Hit Parade . . . . .
Many people think Frank Ifield is an Australian but he was actually born in 1937 at Coundon near Coventry. However, as the area received considerable bomb damage during the war, like many others in search of a new life, his family emigrated soon after hostilities ended, to a rural district near Sydney. It was there, while milking the cows and working on the land, that he taught himself to emulate the American folk singer, Hank Snow, learning how to yodel at the same time.
His parents gave him a ukulele for his 11th birthday, which was followed soon after by a guitar from his grandmother by which time he had mastered most of the chords for country music. At the age of 13 he persuaded Radio 2GB to allow him on Australia’s Amateur Hour, which led to a recording contract with EMI. Before long he was appearing on the Tim McNamara Show and touring the country with “Big Chief Little Wolf”. Other radio shows followed but National Service in 1957 put an abrupt halt to everything. His lucky break, however, came after demob on Campfire Favourites, the first music show on TCN Channel 9. Before long he was appearing on every TV channel around Sydney on the strength of which EMI promoted him from the Regal Zonophone label to Columbia.
With his sights now set even higher, after several farewell television shows he departed for
England on the inaugural BOAC Comet flight in November 1959. He enjoyed initial moderate success with “Lucky Devil” then, after a few other tries, hit the jackpot in 1962 with “I Remember You”. It was a life- changing moment which made him the first British artiste, and only the seventh in the whole world, to sell more than a million copies. Spending seven weeks at Number 1 in the British charts and making it to Number 5 in the USA, it set a pattern which was repeated the following year with “The Wayward Wind” and “Confessin’ That I Love You”, both of which also made it to Number 1. “Nobody’s Darlin’ but Mine” made it to Number 4 while “Don’t Blame Me” made it to Number 8. Other successes in the Top 30 included “Mule Train”,
“Angry at the Big Oak Tree”, “Summer Is Over”, “Paradise”, “No One Will Ever Know” and “Call Her Your Sweetheart”.
A special highlight of his long career was performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was introduced by one of his singing heroes, Hank Snow. In 1962, in a national audition for the Eurovision Song Contest singing “Alone Too Long”, he came runnerup to Ronnie Carroll’s “Ring- a- Ding Girl” which eventually finished in fourth place.
With Norrie Paramor guiding him along the way, he started to play amongst illustrious company at various venues around the UK, including Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Duane Eddy, Mike and Bernie Winters, and the Everly Brothers. He even fulfilled his dream of playing at the London Palladium but not as he expected because it turned out to be a Royal Command Performance!
He continued touring and singing for many years, including a concert at Wembley and a big summer season at Blackpool but a bout of pneumonia followed by collapsed lungs threatened to bring his professional singing career to an abrupt end. It was not the finale, however, far from it, because henceforth he has devoted his life to hosting and supporting other artistes on television and radio, plus touring folk music groups, both in Australia and the UK. In 1997 he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame ( see above) so, to quote his website, “There is life in the old dog yet!”. A visit to his website will more than confirm the truth of this statement from a golden oldie!
Frank as thousands of his fans remember
him at his peak in the Sixties. He was signed up by EMI in Australia while still a
teenager and made many records before
being called up for National Service. After being demobbed, an appearance on Channel 9 catapulted him to fame and offered him the chance to visit the UK.
Frank has recently appeared with the Nicki Gillis band who have been on tour from “Down Under”. Winner of a Frank Ifield award, Nicki is shown here on the right at the studios of BBC Merseyside, together with Frank ( centre) and solo guitarist Bec Lavelle.
Just to prove age is no barrier to fame or polished performance, in 2007 the UK “Music Maker” magazine featured this picture of Frank on its front cover.
Frank with his Australian contemporary Barry Humphries ( right) at the launch of the biography of Dame Edna Everage!
In July 2007, legendary Australian newsreader and presenter Brian Henderson ( left) inducted Frank into the prestigious ARIA Hall of Fame ( Australian Recording Industry Association).