born 2 November 1949 - Bridgeton
Rod Stewart said of Frankie Miller, He is the only white guy that ever brought a tear to my eye! The widow of the late great Otis Redding reckoned: "that little ole white boy Frankie, has the the blackest voice since Otis. Frankie is a proverbial enigma, widely regarded as one of the finest blues singers that ever lived and as a songwriter he has been covered by an impressive array of artists including, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart, Don Williams, Rush and the Everly Brothers. Frustratingly for everyone who has ever come across Frankie, he has never seemed to live up to his true potential.
Frankie was born in Bridgeton in the East End of Glasgow in 1949 under the shadows of Parkhead Stadium, the home of Celtic football club and even today his affinity with Celtic is still strong. Ex-Celtic European Cup Winner Jimmy Johnston, tells the story of how Frankie scrounged a Celtic jersey from him after a Rangers game and then proceeded to wear it every single night during a rock stadium tour of America! Even at an early age Frankie was determined to be a blues singer, practicing Ray Charles and Sam Cooke songs from his mothers scratchy R&B collection. The writer Jimmy Boyle who is Frankies 2nd cousin, relates how even at the age of 10, Frankie would push larger boys of 64 out the way, when given a hint of an opportunity to sing. By 15 Frankie had left school and begun his apprenticeship as an electrician but his heart was not in it and disillusioned, he soon returned to his first love music.
By 1967 after a brief stint with the Del-Jacks, Frankie, John McGinnis (the pianist formerly of the Blues Council) and guitarist Jimmy Dewar could be found in a new band Sock 'Em JB; an exciting unit fuelled on material by Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Wilson Pickett. Sock 'Em JB was together for only a matter of months, ending when Miller formed a new group Westfarm Cottage , en route to The Stoics. This Glasgow-based band exhibited shades of progressivism and pop. It featured Jack Casey on drums; Jimmy Doris, guitar; Hugh McKenna (SAHB) keyboards; John Wayne on bass; and Frankie providing vocals and guitar. After the band split, Jimmy Doris concentrated on songwriting, particularly for fellow Scottish singer Lulu, but tragically he was later hit by a London bus and died. Hugh McKenna was later in the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Dream Police.
The Stoics was also short lived and Frankie set off to London, where he met Robin Trower of Procol Harum and so began the super group Jude. The ensemble was formed to play the London club circuit and consisted of the following members. Robin, ex-Stone the Crows bass player Jim Dewar and Clive Bunker (ex Jethro Tull). In a very short period the bands reputation grew and they built up a loyal following in the London club scene. Sadly for various reasons Jude never made it to the recording studio and therefore this potential was never captured on vinyl. Their creative differences apart, Frankie did at a later stage join Trower and Procol Harum on stage and a report from the gig stated, "Frankie Miller, fine Scottish singer, strode out to front the hapless Harum and with his high energy vocalising leading the way the group were obliged to wake up and attempt to stay with him. Miller swaggered around the stage in Farmer John hat and wasp-striped tee shirt bellowing the lyrics to Dylan's It Takes A Lot To Laugh, Shoorah Shoorah and (surprisingly) Jim Reeves' He'll Have To Go, and while the combination of soul singer and apocalyptic rock- group wasn't entirely happy, there were several invigorating moments. Frankie received a large ovation for his pains.
Upon the demise of Jude Frankie signed a solo contract with Chrysalis in 1972 and recorded his first album Once In A Blue Moon, supported by the then media darlings Brinsley Schwarz. Rock journalist David Hepworth fondly reflects on the early '70s as the period of the tartan soul wars, with many Scottish artists such as Maggie Bell from Stone the Crows, Jack Bruce of Cream and Rod Stewart leading the export of Scottish blues back to America.
Although critically acclaimed the album only sold sporadically and Frankie took to touring Ireland and the UK with the band Bees Make Honey which included the Irish musicians Ed Deane Jimmy Smyth. However and fortunately for Frankie "Once in a Blue Moon" caught the attention of the New Orleans based producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint and Frankie was invited to the USA to record his soulful and brilliant follow-up, High Life. Toussaints legendary R&B production skills showcased what is still considered some of Millers finest blues vocals. Again the album received large amounts of praise in the music press but commercially it did not sell well. Further to this and to Frankie's dismay, the songs on the album provided hit singles for Three Dog Night and Betty Wright .
By 1975 Miller had formed a full-time band called simply, "The Frankie Miller Band" featuring, Henry McCullough, Mick Weaver, Chrissie Stewart and Stu Perry. The Rock was recorded in sight of the prison of Alcatraz in San Francisco. Frankie commented that it was only music that had saved him that kind of fate and dedicated the album to prisoner and Jimmy Boyle. The album also and included the song "Drunken Nights in the City" written for his late night drinking buddy Jimmy Johnston. Yet another solid effort was met with middling sales and within a year Frankie went back to the drawing board, appearing with a completely new band comprising Ray Minhinnit (guitar), Charlie Harrison (bass), James Hall (keyboards) and Graham Deacon (drums) for the recording of Frankie Miller Full House.
