Frankie Ford was born in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, Louisiana in 1939. He performed in local shows beginning at the age of five; these shows included such notable performers as Carmen Miranda and Sophie Tucker. The adopted son of Vincent and Anna Guzzo, he went on to have one huge national hit that is closely identified with the early days of rock-and-roll.
While still a child Frankie entered numerous vocal competitions and he appeared on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour in New York in 1952. He played piano and sang for a group known as The Syncopators while in high school. He had learned some things about playing piano during sessions with another noted New Orleans musician, Clarence "Frogman" Henry.
Eventually Frankie was introduced to the New Orleans distributor for Ace Records, Joe Caronna. This resulted in Frankie's first rcording session at Ace, where he recorded Cheatin' Woman which went on to become a regional hit. His next record was Roberta and, on what was originally the "B" side, the song that would establish Frankie in the mind of the record-buying public in the United States, Sea Cruise.
Another New Orleans group, Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns, had recorded Sea Cruise with Bobby Marchan on the lead vocal. Ace Records thought that this would be a good vehicle for Ford, who had by this time changed his last name from Guzzo. So Huey Smith wrote down the words to the song and gave them to Ford, who still has that note to this day. Frankie recorded the vocal and it was added to the music from the Clowns' tapes to produce the final version. Sea Cruise was a massive hit across the country early in 1959, reaching number fourteen on the charts and helping to establish a career for nineteen-year-old Frankie Ford. He had other minor hits on Ace, including Alimony, I Want To Be Your Man, and Danny Boy.
Frankie Ford was and is an exciting performer. In 1960 he signed with Imperial Records and worked with well-known New Orleans record producer Dave Bartholomew on a cover of Joe Jones' You Talk Too Much. Other releases on Imperial included Seventeen, Saturday Night Fish Fry, and Let Them Talk. In 1962 Ford was drafted into the U. S. Army and became a member of the Special Forces, entertaining troops in different parts of Vietnam, Korea, and the United States. Throughout the 60's, 70's and 80's he continued to perform, and recorded for various labels such as Doubloon, Paula, Cinnamon, ABC and Briarmeade. Along the way, he came to be known as the "New Orleans Dynamo" as a result of his dazzling stage performances. In 1978, he appeared in the motion picture American Hot Wax. In 1995, he recorded another album titled Hot & Lonely at the place where it all started for him, Ace Records.
Today Frankie Ford is one of the headliners at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazzfest) every year, and appears at Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and Biloxi, Mississippi several times a year. Annually during the first weekend in October, he closes the Gretna Heritage Festival. Frankie maintains a pace that has him performing 180 to 200 times a year in concerts, festivals, niteclubs and various assorted places. And he is still releasing records -- an album entitled Frankie Ford - A New Orleans Tradition on Avanti Records and Ooowee, Baby! The Very Best of Frankie Ford on Westside Records in London are among his 90's releases. A Canadian compilation, The All Time Greatest Hits Of Frankie Ford, is also available.
His only top forty song, Sea Cruise, has never really gone away. It has appeared in commercials for Coors Light Beer, Diet Coke, and Sprite and it can be heard on the soundtrack of such televison shows and films as Stewardess School, My American Cousin, Ski Patrol, Quantum Leap, and Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.
Frankie Ford has been inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame, which awarded him its "Living Legend Award" in 1999. He continues to live in his hometown of Gretna, Louisiana. A line from Sea Cruise is used on his license plates, which read OOH-WEE.
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