Caught in the Act Again -
Unreleased Recorded Shows:
The Cameo, 129 E 53rd, New York City, March 5, 1956
Lullaby of Birdland, Bewitched, The Man I Love, Frankie and Johnny, Night and Day, Patter, Exactly Like You, Darktown Strutters Ball, Frances and Her Friends, Patter, Wild Bongo Duet, I Wish that I Could Shimmy Like Sister Kate, An Occasional Man, Dummy Song, GoGoGo, My Funny Valentine, Lullaby of Birdland. Candido Camero on bongos, Whitey Mitchell on bass, recorded by NBC Radio.
Whitey Mitchell,"After Julie [London] came the great Mel Torme and I stayed on at The Cameo for his engagement. Then the ancient and outrageous Frances Faye showed up with her terrible home-made piano playing, which she more than made up for with her bawdy hilarious routines, her orange hair, and her over-the-top Jewishness. If you didn’t know any Yiddish, you did after an evening with Frances Faye. During one of her shows I was onstage and was about to do a bass solo, but she stopped the music and said, 'Put down that bass and go home, you schmuck! You just became a father!'”
The Silver Spade, Chevron Hilton, Sydney, April 1, 1963
Good Evening, John Henry, Frankie & Johnny, St James Infirmiry, Greensleeves, Clementine, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, Lonesome Road
Just In Time, Night & Day, Don’t Do It
You're Heavenly, Porgy, I's Your Woman Now
I'm Just Wild About Harry, Indiana, Let's Twist Again, Time After Time (with Lana Cantrell)
Digby Wolfe speaks...
I Didn't Know What Time It Was
Never on a Sunday, Exodus, Love for Sale
One For My Baby, Laura, Blues in the Night, Kansas City, Polonaise, Blue Tango, Happy Birthday, A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody, Rats in My Room, Gotta Go Go Go.
The Lido, Melbourne, Australia 1968
Man I Love
Goin' Outta My Head, Good Ship Lollipop,
Darktown Strutters Ball, A Taste of Honey
Songs I Never Sing
Look of Love
I Loves You, Porgy
What Now My Love?
Waltzing Matida, Yesterday
This Girl's In Love with You
Shimmy Like My Sister Kate - Rock Version…
The Spindletop, NYC, 10:30 Monday evening, October 20, 1975
The Man I Love,
You Are the Sunshine Of My Life/Just In Time/The Summer Knows/What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life/Bewitched
Frances and Her Friends
I Loves You, Porgy
Drunk With Love
Night and Day
Mad About the Boy/He's Funny That Way/Two Different Worlds/Something/I Only Have Eyes For You/Temptation/South of the Border/My Baby Just Cares For Me/Rhapsody In Blue
Darktown Strutter's Ball, A Taste of Honey.
The Mocambo, San Francisco 10/25/77
Good Evening, What Now My Love?
Just a Gigolo
If You Go Away, The Man I Love
Songs Frances Never Sings Medley: Bewitched, Mad About the Boy, Funny That Way, Am I Blue? Miss Otis, On the Street Where You Live, Temptation, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.
Willow Weep for Me
Waltzing Matilda, A Good Man Is Hard to Find
I Loves You, Porgy
Frances and Her Friends, If I Had a Kilo, Australia Patter
It Might as Well Be Spring, Maria *, SF Patter
One Note Samba *, Fly Me to the Moon, Just in Time
I Wish that I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
Bewitched, Little Girl Blue
Darktown Strutters Ball, A Taste of Honey
Gotta Go Go Go
Summertime, It Ain’t Necessarily So
Hava Nagila *
I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Mad About the Boy, Hard Day’s Night, Norwegian Wood, Michelle *
Fever, Rhapsody in Blue*
Gotta Go Go Go, When The Saints Go Marching In, Miserlou.