Once again the band lasted only a year. Frankie no longer had his 'Full House' and that seemed to be a good move for him as he again reverted to a becoming a solo artist for the albums Double Trouble and Falling In Love (Perfect Fit). The later album providing him a surprise Top 10 UK hit when "Darlin" in October 1978, this soared up the chart to give him a number six placing and a ten week chart residency. His follow up "When I'm Away From You" was just as good, but stopped two places short of the 40. Billy Connolly gives us a wonderful view of Frankies character when he tells how a typically destructive Frankie rather than celebrate the songs success, bemoaned the fact that his biggest hit was not his song.
Chris Mercer (seen here behind Frankie) who played tenor & baritone sax on the album Double Trouble gives us another fascinating and amusing insight into recording industry in the 70s " This band had some heavyweight players, Chrissie, Ray Russell-noted studio gun, Paul Carrack, the late great BJ Wilson, Martin Drover and myself on horns. The album was produced by Jack Douglas from New York, which was typical of the era when Record Companies hired 'hot' producers, regardless of their feel for the music being created. A tragic exception of course was the wonderful album he made with Toussaint, which never got the recognition but was the right thing to have done. On Double Trouble the horns were pitifully under-balanced in the mix and he didn't even use the dynamite section parts we recorded on 'Goodnight sweetheart". The album has some very powerful playing and singing but is very rockish, whereas Frankie's true gift was R&B".
During the next few years Miller produced a number of quality albums including, Easy Money (1980), Standing On The Edge (1982), Dancing In The Rain (1986), BBC Radio 1 in Concert (1994). He also had a major hit with the single Caledonia written by Dougie McLean which was voted a close second to the Corries Flower of Scotland as the greatest Scots song of all time by over 100000 Daily Record readers.
Mary Saums the Nashville recording engineer and author reminisces, "I worked on Frankie's Standing On The Edge album which had the song, "Angels With Dirty Faces", recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound and produced by Barry Beckett. Frankie impressed all of us, mainly because he was as much a workaholic as the rest of the crew. Whether writing a new song or doing a guitar or vocal track, Frankie seemed to enjoy throwing himself into the thick of it - the harder the work, the better he liked it. A real professional".
Guitarist Chris Spedding who worked on three of Miller's albums reflects, "His singing was always very emotional. One of the best rhythm'n'blues singers that were around in Britain at that time (70s). He never had the luck of say, Joe Cocker, which is a great shame because, unlike Joe, Frankie was also a pretty good songwriter", Chris strongest memory of Frankie is his smile and as a singer he says that Frankie is, " Definitely the equal of Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart. I'm sure Joe and Rod both would agree. They'd better!"
Ever the confident performer he turned his talents to acting, gaining rave revues for his portrayal of a hard man in Scots director Peter McDougalls 1979 BBC Scotland production Just a Boys Game. His music has further featured in many films and plays including the dramatic, "Sense of Freedom" and a duet of the Ry Cooder song Why Dont You Try Me with singer Sarah Beth for the Soundtrack of the Belgian movie, "Ad Fundum".
On the 26th of August 1994 Frankie and partner were in New York meeting an old friend Joe Walsh of the Eagles who was performing that night. After the show and as was often the case Annette went to bed leaving Frankie to sit writing songs on his guitar. A few hours later Annette awoke to find Frankie covered in blood and gasping for air. Annette called for an ambulance and nursing and willing him to stay alive for some 20 minutes until help arrived. Frankie had suffered a major brain haemorrhage and drifted deep into a coma from which he would not emerge for 5 months. When Frankie finally gained consciousness he and Annette began to begin the hard struggle back to health. Frankies fortitude was astounding shortly after the accident he was given a two percent chance of survival and Annette was told he would never walk or talk again. Defying the odds he with the support of Annette spent a further 15 months in hospital learning to walk, talk and regain his life. A major turning point in Frankies rehabilitation came on the day Graham Lyle from Gallagher & Lyle visited Frankie in hospital with his guitar. Graham asked Frankie to play the chord C, forming the chord with his good hand whilst Graham strummed the strings Frankie not only played C but a succession of other chords. It was on that day Annette knew the old Frankie was back.
Billy Connolly when interviewed by the BBC about Frankies story said, You have either got the life force or you dont and Frankie has it by the bucket load. Frankie has since returned to his home in London where not only does he continue his rehabilitation by learning a new word everyday but with the help of Cormac OKane and the Drake Music Project, Frankie has begun to write music again. In a recent benefit concert in Edinburgh, Jools Holland Paul Carrack and Bonnie Tyler performed a new Frankie Miller/ Will Jennings composition, The Sun Comes Up, The Sun Goes Down to a packed audience. No one is sure what the future holds for Frankie but there are rumours of a tribute album, the start up of the Frankie Miller Song Writing Project and Frankie continues to pen the blues. In Annettes inspiring words, for Frankie, life just gets better every day!!!
Visit the Frankie Miller Homepage
The information above is being used solely as a historical archive of the Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom. In all cases we have endeavored to give full credits and reciprocal links back to the original site. Where possible we have also tried to contact the originator, if however you find anything on this site which breaches copyright or presents an inaccurate representation, please email us and the article will be amended or removed. Thank you for your help.