John Franz

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Although his name is not recognized by many Americans, Johnny Franz was one of Britain's most successful producers in the 1950s and 1960s. While his recordings encompassed several forms of mainstream…
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Although his name is not recognized by many Americans, Johnny Franz was one of Britain's most successful producers in the 1950s and 1960s. While his recordings encompassed several forms of mainstream popular music, his most enduring contributions were to British Invasion pop of the mid-1960s on records by Dusty Springfield, the Walker Brothers, and the early solo recordings of the most popular Walker Brother, Scott Walker.

Franz had been an office boy in London's Denmark Street (the British equivalent of Tin Pan Alley), a club pianist who at one time performed with famed jazzman George Shearing, and a BBC orchestrator before becoming the head of A&R at Philips Records in 1954. Some of the artists he produced were artists that never made inroads in the US, such as Susan Maughan and Harry Secombe; he also worked with Shirley Bassey and pre-Beatle British rock singer Marty Wilde.

For Dusty Springfield and the Walker Brothers, Franz oversaw discs that matched first-class pop-rock material and vocalists with the better aspects of orchestral production that was more typical of middle-of-the-road pop. Franz's role with these artists seems not to have been so much that of an innovator as one of a capable delegator. For Dusty Springfield's mid-1960s hits like "I Only Want to Be with You"--which were the best British equivalents to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound--he relied heavily upon arranger Ivor Raymonde. Raymonde also did some work on Walker Brothers hits (like "Make It Easy On Yourself"), which were also competently aided by engineer Peter Olliff; the more classical-sounding Walker Brothers arrangements were frequently handled by Reg Guest.

Franz and Olliff continued to work with Scott Walker on the singer's early solo albums, in which he developed a more serious and somber approach to both repertoire and vocals. Walker and Franz were personal friends, and Franz arranged for Scott to study with British vocal instructor Freddie Winrose, who taught the singer much about breath control. Franz could not continue working with Walker after the singer left Philips, though, and died in 1977.