The Old Waldorf, San Francisco 8/24/80
The Man I Love, Just a Gigolo Malaguena (inst), Willow Weep for Me (inst, My Funny Valentine-Little Girl Blue, Drunk with Love, Kansas City, Come Rain or Come Shine-Over the Rainbow, South of the Border, Sweet Georgia Brown, I Loves You Porgy, Frances and Her Friends, Yesterday, Hard Day’s Night, I Wish that I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, Rhapsody in Blue (inst), Maria (inst), Songs I Never Sing Medley: Fly Me to the Moon, Do It To Me One More Time, Temptation, Funny That Way, Am I Blue?, On the Street Where You Live, Miss Otis, Mad About the Boy; Blueberry Hill, Night and Day, Sometimes I’m Happy, Fever, You’re Heveanly, Green Dolphin Street (inst), Out of This World, Bill Bailey, Honeysuckle Rose, If I Had Kilo (If I were a Rich Man, Hava Nagilia (inst), I Honestly Love You, Don’t Cry Out Loud, A Very Good Year, My Way, Darktown Strutter’s Ball-A Taste of Honey
LATER THAT SAME NIGHT... 2ND SET
Love for Sale, Bewitched, Blueberry Hill, Norwegian Wood/Eleanor Rigby, Tweet Tweet Tweetheart, Tonight You Belong to Me, Misty; Lover, Where Can You Be?/Lover, St James Infirmary, Miss Otis Regrets, Darktown Strutters’ Ball, A Taste of Honey, Hits Medley: Summertime, He’s Funny That Way, Am I Blue?, South of the Border, Mad About the Boy, What’s New?, Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, Finale: GoGoGo, When the Saints Go Marching In, Out of This World, Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?
Thanks to Warren G Harris for many of these clippings.
Headlines and Hairdos
Wild Frances Is Great
By Bruce Vilanch
Chicago Today, February 1, 1973
The fact that Frances Faye looks exactly like my Aunt Pauline has nothing to do with the fact that she is one of the supreme entertainers of our age.
That last fact was established years ago when she packed the old Black Orchid for 16 weeks running, or when she became the first white woman to record a chart-busting collection of songs from "Porgy and Bess," or when she single-handedly broke all the audience records in history by drawing more that 1,000 fans to the main room of Las Vegas' Thunderbird Hotel for a show on a Wednesday at 5 a.m.
Of course, the fact that she looks like my Aunt Pauline doesn't hurt her standing either. It just makes her wilder. And that's Frances' stock-in-trade. She is everyone's Aunt Pauline, an angle-faced, kaftan-covered, heavily eye-shadowed, jewel-bedecked mystical matron who sits down, pounds away furiously on the piano and demolishes everything in sight."
It's just not the sort of thing Pauline would do, but Frances has been at it for years and, in her current engagement in the new Chicago Playboy Club, she is so exciting that to merely say she is back in her old stride would be understating the situation. She's back in her old gallop.
There's something very bizarre about Frances' success. She is probably the loudest singer and the heaviest pianist in the Western world. She has never been pretty ["I'm not pretty, but I'm neat. I'm so meticulous you could eat off me"], and she never moves from tht piano center stage.
Yet she looks spectacular, with a face full of vivid expression and, as she hammers away on that piano with that foot stomping into the floor to keep time, she appears to be all over the room at once.
They don't make this kinds of performer anymore. When was the last time we had a newcomer with the true flash and excitement all over her act? I can think of Liza Minelli and Bette Midler and that's it. Of course, it's absurd to put Frances in the same boat with those girls. She's been at it a bit longer than they have--in fact, she's a show biz fixture.
In the 50's, when she was turning clubs like the Crescendo on Hollywood's Sunset Strip into her own laundromat, they called her risque. What they meant, of course, was that she is hip.
It's a worldly-wise reading she gives to lyrics and one-liners. There's an impeccable timing and a clear understanding that there's a lot more to this life than moon-June and boy-girl and love-marriage. There is fun and energy and a sassy good humor everywhere you look.
Even Pauline would have a good time.
RAY HAGEN'S NEW TRIBUTE
RAY ON FAYE: Is There Another Way?
A Personal Reminiscence by Ray Hagen
Frances Faye burst upon my teenaged consciousness way back in the pre-Elvis early fifties, a time when Patti Page and Doris Day were everyone1s idea of what a girl singer (sorry folks, that's what they were called) ought to be - sweet, sunny and relentlessly adorable. But amidst these twinkies I'd occasionally hear on the radio some records by a fortyish woman whose approach to a song seemed to be to whack the living daylights out of it. Clearly not singing in high heels, she sounded like Barbara Stanwyck on a jag but she also had, as we didn1t say back then, musical chops. I was smote. When I heard that this Frances Faye person had one of those new-fangled 12-inch LP albums all to herself - No Reservations on Capitol Records - I got it, loved it, played it to shreds, memorized every note, and decided that this dame was man enough for me.
She didn't get written up much and did very little TV so most of what little I knew about her I learned from her LP jacket covers. I did some digging and found that she was from Brooklyn, NY (as I was), made her first stage appearance there at 15 and worked her way up through the speakeasy circuit; that she had a top-ten hit for Decca, No Regrets, in 1936; that she did a knockout duet with Martha Raye in a movie the following year; that she wrote the Andrews Sisters' hit Well, All Right; and that she'd been recording through the 1930's and '40's. I managed to get as many scratchy old 78's as I could find, and belatedly realized what I'd been missing.
