2012 - Celebrating 100 years of Frances Faye!
At this spawling site, Frances Faye, an underrated singer, gay icon and pioneer, is rediscovered, demystified and rescued from obscurity. Curiously, when this site was first launched over a decade ago, Frances Faye was not even listed in so-called jazz and pop encyclopedias even though she recorded more than a dozen albums for most major labels of her time: Decca, Capitol, Bethlehem, Verve, Imperial; and smaller labels: International, GNP, Regina and A&M. In addition to her recording career, Frances was a bright star on 52nd Street during its heyday and a fixture in major nightclubs around the world for 45 years. She played to sold out houses for weeks and months on end and even shattered Peggy Lee's record run at New York's famous Basin Street East in the early 60s. Her style and sound changed and evolved a great deal over the years but her unique sense of rhythm and timing remained a strong constant. Yet her achievements in jazz are being overlooked and forgotten. She was fantastically unconventional and her open bisexuality seriously hurt her career and legacy according to friends. Since this website was launched over 10 years ago, it has been the main source for the many new articles, websites, blogs, tribute shows and for the liner notes of all the new CDs. This site has been plagarized all over the web and the rare images stolen. But sharing the info and hearing from fans, family and friends has been a real joy.
A decade of exhaustive and orignal research and discovery has been gathered here. Precious little has been indexed or published before Most of what I have learned is documented in the detailed biography that follows. It is the longest article ever published about Frances. The site had grown to be so huge that in February of 2006 the Biography and Music Pages were edited to much shorter lengths and 3 additional pages of this site were deleted all together. Still there is plenty of Frances to discover here. Email for more info if needed.
(Photos courtesy of David McCain, David Torresen, Parker Taylor, Mark Trevorrow, Warren G. Harris and from my collection)
...Fast, funny, and fantastically fey. Frances, no lady, orders her sidemen around like a bunch of serfs, sneers at the audience, pounds that old piano as if she were whipping it into submission in a corner, and hits every lyric with aggression, making ‘I love you’ sound hostile (WL, 10-31-75)
She barks out bits and pieces of songs in a voice trained to cut through the hubbub of a smoke filled room. (JSW, NYTimes 11-17-78)
Frances rasps in a voice so deep it sound piped through a subway grating. (Reed, Daily News 10-17-75)
She is a singing phenomenon, who tears a song to ribbons, puts it together again with some filigree added, and then tosses it into the faces of the patronage with fantastic calliope bangings on the piano. (TF, Daily Mirror 11-14-37)
Think of, say, Elaine Stritch and Frances Faye, great singers who sound as if they'd go home after a long show, kick off their shoes and relax by mixing a tall bleach cocktail. (Michael Mascioli,)
Her voice is throaty--sawdust and sandpaper--with an urban twang; her delivery is declamatory and unrestrainted; and her approach to a song is direct--the Take No Prisoners school of vocalizing. And all these qualities combine with her relaxed sense of phrasing and swing to form a style that is, at the same time, completely natural and very wild (to use one of her favorite phrases). Faye is one of the TRULY great, if overlooked, singers in popular music. (Michael Mascioli)
One woman customer in back of me said, "If she looks like that now, imagine what she looks like when she gets up in the morning." Frances fools 'em - she doesn't get up in the morning. (EW, Post 8-27-56)
The woman at the table next to mine said she looked like a butch teapot. (Reed, 10-17-75)
...a bawdy, old broad, fifty, and she looked it...'she had a face like putty'...Faye's splendid face would have best been left to a painter in the order of Toulouse-Lautrec or Munch. She topped the face off with orange pancake, lurid green eye shadow, and a carrot wig. The woman was a visual feast with a sound bite to match. (Stephen MacLean, 64)
Her hair is cropped so short she must comb it with a toothbrush. A slash of fire-engine red for a mouth, two enormous black olives for eyes...and a riot of jewels that bounce through the night like searchlights...her looks are so startling that you almost forget how talented and musically creative she is. (Reed, 10-17-75)
She's really not my sister; she's my father. (Brother Marty Faye in Time Magazine 1957)
Frances Faye is something of a national monument, you pay her a visit with the reverence one reserves for a trip to the Louvre. (Reed 10-17-75)
Working with Frances Faye was the most fun I had in my career. Jack Costanzo to Tyler Alpern.
