Passings: Frankie Ford (1939 - 2015)

Frankie Ford, who stormed the national charts in 1959 with Sea Cruise, died Monday evening at his home in Gretna, LA after a lengthy illness at the age of 76.

Ford was born in Gretna and lived in the town his entire life, even though he often spent more than two hundred days on the road. After winning a local talent competition at the age of 12, his parents drove him to New York so that he could appear on The Ted Mack Amateur Hour.

While not a winner at first on the national scene, he did start his own band, the Syncopators, while still in high school. In the late 50's, a New Orleans Record producer, Joe Caronna, who was looking for singers that he could turn into teen idols came across Frankie singing in a local lounge. He took him to Cosimo Matassa's studio in New Orleans and had him cut a couple of his original compositions, Cheatin' Woman and The Last One to Cry.

While neither of those recordings were hits, Caronna did convince Ford to record a Huey "Piano" Smith song, Sea Cruise, saying that it was perfect for his voice. Caronna was right and Ford soon found himself rocketing up the charts in the U.S., eventually making it to number 14 and, although it never made the top ten, the record has gone on to become a classic of the early rock era.

Ford never again reached those heights on the charts, only managing to make the lower part of the Hot 100 with Time After Time (1960 / #75), You Talk Too Much (1960 / #87) and Seventeen (1961 / #72). In the early sixties, he was drafted and spent a couple of years in the Army and, by the time he returned, found that the British Invasion had taken over the music business, but that didn't keep him from using his strong work ethic to carve out a lifelong music career. Ford was famous for his relentless touring and performing at New Orleans area clubs, playing hundreds of dates each year and earning him the nickname "The New Orleans Dynamo".

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