Not being all that swift, I hadn't yet figured out that she was "of the tribe". I only knew that she was one of the very few "girl singers" I'd come across - Janette Davis, Dinah Washington, Dorothy Loudon, Elaine Stritch, Kay Starr, Judy & Ethel - with balls in their throats. Frances Faye hit her notes straight on, didn't play it cute (or even nice), seemed to mean every damn word she sang, pounded her pianos to dust, and didn't shy away from "naughty" songs, silly songs, obscure songs, even those lushly sentimental love ballads that the likes of Patti and Doris always sang. I hated those ballads, but when Frances did them I paid attention.
She left Capitol and started recording for the jazz-oriented Bethlehem label, where her albums got richer and gutsier and funkier. She'd go from jazz to pop, standards to obscurities, tender to fierce, folk to funk, playful to Porgy's Bess. She never hit a false note, and she never lost me.
As the albums piled up, and the labels kept changing, she got looser with her pronouns. A pair of in-performance "live" albums (Caught in the Act, vol's. 1 and 2) cinched it: Frances Faye was officially, openly, defiantly, gloriously "gay gay gay / is there another way?", and her freewheeling club gigs were joyous celebrations for all of us. And remember, this was in the fifties!
Faye was no beauty, but she had fun with her looks ("I'm not pretty but I'm neat. Meticulous. You could eat off me"). She'd show up for a club date with her hair in an orange buzz-cut and offhandedly comment that "when you're pretty, it doesn't matter how you wear your hair." She always gave due credit to her musicians and let them shine (albeit introducing one or another of them as "my ex-husband") and insisting on big applause for their solos ("C'mon, you can't be that jealous."). She was smart, funny, bawdy, tough and honest. But within all the fun Frances Faye remained one stone dynamite singer-musician, and the most respected jazz greats adored her, respected her and lined up to gig with her.
The records stopped around 1964, but she continued to play the clubs till 1981. Ten years later, at 79, she died in Los Angeles after a series of strokes. I was left with my collection of worn LP's and singles and a deep regret that this staggering talent, never a household name, now seemed totally forgotten. Even the post-Stonewall gay generation ignored her (to this day I've yet to hear one word of acknowledgement of her from such celebrated "groundbreaking" descendants as Ellen, k.d. or Melissa).
Then computers and the web came along and for a long while I searched in vain for her name. Finally, in 1999, I actually found a section devoted to her on a website by writer James T. Sears. The site wasn't about Frances Faye, but in part of it he posted a fond remembrance of her. I was thrilled to find it and e-mailed him to say so. He eventually invited me to contribute a discography and full-tilt tribute to her, which I was delighted to do. I was utterly unprepared for the deluge of e-mails I received from Faye fans all over the world, including this website's luscious creator, comely Tyler Alpern. Combined efforts by this newly discovered fan base led to all sorts of shared discoveries - vintage articles and interviews, biographical details, photos, obscure and unreleased recordings, live bootleg tapes, radio and TV appearances and a windfall of information. The culmination of all this activity was fellow Fayenatic David McCain leading me to Frances' long-time companion (and certified babe) Teri Shepherd, who was as eager to get the Faye ball rolling as we were. Now yet another Fayenatic, Bruce Weber, has released Chop Suey, an independent film featuring Teri and jam packed with videos and reminiscences of Frances Faye. Tyler has gathered all of this data right here, even as new Faye websites pop up. The rediscovery has begun, and I am thrilled unto death.
Why isn't Frances Faye up there with Judy & Marlene, Mae & the Merm, and Barbra & the Bettes, worshipped and adored as an enduring gay diva goddess? Beats me. Among the pre-Stonewall generations she's still cherished but younger fans are now popping up as well. Her LP's are being gradually reissued on CD (including my own favorite Faye LP, Frances Faye Sings Folk Songs, an atypical but stunning album), and, most happily, her two "live" albums are gathered together on one CD, Caught in the Act. I cannot imagine why every gay man and woman in America doesn1t own them. My only hope is that she won't be remembered only as a campy dyke novelty act rather than the killer singer-musician I fell in love with. She was and is, truly, one of a kind.
Washington, DC - January, 2002
THERE'S GOLD ON ALL THAT BRASS
The name is Faye and she's gay, gay, gay!
by Ron Saw June 23, 1967