By Charles Berger
It’s fairly common knowledge that Connie Francis hit it big in 1958 with the old song “Who’s Sorry Now?” It had been recommended by her father, because he felt it would appeal to old-timers and to the young fans if it was played with good backbeat. The song was even featured on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” TV show.
But what isn’t always known is that Francis had recorded 20 songs previously on MGM that did not do much to bring her popularity.
The story goes that in 1955, Francis’ personal manager, George Scheck, told her that a music publisher (Lou Levy) was willing to put up half the money needed for her to record four of his songs. It cost about $5,000, and they tried to sell them to a major record company. In Francis’ words, Levy and Scheck tried “every record company in America.” The last company, MGM, signed her because its president, Harry Meyerson, had a son Freddy, and Meyerson wanted the record for a birthday present for him.
In the summer of 1955, Francis went on her first major promotional tour of radio stations and deejays in the Northwest and Midwest. Her dad brought at least two boxes of each record to give to neighborhood people, such as the butcher, fish store owner and the gas station owner. Obviously, Francis needed many others to buy copies of her recordings to make a dent in the industry.
Were those 20 songs really that bad? Well, that may be a matter of taste. Here are my descriptive comments on each song, with my evaluation of their commercial appeal. I do believe that a major record company such as MGM, if it really believed in Francis, could have promoted her singles so that she wouldn’t have had to wait three years to blossom into the star she eventually became.
1. “Freddy.” Written by Peter Pan, Steve Kirk and Sheldon Hernick (who also wrote the lyrics to “Artificial Flowers” by Bobby Darin, and “The Fiddler on the Roof” soundtrack. The song begins with castanets, kind of cutesy. It has a mid-tempo sound, Latin-ish! Connie is trying to convince Freddy that she’s the girl for him and she’s better for him than Daisy. After so many times of singing “Freddy,” it becomes annoying and she even ends the record with a really annoying “Freddy.” Meyerson must have really loved his son to have accepted this song. Incidentally, Eartha Kitt and Perez Prado recorded this — why, I don’t know — to a mambo beat, of course. Her version is not as annoying, but it still doesn’t work. Some labels read “Fredy,” not “Freddy”.
3. “(Oh Please) Make Him Jealous.” This is a real tear-jerker. She’s dancing with Johnny, but wants Jim to be jealous. Meanwhile, Jimmy is dancing with Molly McGee. It has a similar sound to Patti Page’s “Changing Partners” and Jo Stafford’s “Keep It a Secret.” This one could have made the charts with a little push. No running time shown, but it lasts about 2:20.
4. “Goody Goodbye.” This song was popular in 1939 and was written by James Cavanaugh (words) and Nat Simon (music). Dolly Dawn (Theresa Maria Stabile) had a Top 10 hit with it. It has a nice sound, like “Goody Goody,” with a tinkling piano, big band, drum and saxes with a big finish. Connie says “Goodbye” at the end. It’s a nice recording, but probably too much of a big-band flavor. Again there is no time shown, but it’s about 2:25.
5. “Are You Satisfied?” Written by Sheb Wooley and Escamellia, this song is set to a rocking beat with a girl vocalist “ooh-oohing.” This was a big hit for Rusty Draper in late 1955-early 1956. Others who charted were Toni Avden and Wooley himself. In 1987, Janie Fricke took it to No. 32 on the country charts. This arrangement is similar to “Who’s Sorry Now?” and it finishes strongly. Couldn’t the charts handle a fourth version?
6. “My Treasure.” Written by William Templeton and Cy Coben (not Cohen). The Hilltoppers took this song to No. 31 in early 1956, but Connie was the first to record it. It has a country sound, and she duets with herself at times. The “treasure” was his love for her. Yes, it’s mushy, but it is a very nice song. MGM missed the boat with this one.
7. “My First Real Love.” Yes, the Darin and Kirshner are Bobby and Don, respectively. The Jaybirds actually is Bobby Darin. It is in a mid-tempo mode, and has a “Wheel of Fortune” flavor. Her first real love was a “good” one. The Jaybirds end the record nicely. How could a song co-written by Darin and Kirshner miss making an impact?
8. “Believe In Me” (Credimi). Written by Kini and Carl Sigman. Sigman wrote many hits, including “Answer Me, My Love,” “Arrivederci Roma” and “What Now My Love.” The ballad has a tango beat with a violin break. Midpoint, Connie sings in Italian for a while. The singer and orchestra finish strongly. Dick Jacob’s book, “Who Wrote That Song” (1988), credits Connie with popularizing it, which, of course is a stretch.
