He was born Frank Abelson to a Jewish family in Liverpool, England. The name Vaughan came from a grandmother whose first grandson he was, who used to call Frank “my number one” grandson, in whose Russian accent “one” sounded like “Vaughan.”
In his early life, he was a member of the Lancaster Lads Club, a member group of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs in the UK, and in his career he was a major contributor to the clubs, dedicating his monetary compensation from one song each year to them. He started out at the club intending to be a boxer. Then at age 14 he received a scholarship to the Lancaster College of Art, where he sang in the dance band. After a stint in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II (where he spent most of his time boxing) he returned to art school, this time at the Leeds College of Art.
When he won a prize to design a furniture exhibition stand, he left for London, where he won second prize on a radio talent show.
Frankie’s career began in the late 1940s in the theatre doing variety song and dance acts. He was known as a fancy dresser, wearing top hat, bow tie, tails, and cane. In the 1950s he began making records, and was very popular in the UK. In 1955, he recorded what was to become his trademark song, “Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl.”
He recorded a large number of songs that were covers of United States hit songs, including Perry Como’s “Kewpie Doll,” Jimmie Rodgers’ “Kisses Sweeter than Wine,”Boyd Bennett’s “Seventeen” (also covered in the US by the Fontane Sisters), Jim Lowe’s “The Green Door,” and (with the Kaye Sisters) the Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me.” From the 1950s through the 1960s, his recordings were popular chart toppers in the UK.
He came to the United States in 1960 to make a movie with Marilyn Monroe, “Let’s Make Love,” and was an actor in several other movies, but his recordings were never chart hits in the US (though one, “Judy,” did make the charts briefly and at a very low spot; even that one never got much air play in the US).
During the 1960’s he became involved with youth social problems in Easterhouse, a large housing estate in the outskirts of Glasgow, and was influential in attracting new resources and inward investment to the area.
He continued performing until 1985, when he starred in a stage version of “42nd Street” at Drury Lane in London. After a year, he suffered a near fatal bout of peritonitis and had to leave the cast. He was married to Stella from 1951 to 1999 and they had three children and several grandchildren. He was awarded an OBE in 1965, a CBE in 1996 and had been a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Buckinghamshire since 1993. He died from heart failure in 1999, aged 71.
Edited by Gutol on 26 Dec 2006, 11:33
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