after a long American tour and Frankie turned to the States for a third time to work with Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas on “Double Trouble”
The Record Plant in New York was where Double Trouble took shape in April 1978 and Frankie brought yet another impressive line-up with him including legendary drummer BJ Wilson from Procol Harum, Chrissie Stewart on bass, highly rated session player Ray Russell on Guitar, a two-man horn section of Chris Mercer and Martin Drover and perhaps the most impressive recruit, keyboardist and vocalist Paul Carrack, who would co-write five of the songs with Frankie. Steven Tyler from Aerosmith made a guest appearance as backing vocalist and the album contains some powerful playing and singing but in the opinion of opening act guitarist Steve Simpson, from Meal Ticket, both band and songs were even better live. Later in 1978 Frankie went on to have his first Top Ten single “Darlin’ “, a song written by Q Tips brass player Stuart (Oscar) Blandamer.
Darlin’ was included on the “Falling in Love” album and featured Frankie’s new touring band of drummer Fran Byrne, Bassist Tex Comer and Paul Carrack, that trio forming the backbone of “How Long” hitmakers, Ace, plus Steve Simpson and Ed Deane on guitars. They toured Europe extensively and supported Rory Gallagher on the German leg before returning triumphantly to the UK.
During 1979 Frankie decided it was time to diversify and made a move towards acting and starred in Peter McDougall’s TV film “Just a Boys Game” winning rave reviews for his performance. He also wrote and performed “Rules of the Game” for the soundtrack.
The early 80’s found Frankie in the capital of country music, Nashville and with some of the finest sidemen that city could offer, cut “Easy Money“, an album that merged rock, country and R&B. Frankie co-wrote five songs with Troy Seals, a respected country song writer whose work has been covered by Lonnie Mack, Rod Stewart and Percy Sledge. “Heartbreak Radio”, written by Frankie has in turn been covered by a diverse selection of artistes including Kim Carnes, Roy Orbison, and The Osmonds. Easy Money’s release in July 1980 would effectively end Frankie Miller’s link with Chrysalis Records, but the connections and impact he made in Nashville would prove deep and long lasting, since within the decade he would become one of country’s most sought after songwriters.
Frankie returned to the States yet again with a record deal from Capitol Records and in June 1982, released his eighth album.
“Standing on the Edge” was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, with the backbone of the music being supplied by part of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm section, who had worked on such classics as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett. While the recording location and musicians involved were definitely American, the material was all self – penned. Songs like “Danger Danger”, “To Dream The Dream” and particularly “Jealousy” would be highlights of Frankie’s live shows for years to come. From the early to mid eighties and onwards, the live performances were moving back to a rockier side with former Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy joining Chrissie Stewart to form a powerful backing band to compliment Frankie’s voice. Together, they cut “Dancing in the Rain” in New York and the album was released in the spring of 1986. The album contained several collaborative compositions with Jeff Barry, whom Frankie had met when a plan to re-record the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” was mooted. When the record didn’t happen, they instead came up with a batch of new songs which feature on the album. The band did a tour of major cities in the USA with Bob Seger later that year and toured extensively throughout Europe into the early Nineties when Frankie had a number 1 hit in Scotland with “Caledonia”, a soundtrack from a television advert that was released by public demand.
Frankie continued to become an in–demand writer on the country music scene and had started on a new project to record with Joe Walsh and Nicky Hopkins when he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage in New York on August 25th 1994. It should have killed him but he has shown remarkable courage to claw his way slowly back to health, after spending 15 months in hospital. With massive support from his partner Annette, Frankie is learning to walk and talk again and has even written a new song with lyricist Will Jennings called “Sun Goes Up Sun Goes Down”.
The BBC filmed a documentary in 1999 called “Stubborn Kinda Fella” to mark his amazing progress. In this documentary, Rod Stewart stated that Frankie “was the only white singer to have brought a tear” to his eye.
2006 saw the release of Long Way Home featuring tracks from the aforementioned project. Upon its release,the album received 5 star reviews from critics.
September 30th 2016 saw the release of Frankie Millers Double Take, a 17 track album full of duets with other stars including Elton John, Rod Stewart and Willie Nelson.
So …..it may be that after all of the twists and turns that fate can bring, the best times for Frankie Miller may still be yet to come!
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