Why Isn’t Connie Francis in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Connie held her own on the pop charts with such Hall of Famers as Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson
WHY DO RECORD COMPANIES EXIST? Easy—to sell records and make money. Until the second half of the ’60s, the focus of record companies was in selling singles. Whether it was one song on a cylinder a hundred years ago or two songs on a 78 or 45 rpm record, singles were the coin of the realm. The primary job of any artists signed to a contract with a record company is to help that company make money by selling records. Hit records are an indicator that an artist is accomplishing his or her job.
The role of the Top 40 in the history of rock & roll is pivotal. The importance of racking up hits still matters in the 21st century, as witness the many changes that Billboard magazine has made in how it tallies hits to ensure that contemporary artists—the ones still making the most money for their record companies—come out on top in those tallies. (And that’s a whole other conversation we are not going to have here and now.)
Countless artists—solo singers and instrumentalists, groups and orchestras—had one or two hits in them and were then forgotten. Some artists had it in them to maintain a “career” on the Top 40 for two or three years and then retire to Vegas, the country or soul circuits, or even wind up on television.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has not been particularly generous in inducting singers who made pop records for the teenage market but only dabbled in rock & roll.
A few artists just kept on having hit after hit, year after year. Prior to the Beatles and the changes in the recording industry that followed, artists with careers that lasted more than a few years were rather rare. Connie Francis consistently scored Top 10 hits for nine years before her “fifteen minutes of fame” were up!
In the past two years, I responded to several questions on Quora concerning artists who “should” be considered for induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. One of them was about Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, Connie Francis to her fans. The bulk of what follows below originally appeared on my Rather Rare Records blog as “Should Connie Francis be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?”
For those of you who are younger than, say, 40-years-old, Connie Francis was a huge star. She recorded and issued scores of singles with many big hits (see below), she released at least four dozen albums — not including hits packages and live albums — and she starred in three movies.
She’s kind of like a female Bobby Darin: She could sing anything and apparently wanted to sing everything! She recorded pop, shlock, country, songs in Italian, songs in German, songs in Hebrew, and occasionally a little rock & roll.
But she’s not in any Hall of Fame, although her pictures are probably still on the walls of countless Italian restaurants around the world! So below find my answer to the question about Connie Francis and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Connie and the Hall of Fame
The main argument against Connie Francis is that she was, by inclination, a pop singer who could sing anything and occasionally dabbled in the new rock & roll music. Her two biggest rock & roll hits were Stupid Cupid (#16) and Lipstick On Your Collar (#3), both of which sounded great on the radio but they’re as much pop as they are rock & roll.
It may be difficult for today’s younger readers to conceive, but female singers of Connie’s era were not encouraged to sing rock & roll by their record companies, their producers, or their managers (or their boyfriends or husbands). They were encouraged to sing likable pop sings and look as cute as possible while doing so. (Well, maybe that’s not all that different from female pop singers of the 21st century.)
The biggest argument for Connie Francis is that she had thirty-five Top 40 hits on Cash Box, fifteen of which reached the Top 10. This makes her one of the biggest hitmakers of all time — at least back in the day when you actually had to sell records to have hits.
Here is a comparison of her career as a hitmaker compared to two artists already in the Hall of Fame:
- Fats Domino had thirty-five sides reach the Billboard Top 40. Eight of those made the Top 10 but none of them topped that chart.
- Ricky Nelson had thirty-five sides reach the Billboard Top 40. Eighteen of those made the Top 10 and two topped that chart.
- Connie Francis had thirty-five sides reach the Billboard Top 40. Sixteen of those made the Top 10 and three topped that chart.
In easy-to-read figures, the three statements above look like this:
Fats Domino: 35/8/0
Ricky Nelson: 35/18/2
Connie Francis: 35/16/3
Connie Francis outperformed Fats Domino on the pop charts and held her own with Ricky Nelson. These two male artists rank among the biggest pop stars of their era and these figures are often used to illustrate their accomplishments. Connie is their equal yet I have never heard her spoken in the reverent tones reserved for the two Hall of Famers!
This is a statistic that should matter to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominators but apparently doesn’t. That she often sang her pop with more gusto and soul than what we associate with traditional white pop/easy-listening singers doesn’t seem to matter.
That she was one of the few white female singers to have significant Top 40 hits with her rock & roll records doesn’t seem to matter.
Working against Francis is the fact that while she was a prolific recording artist (forty-five studio albums between 1958 and 1969), none of them were particularly big selling albums. In fact, she has only ever received one RIAA Gold Record Award for The Very Best of Connie Francis. While all of her albums are easy on the ears, there’s no Dusty in Memphis in there to stand out and define her as an artist.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has not been particularly generous in inducting this type of artist so I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting it to happen any time soon . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: Connie Francis was very photogenic, something that MGM took every advantage of in promoting her records. This is my favorite photo of her., apparently taken in 1961 when she was 23 years old. Despite her good looks, she wasn’t tapped by Hollywood until 1960, when she starred in Where the Boys Are. And, unlike most recording artists who make movies, this one was special:
“The immense popularity of the novel, the film, and the song versions of Where the Boys Are inspired young college students to leave their textbooks behind and hit the beaches for Spring Break. The beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, after 1960, were crowded with Spring Breakers every spring and college students from across the country flocked to Florida. Where the Boys Are is credited with starting the Spring Break phenomenon in the United States.” (Groovy History)
Thanks for reading! Below are links to a pair of articles that are essential to knowing what the Tell It Like It Was publication here on Medium is all about — mostly rock & roll music of the ’50s and ’60s.