|Subject: Singer Paul Douglas Franklin
Dies at 85
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Date Posted: Thursday, January 31, 07:13:47am
Paul Douglas Franklin
New York City
Paul Douglas Franklin passed away in New York City on Friday, January 11. While his was not a marquee name his life and work touched on almost every aspect of popular and classical performing arts in America during the second half of the twentieth century.
Born in 1933, in Raleigh, North Carolina to Paul Livingston "Buddy" Franklin and Elizabeth Louise Woodall Franklin, and descended from the loyalist side of Benjamin Franklin's family, music – all kinds of music – was his primary interest from an early age.
He attended Hugh Morson High School, Duke University and pursued graduate studies at Converse College School of Music. Following his graduation from Duke in 1955, Douglas served as the Director of Music and Education for two years at Westover Methodist Church, in Raleigh, where, as a young man, he had played organ at their groundbreaking ceremonies and had sung in the choir. In 1957 he took up the same position at Central Methodist Church, in Concord, S.C., serving for three years.
He was active with Raleigh's Little Theater and was the musical director for their first musical, "The Pajama Game," which opened the 1957-58 season.
In the early years of the Charlotte Opera Association he sang the roles of Brach Weaver in Kurt Weill's "Down in the Valley," Paquillo in Offenbach's "La Périchole," and played the Customs Sargent and sang in the ensemble in "La Boheme." He also appeared as Valentian in Gounod's "Faust," opposite John Alexander, Scapin in Pergolesi's "La Serva Padrona," played Bobby van Husen in the Flat Rock Playhouse's first musical production, "The Boy Friend," and served as the Narrator for the outdoor drama "Horn in the West." He also sang and recorded with the Charlotte based songwriter and composer, Loonis McGlohon.
At the same time that he was performing in operas, musicals, giving concerts and conducting church choirs in North and South Carolina, he entered into the overlapping musical world that was the early days of 45 r.p.m. records, embracing as it did popular music, folk songs, early rock-and-roll, rockabilly, and country and western. Working at Colonial Records he was eventually moved up to the lead singer role with a group called the Blue Notes.
"My Lucky Love" was the most successful of the records they made together. In 1958 it landed on both the Billboard and Cash Box Top 100 charts. The recording was also released, on different labels, in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Promotions for these recordings were made by many record signing appearance at local record stores and personal appearances on television programs throughout the mid-Atlantic, including an appearance on Baltimore's Buddy Deane show, the music and dance program that was John Waters model for the Corny Collins show in his 1988 film "Hairspray."
"My Lucky Love" and several of the other songs he recorded are still available on CD collections, including The Golden Age of American Popular Music [Ace Records] and That'll Flat Git It! Volumn 31: Rockabilly & Rock 'n' Roll From The Vaults Of Colonial Records [Bear Family Records].
When he moved to New York City in 1961 there was a wide range of music making being done and Douglas was able to take part in every part of it.
He sang under Leonard Bernstein and George Solti at the New York Philharmonic, with Julius Rudel at the Caramoor Festival, for the American Ballet Theater's premiere of Stravinsky's "Les Noce," choreographed by Jerome Robbins: in live performances with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and in many opera and choral concert engagements at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall.
He was an original member of the Robert de Cormier Folk Singers, performing with them on tour, on Command Records and for an episode of a CBS Television series on World War I, which focused on the songs of the era that were sung on both the front lines and the home front.
He sang with Pink Floyd and made vocal arrangements and provided choral direction for Naphtali "Tuli" Kupferberg and his group The Fugs. He became a member of the Harry Belafonte Singers and was a member of the Ed Sullivan Singers, performing both off and on camera, at times appearing and working with the Sullivan dance troupe which was led by Peter Gennaro.
After that Douglas became the lighting director and production stage manager for such concert artists as Mr. Belafonte, Steve Laurence and Eydie Gorme, Nana Mouskouri and Chuck Mangione, touring across the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. Numbered among his colleagues during these years were Lena Horne, Falumi Prince, Sivuca, Rhetta Hughes, Don Rickles, Morty Gunty, Patty Austin and Letta Mbulu.
Following his years touring the world, Mr. Franklin became a studio manager and electronic graphics operator for a number of television production facilities in New York City, contributing to such productions as The Tony Awards, The Night of a Hundred Stars, Tintypes, Attitudes with Linda Dano, Biggers and Sommers and Handmade by Design with Bobby Flay.
Later in life, Mr. Franklin returned to acting, playing such roles as Martin Vanderhoff in "You Can't Take it With You" for the Star Players in Taunton, MA; Henry in "Trouble in Mind" for the Negro Ensemble Company and in the 1996 short film "Cater-Waiter."
Mr. Franklin ended his working career as an administrative assistant to the Senior Minister of Christ Church United Methodist, at Park Avenue and 60th Street, and at New York's storied Grolier Club.
He is survived by his partner and husband of 38 years, Elliot J. Cohen, of New York City; by his sister, Linda Crawford of Pensacola, Florida; and by his nieces, Elizabeth Callahan, also of Pensacola and Caroline Abrahamson of Lawrence, Kansas, and several grand nieces and a grand nephew.
Published in The News & Observer on Feb. 1, 2019.
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