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TONY DE FRANCO

The child star tells GARY JAMES about family success

Tony De Franco In 1973 the De Franco Family enjoyed great success with a song called 'Heartbeat, It's A Lovebeat'. Singing lead on that song was 13-year old Tony De Franco who quickly became a teen ideol.

'Heartbeat' sold over 2 million copies, made it to Number 3 in Billboard's Hot 100 chart and No 1 on the Cashbox singles chart.

The De Franco family appeared on all the top television shows of the day, including American bandstand, Sonny and Cher, Dinah!, The Mike Douglas Show and a special hosted by Jack Benny.

The group toured and played Vegas through 1978 then disbanded.


GJ: Didn't I see you on a CBS news segment a while back? You were talking about teen fame and then you got into a black Mercedes Benz and drove off.

TDF: I never had a black Mercedes Benz! There have been a few specials about teen idols. About 6 or 7 years ago I was interviewed for the Dick Clark show. About 2 years ago I re-released the family's music on CD and we did a promotional push including VH1 'Where Are They Now?'

GJ: How did the De Franco Family get their start in show business?

TDF: In the early days we always played the Niagra peninsula around Niagra falls, but mostly as an instrumental band. Nobody really sang. One thing led to another. My mum or dad heard me sionging 'Hey Jude' and paid me five bucks at the next gig, I think it was a wedding. From then on I would sing here and there. We sent some demoes out to Los Angeles and New York and Toronto. We heard from a Canadian record company and we got a response from the publisher of Teen Beat magazine. He flew us out to Los Angeles and we ultimately did an audition for him.

We did three demoes that were finished masters that we took to Twentieth Century Records. Within six months we were on the radio.

GJ: How was it determined that you would sing the lead on 'Heartbeat?'

TDF: Well, I was doing most of the singing back in Canada.

GJ: When that song was a hit, how did life change for you?

TDF: Oh, it was extreme because I went from being a little 11 or 12 year old in Canada to Hollywood (laughs). Everywhere I went everyone wanted a piece of you. It was basically a magic carpet ride.

GJ: Was there a follow-up to 'Heartbeat'?

TDF: The second single was Abra Cadabra which did fairly well. It was Top 40. I think it went Top 10. Our third single 'Save The Last Dance For Me' was a remake of the original and that did really well.

GJ: And 'Heartbeat' sold 2 and a half million copies?

TDF: Right. Actally it went on to sell 3 million.

GJ: Based on what you know and experienced could you take some young boy or girl and take them to the top like the Laufer people did for the Di Franco family?

TDF: Well, I started a management and production company and we are actively developing artists…

GJ: is this what keeps you busy today?

TDF: Absolutely.

GJ: What are the other members of the De Franco Family doing?

TDF: They're all living in the Los Angeles area but they are not in the music business now. We have a couple of homemakers, my sisters, and my brothers work behind the scenes in the film industry.

We come from a very solid, down-to-earth Italian family and none of us ended up with the typical problems of having child success, you know the crash and burn syndrome.

GJ: Right. The kind of stuff you see on Entertainment Network.

TDF: You know, it's interesting. last year I had a publicist who was getting me various radio shows and a few TV shows here and there. He was attempting to get me on the Rosie Show and a few others. But the attitude of a lot of these TV shows is that they really only want you if you have dirty laundry: they really want the dirt. When they find out you took the high road, they don't want to know.

GJ: How long did your success with the De Franco family last?

TDF: At our peak, I think it was at it's hottest for about two and a half, three years.

GJ: Where did you tour?

TDF: Well, all of North America, Japan, Europe, although parts of that tour were cancelled. We had a lot of success very quickly but unfortunately there were some bad management and record company decisions and we didn't put our foot down in certain situations. We were totally ripped off…

GJ: Any chance you will one day see the money?

TDF: Well, you know, so much time has gone by. But I realise that regardless of what happened financially with the situation, it was an experience I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. Very few people get to experience that. To put good money after bad, to hire attorneys, I don't think it's worth the effort. We weren't the only people to be taken advantage of in the music business and it still continues to this day.

© 2002 Gary James. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.




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