True Blue

With the recent changes in direction in the automotive industry in our country, I don’t know what the future will hold for the brands that our family stood by ever since they traded in their horse and wagon. I would like to say that I am hopeful that some of the great traditions and loyalties will remain despite what the future may hold.
When I was in my youth, there was a bit of variety in choice, but for most it came down to two choices. The division begins at early age and you figure out that you are either on one side or the other pretty soon.
Do you drive a Chevrolet or a FORD, Fix Or Repair Daily?
Now in our household we were a Chevrolet family. From the early blue Malibu to the golden Chevy pickup to the candy apple red Monte Carlo. Everything my parents drove at that point was a Chevrolet.
I do have a faint remembrance of my brother driving a Volkswagen bug when he was in service. He wore out two motors hauling sailors back and forth from Norfolk to Atlanta. I will say one thing about those bugs — they didn’t use much gas. But one thing about it, you sure could not tell how to operate one. All the little buttons had funny little symbols on them. I remember right after he first got it, we went for a ride. We nearly froze to death trying to figure out how to turn on the heater. After we got back, sporting two different shades of blue, my mom jumped in and drove it around the block. When she got out, she said, “Boy, that thing has a dandy heater in it.”
I still wonder where that heater knob was.
By the time I got to driving age, it was time for me to make my decision. Will I be a Chevy or a Ford man.
My dad and I went to the government auction and looked over a variety of cars. With my limited funds, in spite of the fact I wanted a Chevy, I got my own Ford Pinto. Now, I grew to love that car until it perished in a collision with a great big Chevy.
I then graduated to a Ford Pinto station wagon, and later a Ford Fairmont station wagon.
Now, if this is looking like a trend, it isn’t. It just seemed like that’s all those folks at the government auctions wanted to get rid of. Guess they wanted to keep their Chevys.
Finally, since I was traveling so much on the road between music appearances, my mother convinced me to invest in a brand new Chevy S-10, metallic blue with an extended cab. Boy, was I proud of that truck, even though it cost more than my parent’s first house.
Why is that you reckon? There is something wrong when to buy a car, you have to pay what someone paid for the house they live in.
“Blue,” as I called my Chevy, served me until 2004 when I retired it with over 330,000 miles on it. I had no major problems in 15 years of driving. We drove through ice, snow and through the depths of the August southwestern deserts. Of course, there were often prayers in the desert to God above to help us pass safely through.
I guess I did have one problem with Blue.
Blue had a star complex.
Several years ago I made my acting and singing debut in a film for CBS titled “Desperate for Love.” The director selected my truck to use as a set for one of the major scenes.
The teen-age theme was set around a high school choir and a love triangle that results in one of the leads dying. The film featured Christian Slater, Brian Bloom, Tammy Lauren and Veronica Cartwright. In one scene, Old Blue co-starred with them all as they danced, joked and cut up in Blue’s bed. After everything was said and done, the truck earned more money than I did that day.
Which I really did not mind. After all, I was the one who had to feed Blue.
After that I just couldn’t keep Blue out of episodes of “In the Heat of the Night.” Almost every week you could see that metallic blue pickup passing by in one scene or another. Blue just had a need to be on camera.
That was one of the reasons it was so hard to let the reliable friend go some years ago. I had always envisioned Blue well polished, sitting in a film and television museum somewhere stuffed like Roy Roger’s “Trigger.”
In all the years Old Blue and I hit the trail, Blue only failed me once, when I was on my way to do a commercial audition in Charlotte, N.C.
Just as I came out of the mountains in the dark of the wee hours of the morning, Old Blue began to balk. I pulled off and as I made it under the bridge, Blue died. Conveniently he carried me with his last breath to a sheltered area where I would not be standing in the rain that had just started coming down. Before long a police officer came by and helped me get pulled to a local garage, where after about five hours and a reasonable payment for the replacement of a coil, I was back on my way to the audition. I arrived a bit late but still ready to roll. After ten minutes, I had rejoined Old Blue for the trip home. I did not get the commercial. And you know Blue never gave me one more bit of trouble.
Somehow I just know that Blue figured out I was auditioning for a Ford commercial.

Actor/Entertainer Randall Franks’s musical milestone benefits next generation

30yearscdvol1-front-coverEntertainer/actor Randall Franks reflects on his musical successes by defining a special purpose for his recordings with a special CD series.

Randall Franks: 30 Years on Radio and TV Volume I,” released this month worldwide from the Share America Foundation in cooperation with Crimson Records, shares 23 Christian music and comedy recordings that helped Franks make a mark on radio or TV.

“God allowed me to sing and play some of the most inspiring and uplifting songs thus far during my career,” he said. “Radio and TV listeners responded time and time again helping create sellers that helped me climb the charts. I am honored to look back at the hours of recordings and select some of the best for these collections donating the use of the masters for these CDs to help us encourage a new generation of Appalachian singers and musicians through college scholarships.”