Frances Faye let me stretch out, and play more than anybody. I went to Europe with her twice. I was able to play, play, and play with Frances Faye. We worked in a place called The Interlude, which was upstairs from the famous Crescendo, and we were there for weeks, weeks, and weeks. It was the most exciting engagement that I ever had. Jack Costanzo 2005
She is truly one of the free people of the world and the wildest woman I ever met. Whatever comic timing I have I got from Frances Faye. Peter Allen (David Smith, Neal Peters, 23)
Frances Faye...may be a weirdie. In and around her slam-bang vocals and hot piano, she jokes about homosexuals, lesbians, and her own looks, wieght, age and Jewishness. (A A, 3-26-62)
She viewed the male-dominated world with a jaundiced but jaunty eye. (BF LA Times 11-16-91)
She is: intense, relaxed, subtle, crude, polished, rough, callous, tender, dynamic and poignant. It's her great talent to combine all these conflicting elements into a consistent and exciting whole. (Variety 7-15-59).
What Miss Faye has developed is jazz comedy. She is truly funny and spontaneous. (Variety 12-23-64)
She is one of those fortunate mortals who has rhythm in her body and soul. Irving Berlin
Her musical arrangements influenced many performers, including Peter Allen...and Sammy Davis Jr. (Billboard, 1-4-92)
Her propensity for jazz notwithstanding, she defies categorization. Jazz, R & B, lounge, saloon, honky tonk. She's all of them, and then some. Not just a singer, but an entertainer, and a unique one. Brian M., Fan
I wouldn't come to this toilet if it weren't to see you. Barbara Stanwyck
If anything happens to me, you're the only one left. Sophie Tucker
I've loved Frances ever since I heard Peter Allen's 'Just A Gigolo.' Her voice just cut right through me and I wanted to know who this mystery woman was. M Gallob, Fan
Remember I said that on NO REGRETS Frannie sounds like the love child of Sophie Tucker and Ethel Merman? On closer examination, make that the lovechild of Mae West and Ethel Merman. Ray Hagen, Fan
Caught in the Act was a very popular album among us. It was a big deal that she was so blatant, so publicly open. We had so little. This was so precious. Merril, Fan (JT Sears' Lonely Hunters, http://www.jtsears.com/fayelyric.htm)
WOWZEE-WOW-WOW!, wild, wacky and completely and utterly wonderful. It want to scratch the walls knowing I shall never see one of her live sets, as Frances passed on. Her patter is hilarious, her voice a force of nature, her phrasing and musicality on par with the ultimate best of the best. Adam Dugas
First in a field of one! Don Sherwood
This is not a scene where Anita Bryant would be at ease. (Leonard Feather LA Times 6-15-78)
She parodied her bisexuality...her antics came during an era when gay male entertainers were trapped in the closet and gay female entertainers were not even imagined. (BF, 11-16-91)
She was something of a social revolutionary, openly flaunting her bisexuality at a time when such topics were taboo. (Joseph F Laredo, liner notes)
Frances dared to be bizarre in the up-tight, button-down 50's...I get the feeling that maybe Janis Joplin stumbled across Frances somewhere in a former life or something, and heard that extra-ballsy type singing." Mark Murphy (liner notes "Lucky To Be Me" 2002)
...a sort of latter day Bessie Smith to the hippies. (Variety 4-11-62)
...right in the vanguard of the new hipsters. Miss Faye expresses the new and growing revolutionary spirit abroad in the land, reshaping attitudes. That she is able to do so via hilarious yocks with no hint of somberness is a tribute to her copious talents as a comedienne. (Variety 12-23-64)
She can be the new Elvis Presley or the new Roberta Sherwood...Roberta's a middle-aged mother and Frances says: "So am I. I have four French poodles." (EW 8-27-56)
HORNS UP! Frances Faye Collection
The archive holdings include Faye's entire discography; films and videos of many of her perfomances; sheet music; ephmera; hundreds of articles, reviews, clipings, interviews and photographs; notes from extensive interviews with collegues and family; and various recorded live performances and radio transcriptions.
I collect any written material that mentions Faysie and am always looking for photos, new recordings, memories, etc.
I AM SEEKING IN PARTICULAR:
1. Any Faye stories, photos, sources or memories or any Faye tributes you care to make. I publish stories on the Fayenatics page.
2. April 1957 NBC Nightline Radio Show, 1936 Shell Chateau Shows, 1936 Rudy Vallee Show or other radio transciptions.
4. Info or footage of Frances Faye from the following TV shows:
Copyright Tyler Alpern 2001 - 2012
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