Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tige Andrews and Frankie Laine Pass On

Recently two individuals have passed on with whom I rather suspect that younger readers (if I have any--I imagine this blog skews much, much more towards Generation X than Generation Y...) are probably not familiar. The first was Tige Andrews, whose name many readers might recogise from The Mod Squad.

Andrews died January 27 at age 89 from a heart attack. He was born March 19, 1920 in Brooklyn to parents of Syrian descent. Andrews served in the Army during World War II. After his return to civilian life he graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. He made his first appearance on Broadway as part of the ensemble in Mister Roberts. Later he would take over the role of Schlemmer in the play. Roberts would make a few TV appearances in the early Fifties (Kraft Television Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, and so on), but the turning point in his career would be 1955. That year he again appeared on Broadway in The Threepenny Opera. It was also that year he was cast in
the role of Wiley in the movie version of Mister Roberts. He would also appear in various episodes of The Phil Silvers Show as Private Gander.

Over the next few years Andrews would appear in such films as Onionhead and A Private Affair, but his career would mostly be on television. He guest starred on such shows as Playhouse 90, Zorro, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, Star Trek, Gunsmoke, and The Fugitive. It was in 1968 that he was cast in the role of Captain Greer, the officer in charge of three young undercover officers. Andrews stayed with the series for three years and was even nominated for an Emmy.

Following The Mod Squad, Andrews guested on such shows as Kojak and Murder She Wrote.

I must admit that I was never a big fan of The Mod Squad, although I have to admit that it did have a good cast. As one of that cast, Andrews did display considerable talent. And I remember his well from his guest appearances on various shows in the Sixties.

The other individual to die recently was singer Frankie Laine, perhaps best known as the man who sang the theme to the TV show Rawhide. He died yesterday at age 93. Laine was born Frank LoVecchio on March 30, 1913 in Chicago, Illinois. He started singing as a child, but did not decide to pursue it as a career until he was 17. Unfortunately, it would be quite some time before he met with success. He worked dance marathons during the Thirties and later performed small jazz clubs. He worked a variety of jobs in addition to singing, including stints as a factory worker and used car salesman. It was 1943 that he moved to Hollywood and he sang in the background of various movies and even dubbed the voice of Danny Kaye in The Kid From Brooklyn. In 1946 Hoagy Carmichael discovered Laine in a Los Angeles club. The end result was a recording contract with Mercury Records. He also soon had his first his hit, "That's My Desire," a song then six years old.

Laine would continue to have hits throughout the late Forties and Fifties, including "Mule Train," "Shine," "Jezebel," and "When You're in Love." In 1955 he had his own variety show (Frankie Laine Time) and appeared on many variety shows of the era (The Ed Sullivan Show, The Perry Como Show), and so on). Of course, his best known work would come in 1959 with the theme to the TV show Rawhide). He would also perform the theme songs to the TV shows Gunslinger and Rango, and the theme to the Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles.

Laine had fewer hits in the Sixties, although he still had a few (remarkable for an older artist in the wake of rock 'n' roll and the British Invasion). Declining health would force Laine to release fewer and fewer albums throughout the years.

I must confess to always having liked Frankie Laine. "Rawhide" has always been one of my favourite TV theme songs, and I always loved the song "Mule Train." He definitely had a strong voice--he could be heard even without a microphone! Indeed, Laine marked a sharp break from the crooning style of such singers as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. And in being influenced by the rhythm and blues singers of the era, Laine's vocal style could be considered a forerunner of early rock 'n' roll. At the same time, however, it is hard to peg Laine in any given genre. Although generally considered a jazz artist, he performed songs that could be considered country, folk, gospel, and even rock 'n' roll. One thing about Frankie Laine, he was certainly unique.

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