Monies received from the CD will help to fund the Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarships awarded annually by the Share America Foundation, Inc., a Georgia 501-C-3 based in Catoosa County, Ga.

1987-marksmenrexnelonEntertainer Randall Franks (right) joins gospel music luminaries Eldridge Fox of The Kingsmen Quartet (third from left), Rex Nelon of the Rex Nelon Singers (fourth from left) and The Marksmen Quartet, (from left) Rob Gillentine, Mark Wheeler, Earle Wheeler, and Keith Chambers at a recording session for MBM Records at Perfection Sound in 1987. Franks began recording his first Christian hits here.

Franks became the first solo bluegrass artist to reach the top rankings of the Christian music sales charts with his “Handshakes and Smiles” in 1990 forging new ground and opening new sales outlets for tradition artists to share their music. He created a partnership at Benson with the late producer Norman Holland, garnering turntable hits including the Telly Award nominee “Handshakes and Smiles,” “He’s Never Gonna Fool Me Again,” “You Better Get Ready,” “Pass Me Not” and “Rock of Ages.” He then solidified a presence in traditional gospel music through a long-lasting association with producer Chris White and Sonlite Records producing numerous radio and sales successes.

“When I started out, I was so blessed to have the support and encouragement of so many of the Christian music industry’s leaders,” Franks said, “Their help made the journey so much easier and definitely more fun.”

God’s Children with Randall Franks and the Watkins Family (Randall Franks and Cotton Carrier/Peach Picked Publishing/BMI)

The first volume of 30 Years highlights some key songs which charted, were broadcast around the world or received award nods in various genres of Christian music. Many recordings feature collaborations between Franks and current or past genre stars, many of whom are now members of their respective music halls of fame.

“I performed with so many stars in my career and I am so honored that many of them came into my life helping me create the sound and the songs that folks listened to through the years,” Franks said. “Nothing I have done would have been possible without their contributions.”

1998-shroyersonny-croppedSonny Shroyer, “Enos” from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” joined Randall Franks to record “Children in Need” in 1999 for the CD “God’s Children” bringing the classic recitation performance to radio around the world.

Nine of the songs included were authored or co-written by Franks such as his “Now I Know,” popularized by the Marksmen Quartet, “God’s Children” written by Franks with Georgia Music Hall of Famer Cotton Carrier, or “Children in Need” recorded with “The Dukes of Hazzard” star Sonny “Enos” Shroyer and bluegrass star David Davis. Nine of the recordings are church standards such as “Amazing Grace” performed with bluegrass banjo legend Raymond Fairchild, “In the Garden” with Southern gospel stars Voices Won, or his international hit of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” The remainder are popular hits in their respective gospel sub-genres.

Among the other notable award winners included performing with Franks are the Carol Lee Singers, Darrin Chambers, David Davis and the Warrior River Boys, Doodle and the Golden River Grass, Jerry Douglas, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Steve Easter, Travis Lewis,  Lewis Phillips, “Doc” Tommy Scott, Gary Waldrep, The Watkins Family, Mark Wheeler, and Grand Ole Opry stars – the Whites.

Other recordings featured include: “You Gotta Know the Lows,” “I’ll Meet You in Church Sunday Morning,””Must Be A Reason,” “Meeting in the Air,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “This World Is Not My Home,” “Building On Sand,” “He’s Never Gonna Fool Me Again,” “Rock of Ages,” “Letter from Down Home,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Gloryland March,” “Who Do You Think,” “Precious Memories,” “The Pilgrimage to Bethlehem,” and “Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas.”

2009nqctim0405Fiddler Randall Franks (second from left) appears with the National Quartet Convention All-Star Band in 2009 for an INSP TV special with from left, Tim Lovelace, Lorie Watkins, Jeff Tolbert, Mike Riddle, Randy “Scoot” Shelnut, Jr. (Photo by Regina Watkins)

Franks, who is best known as “Officer Randy Goode” from the TV series “In the Heat of the Night,” starred in three TV series and 15 films. He became a country music personality as a youth beginning appearances at major country, folk, bluegrass and gospel events such as Country Music Association Fan Fair, National Folk Festival, National Quartet Convention, National Black Arts Festival and for the Grand Ole Opry. With 24 career albums in four genres, he has performed to over 145 million fans around the world. Musically, he is recognized as an International Bluegrass Music Museum Legend and Independent Country Music Hall of Fame member. Among his many awards are multiple ASE Bluegrass Band of the Year awards and numerous contributory nominations for SPBGMA Traditional and Contemporary Bluegrass Gospel Band of the Year. He appeared repeatedly as part of NQC All Star Band. He is a syndicated columnist featured in newspapers across the Southeast and Midwestern U.S.

This Little Light of Mine Randall Franks with David Davis and the Warrior River Boys (Randall Franks/Peach Picked Publishing/BMI)

“Randall Franks: 30 Years on Radio and TV Volume II,” featuring an Americana, country, folk and bluegrass hits collection, is expected for release in late November also benefiting the scholarship.

The CD is available for a donation of $14 at