John Charles "Johnny" Franz (23 February 1922 – 29 January 1977) was an English record producer and A&R man at the Philips label. He was one of Britain's most successful producers in the 1950s and 1960s. While his recordings encompassed several forms of mainstream popular music, his most enduring contributions were to British pop music of the mid-1960s on records by Dusty Springfield, The Walker Brothers, and the early solo recordings of Scott Walker.
|Birth name||John Charles Franz|
23 February 1922|
Holloway, London, England
|Died||29 January 1977
Hampstead, London, England
|Occupation(s)||Pianist, arranger, record producer|
|Years active||Late 1940s – 1970s|
He was born in Holloway, London, England, and learned piano before joining the music publishers Francis, Day & Hunter as an office boy in Denmark Street, the British equivalent of Tin Pan Alley. He also worked as a club pianist in dance bands, and appeared on radio with harmonica player Ronald Chesney. By the late 1940s he was regarded as one of Britain's top accompanists for singers such as Anne Shelton, and at one time performed with famed jazzman George Shearing.
He also worked as a BBC orchestrator before becoming the head of A&R at Philips Records in 1954. Franz went on to produce many prolific British artists for the label, including Shirley Bassey, the Beverley Sisters, Frankie Vaughan, Robert Earl, Susan Maughan, Marty Wilde, Ronnie Carroll, Harry Secombe, Winifred Atwell, The Springfields, The Four Pennies, Julie Rogers, Peters and Lee, Dusty Springfield, ((Anne Shelton)) and the Walker Brothers in the 1960s, as well as American singers who recorded in Britain, such as Mel Tormé. He was a piano accompanist to both Anne Shelton and Harry Secombe for many years and also worked with some American artists under license from Columbia Records, such as Johnnie Ray, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney. Franz's production trademarks were a lush choir and big orchestras, provided by Wally Stott, Ivor Raymonde and Peter Knight.
Franz oversaw discs that matched first-class pop rock material and vocalists with the sort of orchestral production that was more typical of middle of the road pop. Franz's role with these artists seems not to have been so much that of an innovator as one of a capable delegator. For Dusty Springfield's first solo record in 1963 "I Only Want to Be with You" and the many that followed – which were the best British equivalents to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound – he relied heavily upon arranger Ivor Raymonde who also co-wrote "I Only Want To Be With You". Raymonde also did some work on Walker Brothers hits (like "Make It Easy on Yourself"), which were aided by engineer Peter Olliff. The more classical sounding Walker Brothers arrangements were frequently handled by Reg Guest.
Franz and Olliff continued to work with Scott Walker on the singer's early solo albums, in which he developed a more serious and sombre approach to both repertoire and vocals. Walker and Franz were personal friends, and Franz arranged for Scott to study with British vocal instructor Freddie Winrose, who taught the singer much about breath control. However Franz could not continue working with Walker after the singer left Philips to sign with CBS records in 1973, except to give valuable advice.
He married his secretary Moira Creamer in 1966. His younger brother Harold worked as a promotion man for EMI Music Publishing. Franz would consume copious cups of tea and cigarettes at any time of day, but especially during recording sessions. He was proud of his Rolls Royce car which he bought from Harry Secombe, another successful artist of the 1950s and 1960s that Franz had produced.
Franz, who was known as the "last of the great pros", died of a heart attack in 1977 whilst in the Brompton Hospital, at the age of 54. A memorial service was held for him at St Martin-in-the-Fields soon afterwards.
- "Let's Have Another Party" – Winifred Atwell (1954)
- "Lay Down Your Arms" – Anne Shelton (1956)
- "The Garden of Eden" – Frankie Vaughan (1957)
- "As I Love You" – Shirley Bassey (1959)
- "Tower of Strength" – Frankie Vaughan (1961)
- "Juliet" – The Four Pennies (1964)
- "Make It Easy on Yourself" – The Walker Brothers (1965)
- "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" – The Walker Brothers (1966)
- "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" – Dusty Springfield (1966)
- "Welcome Home" – Peters and Lee (1973)
- "Biography by Richie Unterberger". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
- Biography at Allmusic.com. Retrieved 6 June 2014
- Colin Larkin, The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 1995, p.1545.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 262. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.