There’s more than a hint of the good nature and an infectious smile of legendary 60s pop star recognsiable from many 1960s album covers when singing star Frank Ifield chats to me on the phone after completing his first show in Kent of his current UK tour Frank Ifield and Friends
Coventry-born Frank who spent several of his formative years in Australia before returning to the UK, turned 80 last year, but still gets a big thrill from live shows. as he tells Andy Howells:over the phone while sitting at Kent’s glorious seafront on Friday afternoon.
“I love them, I really do. Its so nice to be back upon the stage again and Its good to be back in England now that Spring is here!”
The Frank Ifield & Friends show sees Frank, who topped the UK charts with hits I Remember You, Lovesick Blues, The Wayward Wind and Confessin’ between 1962 and 1963, recall his life and career in a two hour show. A life which began in 1937 after his parents moved from their native Australia to England prior to the outbreak of the second world war. Frank recalls:
“My Dad came out here as an engineer to further his career, He was the man who invented the fuel pumps for jet craft, He was doing “hush hush work” and I didn’t know until about 1945 what he was doing.because his pumps were fitted to the Gloster Meteor!”
While his father was completing vital work for the War effort, young Frank was taking his first steps in entertainment.
“I started off in the air-raid shelters when I was going to school, Every time the sirens went off , I was taken down to the shelters and I’d be up in front of the classroom singing Ten Green Bottles and all those songs. I got the feeling this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
“After the war, it messed it up a bit,because I wasn’t able to do much entertaining again after that. When I got back to Australia I started it all up again,”
Frank initially made his first records in Australia during the mid 1950s, where he became well known for country hits before returning to England to pursue a recording career. Frank remembers:
“I didn’t come out here with any idea of becoming a pop star at all, I’d recorded in Australia but all I knew was making records was good at getting publicity out there and doing what I wanted to do which was working live!”
Frank signed with EMI in 1960 and had a minor hit with the record Lucky Devil. Over the next few years, he continued to record as well as make numerous appearances on BBC radio shows such as Saturday Club and Easy Beat. However, it seemed another major hit was elusive.
“It came on the very last record of that two year contract (with EMI).” continues Frank, “I got Lucky Devil to start with , nothing in between and on the very last record, I Remember You.”
I Remember You was the first of Frank’s recordings to be arranged by Norrie Paramor, the producer responsible for overseeing recording sessions for Cliff Richard, The Shadows and Helen Shapiro among others .Frank recalls Norrie with fondness, referring to him as “The Master!”
“Working with him (Norrie Paramor) doing arrangements was just sheer joy. The combination of what I wanted to do and what he wanted to do worked beautifully!
“ I changed the whole structure of I Remember You and it was just one of those magic things that happened. Of course, once that happened they (EMI) had to renew my contract at a much better price.”
More hits followed including reworkings of Lovesick Blues, (a yodeling classic of which Frank performed as a warm up and was suggested for him to record by fellow singer, Matt Monro), The Wayward Wind, Confessin’ and Bing Crosby’s Please.
Frank also gained popularity in the USA where the record label Vee-Jay put out several of his recordings alongside The Beatles as part of the collectible British Invasion LP release, Jolly What!
Frank’s career continued with stage and film successes, but performing live has always remained close to his heart, as visitors to his show, at Cwmbran’s Congress Theatre will witness when he takes to the stage with Australian singer Nicki Gillis.
“I love Nicki. She is probably one of the finest performers I’ve seen in Australia. This is the first time we’ve actually got together, as shes now working on my show whereas previously I was working with her on hers.”
Frank describes the show.
“”The audience get a general picture of what I’ve been doing in my life plus we do songs that are applicable to that particular time so they get all the hits.”
So what of Frank’s return to Wales, does he have any memories of visiting here in the 1960s?
“I’ve got memories as long as you want about Wales. I used to go there on my holidays when I was a kid as well as lots of tours. I’m looking forward to getting there. really I am!”
Due to a throat infection Frank Ifield had to postpone his concert at Cwmbran’s Congress Theatre on May 5. The concert with Nicki Gillis has now been rescheduled at 2.30pm on May 26th. Visit congresstheatre.co.uk for details
For details of Frank’s UK tour which continues until June 5, 2018 visit http://www.frankifield.com/news.html