Tangents: When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
Randy Franklin: Like most baby boomers, I was raised on the music of the Beatles and the music of the 1960’s. For Christmas of 1966, my brother Tommy got drums and I got a guitar. We wanted to be the next Beatles, or at least the Monkees. It was on from there.
Tangents: Describe your first concert(s), and your first band.
Franklin: My first gig ever was a duo performance with Ed Leitch, who I still perform with four decades later. We were 13 years old and played a local teen coffee house located in the basement of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, called “Maxwell’s Coffee House”. We played about a 20 minute set and it was a total thrill when the audience applauded. I was hooked on live performances from that point. It wasn’t until high school when I played in my first full rock band, The Providence Drive Band.
Tangents: How did Crisis originally come together?
Franklin: I played in a variety of bands until my first child was born in 1984. After that, I took 10 years off from the music scene to raise my two children. Although I was still writing and recording, I did not play out live at all during this time. When my kids were more of a self-sufficient age, I got the urge to start playing again. I was at a New Year’s Eve party around this time where a teen band was playing. When they took a break, I, Ed Leitch, and my brother Tommy jumped on their instruments and banged out a 30 minute set of classic rock. It was a big hit. We called ourselves “Midlife Crisis” as a joke, we didn’t think this would really last. But we just kept playing, dropping the “Midlife”.
Tangents: How has Crisis changed over the past 20 years?
Franklin: Not much, really. We are the same nucleus; I am the primary songwriter, Ed “Wolf” Leitch on lead guitar, and my brother Tommy Franklin on drums. We have had three bass players over the past 20 years, Bobby Hodges (who got transferred out of state with his job) Henry Pharr (again, job responsibilities) and currently Mike Clark. All terrific musicians.
Tangents: You also now play with Randy Franklin and the Sardines. How did that come together, and how does that vary from Crisis?
Franklin: About three years ago my brother Tommy was promoted in his day job and needed to slow down the activities of Crisis. We had been hitting it pretty hard up to that point, touring and recording 6 albums over a 20 year span. I decided to use this break to record my first solo album. I had written a lot of songs that didn’t quite fit the Crisis sound. They represented a lot of genres, country, jazz, folk, and rock. I recorded the album “Bloodlines” with producers Jamie Hoover & Eric Lovell.
I needed a band to perform these songs live, so I recruited many old friends whom I had known for years. Rob Thorne (Spongetones) on drums, Paul Noble (Halifax) on lead guitar, Bobby Little (Marimoon) on bass, Pat Walters (Spongetones) on keys, and my musical partner Ed “Wolf” Leitch from Crisis on second lead guitar.
We started playing all the tracks from my album live, and then started adding deeper classic rock cuts that you don’t hear other bands perform. With two lead guitar players, it was fun to select songs with dual harmony leads such as Allman Brothers or Eagles tunes. We have a lot of fun as a band and love to get the crowds up and dancing.
Crisis is primarily an “all originals” band, with fewer covers. The Sardines love 1970s classic rock!
Tangents: Describe your new song about the Double Door Inn.
Back in July I was scheduled to play at a benefit for local musician Jake Berger at the Double Door. I had just learned of the upcoming closing and was heartbroken. I knew I had to write something to perform at that show, so I just sat down with my acoustic and put my feelings down about how much I would miss it. When I played it live, the crowd went wild. I decided to record it right away and booked Boo English’s Knot Hole Studios. Crisis backed me on the recording and we brought Lenny Federal in for additional vocals and guitar. A real thrill for me, I’ve been a big fan of his for decades.
Tangents: Thoughts about the Double Door Inn. Not so much about the closing, but what the place has meant to you.
Franklin: I’ve always thought of the Double Door as Charlotte’s own Ryman Auditorium of Nashville fame. As a musician it was a place that you had to earn an invitation and the privilege to play there. As a fan, I learned so much about stage presence and professionalism, as I watched my musical heroes over the years such as The Federal Bureau of Rock & Roll, The Spongetones, Cruis-O-Matic, Don Dixon, Joyous Perrin, Donna Duncan, and so many more. And the staff, they are like family to me. Playing that stage is like no other. I call it my “home field” and it is so true. It’s the most comfortable place in the world to me.
Tangents: What’s next for you?
Franklin: I’m five songs in to the follow up to “Bloodlines”. Once again it will be a multi-produced album, utilizing the studios of Boo English, Jamie Hoover and Eric Lovell. It will follow the same casserole style of multiple genres and influences. I will continue to perform a lot of shows with The Sardines, and a few shows with Crisis when schedules permit. I also will continue my charity work; I have a passion for helping others through music.
Tangents: How often do you write songs? Quickly, slowly, or not fast enough?
Franklin: Most of my writing is not a sit down and write something process. Usually a phrase someone speaks, a story I’ve read, a melody in my head, these are things that start the process. I have found that my best songs usually come quick. The ones that I agonize over and constantly make changes usually don’t turn out as well. I’ve learned to trust my instincts; the first draft is usually the best one.
Tangents: Coolest gig you have ever done. Describe.
Franklin: Wow that’s a hard one, there have been so many. Playing alongside Don Dixon and Mitch Easter at the Spongetones tribute show would be a highlight. I would have to say I am most proud of my annual tribute shows for Crisis Assistance Ministry. For almost 10 years now (first Saturday of August) I have gathered bands to perform at the Evening Muse as we pay tribute to different iconic recording artists. We have raised a lot of money and awareness to help prevent homelessness in or community. It’s an issue I’m very passionate about.
Tangents: Finish this sentence. Randy Franklin is…
Franklin: A man who puts family first, while maintaining a passion for songwriting, music, and serving others in need. Not the coolest description, ha ha, but pretty much me in a nutshell.