The Blues Brothers are up on stage in that dingy old honky
tonk, and the rowdy crowd is hurtling beer bottles. Apparently,
cowboys aren't big fans of the blues, so the Brothers huddle
up and decide what to do to appease their crowd; they will
play the only song they know with a cowboy theme: "Rawhide."
Whips crack. The crowd goes wild. Even in this venue, the
Blues Brothers turn out to be a big hit.
I must have seen this film a thousand times, but here - the
one thousand and first viewing - I paused to wonder where
this song "Rawhide" came from.
Oh, I know about the 1959 Clint Eastwood television show
by the same name that used the song as a theme song - I
guess the question I really want answered is "who sang
Well, I found out that this story takes us all the way
back to 1913 with the birth of little Francesco Paolo LoVecchio.
Born in Chicago of Sicilian parents, Little Francesco began
a career in singing as a Catholic choirboy and grew up to
dance and entertain on the marathon circuit. After bouncing
around nightclubs in the ensuing years - from Chicago to
Connecticut - Frankie tried New York and failed and tried
again. This time a radio station, WINS, hired him to sing,
and Jack Coombs convinced his new singer to Americanize
his name; thus was made the great Frankie Laine.
But the "great" was still slow in coming. Frankie
soon lost his job and bounced around singing and hoping
for many more years. Then one day - his luck changed.
Frankie was chosen to sing "I May Be Wrong But I Think
You're Wonderful" on the B side of a Mercury record.
Carrying it himself to DJ Al Jarvis, Frankie got it on the
air, and, as he says in his autobiography, "That Lucky
Old Sun," "The floodgates finally broke open."
Frankie had promised himself he would not go back to New
York unless he was on a white horse - and go back on
a white horse he did. The last time he had been there, he
had struggled and even found himself sleeping on a roughened
wooden bench in Central Park eating penny Baby Ruth candy
bars to stay alive. This time, with many number one songs
to his name, Frankie returned to sit on that same bench
in an expensive suit with an expensive suite key in his
pocket - and an engagement at the Paramount on his mind.
Within a few years, he would be mobbed with fans and even
entertain the Queen of England in a command performance.
Then, in 1958, the singer of a stream of such number one
hits as "That's My Desire" and "On the Sunny
Side of the Street" was asked to sing the theme song
for a new television show starring a new actor, and, of
course, this was the moment that gave birth to the international
Thus we see that those cowboys in that dingy old honky
tonk may just have been bigger fans of the blues than they
knew - after all, they were applauding a song made famous
by a bluesy, jazzy singer who struggled for many a year
before finally making a name as the great Frankie Laine.