9. “Forgetting.” This is a very slow and emotional ballad. Her man has left her, and she’s waiting for him to return to “stop this misery.” The Francis who is listed as co-writer is, indeed, Connie.
10. “Send For My Baby.” This performance is a nice, sexy one by Connie. It is an upbeat, bluesy number. There is a nice guitar break. She’s feeling low-down and blue, but her man will know what to do when he gets there. She ends the song with a sexily spoken “Send for my baby please.” This in one of her best of the early singles, but, unfortunately, it failed to be a success.
11. “Everyone Needs Someone.” This was co-written by Alex Alstone (“More,” “Symphony” and “Dancin’ With Someone”) and Mack Discant, writer of “Theme from a Summer Place.” This is one of the worst of the 20 early songs. The chorus begins and sings with Connie, then she does a solo for most of the rest of the record. At the end, they sing together “and darling, I need you.” Although the running time is not shown on the label, it runs about 2:40.
12. “My Sailor Boy.” As a former “sailor boy” myself, I like this one a lot. It has a nice beat to it. It concerns her sailor boy, who sailed away from her. He sends her flowers from Hawaii and kimonos from Japan. All she wants is his love and when he returns, he will marry her. It ends with the chorus “ba-ba-ba-ba-baing.” This could have been the precursor to Diane Remay’s “Navy Blue.” The approximate running time is 2:30.
13. “I Never Had a Sweetheart.” Written by Glen Moore and Milton Subotoky. Suotoky also was the musical director, wrote the screenplay, co-produced, and co-wrote the story for the film “Rock, Rock, Rock.” Connie auditioned for the Tuesday Weld part but wound up singing for her. Weld lip-synchs to this number in a coffee shop. In case anyone cares, the girl does find her sweetheart at the end of this song. The film features Connie’s photo in the opening credits as the singer for Dori (Tuesday’s role). Yes, the song is schlocky. However, with the popularity of the film — it features Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Moonglows, Johnny Burnette Trio, etc. — you would think that somehow this recording would have gotten enough airplay and sales to chart nationally. Alas, it did not.
14. “Little Blue Wren.” this one is even more syrupy then the flip. Tuesday sings to a wren! The bird is crying because its love has flown away. Tuesday understands, because it happened to her. However, she assures the bird that when its love returns, it will no longer be blue. I doubt this song would have made it no matter what.
15. “No Other One.” Written by Ivory Joe Hunter and Johnny Otis. This is a terrific song done pop-style, not really bluesy. It’s kind of subdued. Note that Eddie Fisher recorded this song, and it charted a year earlier and reached No. 65. Why in the world would MGM decide to release this a year after it had some success by a well-known pop artist?
16. “I Leaned On a Man.” Written by Wayne Shaklin and Leonard Rosenman (not Roseman). I’m not familiar with the film “The Big Land,” in which Virginia Mayo sang this. Connie sings it in a bouncy style. Men have disappointed her — a woman must stand alone, have a will of stone. The Lord will support her, so, “Why don’t you talk with the Lord?” The BBC banned her recording in England, apparently because the mention of religion in 1957 was controversial. Didn’t Connie have enough difficulty in having her recordings heard without actually being banned?
17. “Faded Orchid.” Yes, here’s another tear jerker. An old, faded orchid has been crushed between the pages of an old, tattered book. It brings back the memory of the vow they took. Like a leaf, her heart is crushed. This one didn’t have a chance.
18. “Eighteen.” This is really a strange one. It has a pop-rock beat, with the chorus repeating, “Can’t stop the clock — ooh, gotta rock.” The signer has just turned 18 and is so confused. Where can she go? Where is she? The song has a nice hand-clapping sound. Connie “oohs” sexily quite a bit. Connie was 18 at the time, so was it biographical? This is one that perhaps Lindsay Lohan could record.
19. “The Majesty of Love.” written by Ben Raleigh and Don Wot. This one charted at No. 93 for one week, on Dec. 2, 1957. It was a duet with Marvin Rainwater, who had a big hit in “Gonna Find Me a Bluebird” earlier in 1957. Rainwater starts then, he and Connie sing together. There is a break featured by a slow guitar. The chorus “ooh-was.”
This record supposedly sold more that million copies, even though it was only No. 93 on the pop charts and did not even chart on the country charts.
Rainwater was born in 1925 and lives in Minnesota. For whatever reason, Connie in her biography, “Who’s Sorry Now,” makes no mention of him. Requests for comments by Connie or her representatives sent to her Web site were not answered.
Why are you happy? “You, My Darlin’, You,” is the message.