Friday, September 1, 2017

Frankie Miller

Francis Miller was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow in 1949. He was brought up in a tenement with his parents, Kathy and Frank, and elder sisters Letty and Anne. Young Francis was an altar boy who loved to play football. He listened to his mother’s record collection and gained an appreciation for Rock’n’Roll and R&B. Frances identified with the music of Ray Charles, Little Richard and Elvis Presley and learned to play the guitar aged nine. He joined bands before becoming a professional musician with the Stoics and gained quite a reputation around Glasgow. Francis (now calling himself Frankie) had a powerful voice and the group was signed by Chrysalis in early 1970. They went on tour supporting Ten Years After and made a brief appearance at The Isle of Wight Festival as Howl. Now relocated to London the band broke up before making any recordings. Frankie met Robin Trower (Procol Harum) and was asked to join the band Jude in 1971. The lineup included former Stone the Crows, James Dewar (bass and vocals) and Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull) on drums but the group only stayed together for a short time. Frankie and Robin had written several songs together and although Jude made no recordings "I Can't Wait Much Longer" appeared on Robin Trower's first solo album, Twice Removed from Yesterday.

Frankie Miller now signed a solo deal with Chrysalis Records, and recorded his first LP Once In A Blue Moon, produced by Dave Robinson with Brinsley Schwarz as his support. The album met critical acclaim but little else.

Chrysalis was keen to develop Frankie’s commercial potential and recorded his second album High Life (1974) in New Orleans. The album was written and produced by Allen Toussaint (he produced ‘Workin’ in a coal mine’ by Lee Dorsey).

The follow up The Rock (1975) was produced by Elliot Mazer (he produced Neil Young’s Harvest) and was made in San Francisco. Frankie had put a band together called The Frankie Miller Band. The lineup was guitarist, Henry McCullough (The Grease Band & Wings), Chrissie Stewart (bass), Stu Perry (drums), and Mick ‘Blue’ Weaver (keyboards) who played on the sessions. Also the album featured the legendary Memphis Horns and The Edwin Hawkins Singers.

It took until 1977 before Frankie had his first commercial hit with “Be good to your self” from the Full House album (produced by Chris Thomas). Now playing with The “Full House” band which consisted of Ray Minhinnet (lead guitar), Jim Hall (keyboards) , Graham Deacon (drums) and Chrissie Stewart (bass). Frankie and the Band had just completed a national tour and was a sharp outfit which is caught on the album.

His next album was called Double Trouble (1978) and was produced by Jack Douglas (worked with Aerosmith). The singer had a new band including drummer, BJ Wilson (Procol Harum), Chrissie Stewart (bass), Ray Russell (guitar), Chris Mercer and Martin Drover (horns) and Paul Carrack (keyboards and vocals) with Stephen Tyler (Aerosmith) making a guest appearance as backing vocalist.

In the same year "Darlin'" became a hit in the UK and raised some interest in the US. The follow up "When I'm Away From You" failed to impact in the US and was a minor hit in the UK.

His last album for Chrysalis Records was recorded in Nashville where he worked with many of the industry’s best. The Glasgow singer made many lasting friendships as he continued to impress with his vocal performances and writing prowess. He signed to Capitol records in 1982, and released his eigth album called ‘Standing on the Edge’. All the tracks were written by Frankie Miller and recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, and featured part of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm section.

Frankie returned to a more rock style by the mid eighties and toured Europe and the States with a new band which included Simon Kirke (Free and Bad Company), Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzie) and Chrissie Stewart (bass). Frankie continued to record but was no longer interested in commercial success he put his efforts into song writing. Frankie had already written and co-written successful songs including “Still in love with you’ with Phil Lynott.

Many of his own songs were also covered by his own heroes including: Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles which must have given him a kick. Other contemporaries to sing versions of his songs were: Rod Stewart,The Bellamy Brothers, Kim Carnes, Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger, Bonnie Tyler, Roy Orbison, Etta James, Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Cher, The Everly Brothers, Chris Farlowe and The Eagles among many others. Then out of the blue, Frankie Miller scored a huge number one UK hit with "Caledonia" in 1992.

Flush with his new success Frankie Miller joined Joe Welsh (The Eagles) and Nicky Hopkins and had plans to record and tour. Whilst writing material in New York Frankie suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and collapsed into a coma. He was unconscious for five months and had to go through extensive rehabilitation when he finally regained consciousness. After a long ,hard struggle captured in the BBC TV documentary ‘Stubborn Kinda Fella,’ Frankie Miller got back to writing again, collaborating with Will Jennings, and their composition "The Sun Goes Up, the Sun Comes Down," was performed by Bonnie Tyler, Paul Carrack, and Jools Holland at a concert for the disabled in Edinburgh.

He tried his hand at acting in 1979 and appeared Peter McDougall's TV film ‘Just a Boy's Game’.

Frankie Miller's songs also appeared regularly in the scores of many high profile movies and TV films. He and Rory Gallagher co-wrote the score for the movie Sense of Freedom which dramatise the story of his second cousin, Jimmy Boyle.

Worth a listen
I Can’t Change It (1972)
A Fool in Love (1975)
Aint Got No Money (1975)
Jealous Guy (1977)
Be Good to Yourself (1977)
Darlin' (1978)
Sense of Freedom (1979)
Jealousy (1982)
Caledonia (1992)

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