*Los Angeles-based singer Franchesca Robi (Gilchriese) is the daughter of the late Paul Robi, an original member of The Platters, one of the most successful musical singing groups of the fifties rock’n’roll era.
Franchesca just wrapped up her new album, titled “Remembering The Platters: Songs of My Father,” that is being released digitally on June 15, 2012, and on CD later in the third quarter of 2012. Co-executive produced with Studio City’s DaBet Music Services, the recording features Franchesca performing her own renditions of a carefully selected collection of songs made famous by The Platters.
Franchesca returned to Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood in 2012 to finish recording for “Remembering The Platters,” and was joined by a star-studded cast of support including: engineer Dan Wallin, arranger Tim Simonec, guitarist George Doering, bassist Chuck Berghoffer, drummer Peter Erskine, pianist Jim Cox and tenor saxophonist Gene Cipriano. Her first recording session earlier in the project in 2011 involved work with a complete orchestra of 35 union musicians from Local 47, including 15 student musicians of Cal State Northridge professor/violinist Mike Ferril.
Her return to the recording studio is a significant change of direction for Franchesca, who put her music career on a two-decade-plus hiatus to build a marriage and family, with husband Tom Gilchriese, and earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cal State Northridge.
“Although I love being a wife and mother I have never lost the love for the wonderful music my father left in my heart,” says Franchesca. “This new album is my way of keeping my father’s musical legacy alive. The Platters albums include some of the most beautiful songs ever recorded.”
On April 26, 1955, The Platters recorded their first number No. 1 hit – “Only You” – at Capital Records. Within a year they had 10 number No. 1 hits, including “The Great Pretender,” “Twilight Time,” “Smoke Gets in your Eyes,” “My Prayer,” “The Magic Touch,” “Enchanted,” “I’m Sorry” and “Heaven on Earth.” The Platters became internationally known stars, appearing in movies and television and performing all over the world. “Only You” is the first single being released from Franchesca’s new tribute album.
Although the group had world-wide success, the group members did not reap all the benefits of that success, due to alleged mismanagement. In 1960 the group disbanded, but Paul Robi continued to perform The Platters music to adoring audiences. According to Franchesca, her father sued his former manager and won one of the most important trademark cases to date.
At a very young age Franchesca remembers watching her father rehearsing The Platters in her living room. Paul Robi, who was the group’s baritone, had a tremendous ear for harmonies and vocal coaching was his passion. At that time, she says she had no idea how deeply that music would impact her and the rest of the world. “The notes and melodies heard in my living room, that are now so embedded in my heart, were the songs of The Platters,” she remembers.
In 1988, Robi was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He became very weak and could no longer perform. At that time, Franchesca’s father asked her to join his group.
“I knew all of the music note by note,” recalls Franchesca, “and, like my father, I felt I was capable of coaching the singers and rehearsing the musicians. I decided to try it and everyone loved it. After watching my father perform for so many years, it was second nature to me. I began traveling, performing The Platters music all over the world.”
Franchesca went on to tour with the group to Finland, Italy, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, China, Turkey, Germany, and even performed in Monte Carlo, for Prince Albert at the famous Formula One race. She also performed with the Boston Symphony directed by Marvin Hamlish, and at the Kennedy Center in New York for Vice President Dan Quayle.
When Paul Robi passed away on Feb. 1, 1989, Franchesca decided to reevaluate her life goals, stop touring, and go back to school to earn her degree. In 1990 The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Life on the road as a musician was exciting but also can become very lonely, so I got married and started a beautiful family,” Franchesca says.
“This new album is my way of honoring my father’s memory by keeping The Platters music alive,” she concludes. “It was tremendous experience traveling and performing with the group when I was younger, and now I look forward to sharing my own recording of these beautiful songs with those who already love The Platters music, as well as new fans who will learn to love them, too.”
Franchesca’s tribute album to her father features 12 tracks, including: “Only You,” “It Isn’t Right,” “My Prayer,” “The Mystery Of You,” “Only Because,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “Wish It Were Me,” “(You’ve Got) The Magic Touch,” “I Wish,” “No Power On Earth,” “For The First Time” and “The Great Pretender.”