Frankie Vaughn (Frank Abelson) was born in Liverpool to a Jewish family of Russian descent. His stage name came about because of his Russian grandmother. She used to call him “my number one grandson”, but because of her Russian accent it sounded like “my number Vaughan grandson”.
Vaughan had early aspirations of being a boxer after joining the Lancaster Lads Club while an evacuee during the Second World War. Such was his affection for these establishments; Vaughan dedicated his royalties from one song every year to the National Association of Boy’s Clubs.
Vaughan’s career started to flourish in the late 1940’s while performing largely in the realm of theater.
He was a variety performer then and was generally dressed in a top hat, tails, cane, bow tie etc. In the early 1950’s he worked in the Nat Temple band until he started making records resulting in his popularity growing in the United Kingdom.
In 1955 he recorded one of his trademark songs, Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl. He concentrated largely on highly successful American material. He recorded lots of covers such as Boyd Bennetts Seventeen and Jim Lowe’s The Green Door.
Frankie’s first number one came in 1957 with his version of a song called The Garden of Eden staying in the #1 position for four weeks.
1957 also brought Vaughan’s first film starring in These Dangerous Years. He also won an award after being voted Show business Personality of the Year.
Movie The Heart of a Man
Vaughan released several songs in the following years. The vast majority of which became top 40 hits in the UK charts. He had to wait until 1961 to score his next #1 with a cover of a Gene McDaniels song called Tower of Strength. Vaughan also starred in the 1959 film The Heart of a Man.
The early 1960’s brought other forms of success as he made the jump to the silver screen. In the US, he stared alongside Marilyn Monroe in Lets Make Love. Sadly ,he couldn’t replicate his prolific UK chart success across the other side of the Atlantic.
Grand Order of Water Rats
In 1961 Vaughn took part in the Royal Variety Performance. He also got involved in social programs in Easterhouse, a sprawling housing estate just outside Glasgow, Scotland. He was successful in helping to attract new investment and resources to the area.
He was also a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats. This organization helps members of the entertainment industry and their dependents who may be in need due to illness or old age.
Through arranging lunches or gigs the group also raises money for hospitals, health charities and other good causes. Vaughan was appointed King Rat in 1968 and 1998.
Vaughan began a slow exodus of the charts from the mid 1960’s with the rise of Liverpool’s beat bands. Although he did briefly hit the top 10 in the UK again in 1967 with a song called There Must Be a Way. This was to be Frankie’s last entry into the Top ten. Although he did manage two more entries into the Top 40 with So Tired (1967) and Nevertheless (1968).
Frankie Vaughan Death
Vaughan was a constant performer until 1985. While starring on the stage in a portrayal of 42nd Street in London, he contracted Peritonitis, an abdominal illness, and had to leave the cast.
Vaughan died in 1999 of heart failure aged 71. He had been married for 48 years and had three children and numerous grandchildren.
Awarded the OBE in 1965 and the CBE in 1996 Vaughan was also an Honorary fellow at Liverpool John Moores University. The Frankie Vaughn Archive containing sheet music and scores was donated to the University in 2000 by his widow Stella Vaughan.