THE INCREDIBLE SAGA OF J. FRANK WILSON & THE CAVALIERS go to site source
Texas has a long history of great singers. Janis Joplin from Port Arthur, Johnny Winter from Beaumont, Buddy Holly from Lubbock,and Roy Orbison from Wink are the best know. One singer overlooked for years and sometimes relegated to minor one hit wonder pop status was J.Frank Wilson. However as this CD shows his roots were in a rocking sound that was prevalent among some of the best know Texas singers from the early 60's..(John)Frank Wilson was from Lufkin, Texas. He was born on December 11, 1941. His father was a railroad engineer. When J.Frank was growing up in the fifties the sounds of Buddy Holly and Elvis were reverberating over the airwaves and would influence his style of singing.
J.Frank was in the Air Force and stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas till 1962. He knew about The Cavaliers since they were one of the finest bands in town. They needed a new lead singer and J.Frank wanted to enlist. He passed the audition. Sonley Roush was a record producer from Midland, Texas. One time he was at The Blue Note in Big Springs when he saw J.Frank and The Cavaliers perform. He talked to them about recording a Wayne Cochran song that was released as a single by him called "Last Kiss" during this same time period.
Ron Newdoll, had a new studio and recording facility on 14 Tyler Ave. in San Angelo, called Accurate Sound Recording Company. Ron also had a production company called Askell Productions. He worked out a deal with J.Frank and The Cavaliers and Sonley. He would produce, engineer, and allow endless use of the studio for ownership in the masters as producer and royalties. (See photo below of Ron Newdoll (left side) and J.Frank Wilson with their gold records for "Last Kiss"). The Cavaliers at this time were: Lewis Elliott-leader of the group, Roland Atkinson-drums, Gene (Buddy) Croyle-lead-guitar, Mike Hodges-piano. Along with "Last Kiss" numerous other recordings were done, many with the theme of romance and tragedy,
"Tell Laura I Love Her", "A Kiss", "Kiss and Run Away", etc. Other recordings were done in a rock and roll vein, true to the spirit of J.Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers. These are for the most part the
songs include on the J.Frank Wilson "Last Kiss Sessions" CD. Most of them have remained unreleased until now. Of note to collectors: When Ron was done recording "Last Kiss", he shopped it around to labels with Sonley Roush, and Major Bill Smith (of Ft. Worth, Texas). Two different versions of "Last Kiss" ended up on two different labels. The first release was with Tamara Records and is the version of "Last Kiss" included on "The Last Kiss Sessions".
Jamie Records also expressed an interest in the song and signed a contract with Sonley, Ron, and Major Bill. The single was released on the "Josie" label and this was the version that is remembered as the "Hit Version", the version that launched a multi-million selling smash hit. A lawsuit ensued between Jamie Records and Colonial Records (the Parent company of Tamara). Subsequently, a settlement was reached whereby Josie Records became the sole company selling the single.
J.Frank and The Cavaliers were booked by the Morris Booking Agency as "Last Kiss" continued its climb to the top of the charts. They went on a nationwide tour with The Animals and The Royalettes. The tour went through Nashville, New York City, Utica, Rochester and many other cities. The Cavaliers opened the show, backing The Royalettes. Subsequently, J.Frank took the stage with The Cavaliers. Finally, The Animals would take the stage riding high on the chart with their first American hit' The House of The Rising Sun" . The Cavaliers and The Animals had a friendly rivalry (the bands both shared the same tour bus as The Animals saw J.Frank Wilson perform
"Bring It On Home To Me" and later would record the song. After this tour ended Lewis Elliott and Roland Atkinson flew back from New York through Chicago to San Angelo. Sonley was to set up another tour. He went to Nashville and told Lewis and Roland that when the band got to Oklahoma City they would pick up the tour and re-join the band. However, this was not to be. "last Kiss" was #3 the last week of October when tragedy struck. In the early
morning hours of October 23, J.Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers at this time, the band was: Buddy Croyle-sax and guitar, Jerry Graham-drums, Phil Trunzo-
bass), Bobby Wood(a Memphis recording artist for Joy Records) and Sonley Roush were traveling from Parksburg, West Virginia to Lima, Ohio. The band had performed in Parksburg on October 22 and were due to perform in Lima on the evening of the 23rd. Sonley was driving the station wagon on Route 31, south of Kenton, Ohio. He fell asleep at the wheel and at 5:15 A.M. the car drifted left of the center plowing head on into a tractor trailer truck. Sonley was killed instantly and J.Frank was severely injured with head lacerations, broken ribs, and a fractured ankle.
The press had a field day linking the tragedy with the lyrics in "Last Kiss" about a teen-age girl who dies from a car accident in the arms of her boyfriend. A week after the accident the record
was number 2 and then number one the week of November 7(according to Cashbox Magazine-(click chart for view)
In Music Business Magazine (the cover with Jan and Dean-Last Kiss was no. 2 for two weeks in row-click thumbnail of charts and magazine covers for more detail).
Amazingly, J.Frank would be back on the tour circuit within a week of the accident. J.Frank would come onto the stage with his crutches and cast and still perform with the professionalism that made him so famous. Josie would release an album of songs featuring J.Frank on the cover clutching a dying
girl, a la "Last Kiss". The album would sell over 100,000 copies the first few months.
Pictured at left is a copy of Music Business Magazine with Jan and Dean on the cover and the subscription label addressed to Sonley Roush c/o 15 Tyler St.(San Angelo-Ron Newdoll's Studio-Accurate Sound), but the label is crossed out and a handwritten label added to forward the magazine to what is most likely Sonley's Mother's house, as he lived in Midland, Texas before San Angelo and the Postage Due Stamp is from November, 1964!
Although 1964 is best remembered for the year the British invaded the U.S. charts, five singers or groups from West Texas were also quite successful on the charts that year: J.Frank Wilson (San Angelo), Roy Orbison (Wink), The Newbeats ( Midland), Terry Stafford (Amarillo), and Jimmy Gilmer (Amarillo).
J.Frank and The Cavaliers would earn a gold record for "Last Kiss", they never received much money
from royalties. In fact Ron Newdoll had to travel to New York City with his lawyer to sue Josie Records in order to receive their royalties. In the end after all the lawyers and expenses were paid, J.Frank ended up with around $3,000.00 as well as the other Cavaliers. Subsequent singles were released on Josie, "Hey Little One"(which made the billboard top 100)and "Summertime" but none of them would ever reach the heights that "Last Kiss" did. (J.Frank"Song Hits" April 1965 Article)
By the end of the 60's J.Frank was a forgotten figure of the music scene, falling into the dreaded one hit wonder class. In 1969 he re-recorded "Last Kiss" for Major Bill but it failed to re-capture the success in 1964. The 70's would find J.Frank in his hometown of Lufkin. On the tenth year anniversary of "Last Kiss' rein on the charts a major news article revealed that he was working in Lufkin
as a Nursing Home Orderly,earning $250.00 weekly. J.Frank was quoted as saying "They took a little country boy and put him in a big city with big money and he didn't know how to act, I had a hard life, but I learned, learned. I got pretty screwed up, I got on booze and went into institutions for alcohol". On October 4, 1991,J.Frank Wilson passed away.Hopefully this CD will change rock historians perception about his talent to reveal the unique flair and great style J.Frank had when the world was waiting to be conquered by him and The Cavaliers. The Cd contains twenty five tracks, most are previously unreleased and straight from the original master tapes. Order your copy now!