Texas has a long history of great singers. Janis Joplin from Port Arthur,Buddy Holly from Lubbock, and Roy Orbison from Wink are some of the best know. One singer overlooked for years and relegated to one hit pop wonder status is J.Frank Wilson. The recordings on this Cd will provide ample evidence that Wilson’s musical roots were in the rock n’ roll sound thriving in Texas in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
(John) Frank Wilson was from Lufkin, Texas. He was born on December 11, 1941. The story of how J.Frank Wilson joined with the Cavaliers begins when he was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas in the early 60‘s. Wilson knew about The Cavaliers since they were the finest band in town. They needed a new lead singer and J.Frank wanted to enlist. He passed the audition. Sonley Roush was a 27 year old record producer from Midland, Texas. One time he was at The Blue Note Club in Big Springs when he saw J.Frank and The Cavaliers perform and was duly impressed with their stage act. He talked to them about recording a Wayne Cochran song titled \"Last Kiss\".
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 and publishing company called Askell Music & Sound. He worked out a deal with J.Frank, The Cavaliers, and Sonley. He would produce, engineer, and allow endless use of the studio for ownership in the masters as producer and publishing on some of the original songs. The Cavaliers at this time were: Lewis Elliott-leader of the group, Roland Atkinson-drums, Gene (Buddy) Croyle-lead-guitar, and Mike Hodges-piano. The Accurate Sound Recording sessions started in the spring of 1964 and continued thru the rest of the year.
Besides recording “Last Kiss” numerous other recordings were done, many with the theme of romance and tragedy like “Tell Laura I Love Her”, “A Teenager In Love” , “Hey Little One” “Young Love”, “Sea Of Love”, “A Kiss”, “Kiss and Run” and “The Day Before Our Wedding” . Other recordings were done in a rock n’ roll vein, like “If You Knew Me”, “Wine Wine Wine” “Summertime” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. Buddy Holly’s sound also influenced J.Frank’s singing as is clearly evident on “Speak To Me”, Too Many Girls” and “Bound To Happen”.
The first nine songs on this Cd comprise for the most part the projected “Last Kiss” album that Ron and Sonly wanted to release. However the masters used on this Cd never were released in the 60’s! For example, Over The Mountain” is almost twice as long as the recording which appeared on the 1964 “Last Kiss” Josie Records album. Everything that J.Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers recorded for Accurate Sound during the spring and summer of 1964 is included on this Cd with the following exceptions-“That’ll Be The Day”, “Only The Lonely” and “School Days” are omitted because they are perfunctory covers. “Ding Go The Chimes” is just plain awful as is the b-side to “Last Kiss”, “That’s How Much I Love You Baby” and another song called “Eenie Meanie Mine Moe” and these are omitted,too.
When the recording sessions were done Ron Newdoll took “Last Kiss and shopped it around to labels with Sonley Roush but they needed someone big to break it. Major Bill Smith (of Ft. Worth, Texas) was enlisted. Major Bill had already scored a number of big hits with Paul and Paula and Bruce Channel. As a result of Ron, Sonley and Major Bill’s enthusiasm two different versions of \"Last Kiss\" ended up on two different labels. The first release was with Tamara Records (the last track on this Cd) and that version of “Last Kiss“ differs from the hit version because it is a completely different version.
Jamie Records signed a contract with Sonley, Ron, and Major Bill and released “Last Kiss” on the \"Josie\" label in August of 1964. This is the version that is remembered as the \"Hit Version\" and differs from the Tamara single version. A lawsuit ensued between Jamie Records and Tamara Records. A settlement was reached whereby Josie Records became the sole company selling the single and Tamara Records was paid a sum of money. “Last Kiss’ received heavy regional airplay and then started to hit in the major markets. Regionally,“Last Kiss was a hit a full two months before it was number one nationwide. The week of August 8, it was number six at WORC in Worcester, Mass. The week of September 5, it was number one at WORC in Worcester, Mass. and number 4 at WQAM in Miami.
As \"Last Kiss\" continued its climb to the top of the charts J.Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers were booked by the Morris Booking Agency for a tour. 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).
The Animals saw J.Frank Wilson perform \"Bring It On Home To Me\" and later would record the song. The Animals were part of The Beatles led British Invasion that was in full swing when “Last Kiss” was released and that sound affected some of the The Cavaliers recordings like “Tell Laura I Love Her“, “Not This Time“ and “I Saw Her Standing There“. Leading off “I Saw Her Standing There” with a pithy comment aimed squarely at The Beatles haircuts,J.Frank slyly says “they look like a sheepdog”. In another nod to the Fab Four,“Not This Time” starts off with the riffs to “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.The Beatles were influenced by one of Major Bill Smith’s acts, Bruce Channel. The Beatles toured with Bruce Channel in the United Kingdom prior to making it big in the USA. Channel’s harmonica sound (used to great effect in “Hey Baby”) influenced The Beatles early sound on songs such as “Misery“, and “There’s A Place“. The version of “Tell Laura I Lover Her” that appears on this Cd has that same moody sounding harmonica effect The Beatles used that gives this song a melancholy effective edge over the hit version by Ray Peterson.
After the Animals-Royaltettes 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. \"Last Kiss\" was #3 in Cashbox and Billboard Magazine the last week of October when tragedy struck. In the early morning hours of October 23, J.Frank Wilson, The Cavaliers (Buddy Croyle-sax and guitar, Jerry Graham-drums, Phil Trunzo-bass), and 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 lyrical content to “Last Kiss”. The October 31 edition of Billboard Magazine blared on the front page “Crash Kills Roush: Song is Prophetic“. “Last Kiss” hit number one on the Cash Box Top 100, the week of November 7. In Music Business Magazine and Billboard it went to number two. .Josie Records released an album of songs culled from the Accurate Sound recording session, the second week of November. The lp entered the Cash Box top 100 at 91 on November 14. The album would sell over 100,000 copies in the first few months of its release. It would reach as high as number 35 ,the week of December 26, in the top 100 of Music Business Magazine. A follow up single to “Last Kiss” was released the week of November 14-Hey Little One” and “Speak To Me”. The single peaked at number 85 on the Billboard top 100 in December of 1964. “Kiss and Run” which appeared on the “Last Kiss” album was also in the top 100 charts in November but the recording was done by the song’s author, Bobby Skeel and was released on Major Bill’s “Soft” record label. (Soft 826).
The car accident was the beginning of the end for the magical combination of J.Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers. Major Bill tried to make him a solo star but the singles didn’t chart nationally. J.Frank even re-did “Last Kiss” for Major Bill in 1969 and released it as “Last Kiss‘69. By the end of the 60’s J.Frank was a overlooked figure of the music scene, falling into the one hit wonder class. 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. His greatest legacy is captured on these recordings with The Cavaliers.