Franny McCartney’s business card kind of summarizes who she is. She’s shown as a little girl, sitting on a small stool, looking totally content. She has a sweet, impish expression on her face, as though she could be thinking of something special. Her life would take interesting turns. I remember seeing McCartney performing at the Amphitheatre at Universal Studios. The star was Bette Midler, accompanied by a full band and the back-up singers, The Harlettes. They sang, frolicked about the stage, the best they could with mermaid costumes. It was a funny, totally entertaining show, which the audience loved.
McCartney traveled all over the world with Midler to spread the word, get the crowds pumped up, cheering and applauding Midler’s unique talent. McCartney sang, clowned around and traveled wherever fans wanted to hear and see Midler. McCartney recalls long trips with stops along the way until finally arriving in Australia. She has also worked with Bob Dylan, Tanya Tucker, Gene Simmons, and Barbra Streisand. Boy could she write a fascinating memoir!
Today the former Harlette is still singing at local neighborhood celebrations, with church groups and at regular gigs at Viva Cantina in Burbank. She currently sings with the Randy Van Horne Singers, who were famous for all the theme songs they recorded for TV shows such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons and many others. She’s comfortable with her life in a suburb of L.A. As long as she can sing she’s A-OK. She likes being part of a small community, attending meetings to discuss common issues. Her enthusiastic response and sense of humor make her an ideal participant.
Recently I heard McCartney sing with the Woody James Big Band at Viva Cantina for a lunchtime crowd. It was a very hot day and sitting in the backroom at the venue seemed like a smart thing to do. The big band took off with “How High The Moon” for a very cohesive, fast start. The audience was so ready for the band on this hot, muggy day. “Willow Weep For Me” began at a slow, sultry pace by the band. The enthusiastic crowd cheered as the band worked toward the conclusion. The crowd loved the band’s rendition. “Soul Eyes” was a slow, romantic tune that the band finessed to a big finish.
McCartney returned to sing “Taking A Chance On Love” with her big voice. “It Had To Be You” was sweet, swinging with great energy. The band was very supportive. McCartney’s voice was strong to the end. McCartney introduced a Betty Hutton tune, “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in A Hurry.” It was typically McCartney, totally funny. McCartney “sells” every tune with an easy, relaxed style.
The band ended the set with “Basically Basie” which had an infectious beat. This was a tune to dance to at a fast clip. The only female in the band, Laurie Friedman played a baritone sax solo that was terrific. During the second set Dave Burges sang “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love With Me” “Close Your Eyes” and “Ain’t No Use.” with a forceful voice and crisp enunciation.
Franny McCartney is a very entertaining singer and she raises the energy in the room as she banters with band members and laughs at herself. Beneath all the hilarity is a singer who is very respectful of the material, always. She has fun so the audience does too. I left Viva is a very upbeat mood.
The Big Band was especially good on this afternoon and included: Bob Crosby, Dave Weston, Steve Carr, Ted Carnely, Laurie Friedman-saxophones; Paul Litteral, Bobby Mustal, Kendall Wallace-trumpets; Jack Redmond, Brooks West, Sandy Collins, Joe Dvorak-trombones; Rick Hils -piano/keyboard, Jeff Takaguchi- piano/keyboard and Chris Ross-drums.
Viva Cantina is located at the entrance to the Equestrian Center in Burbank with plenty of free parking across the street at the Pickwick bowling alley. Viva Cantina is under new management and the rooms have been repainted a bright red. It looks very festive and fresh now. The Mexican menu is the same and it’s very good . Service is good and of course, the full bar makes delicious margaritas.
Viva Cantina is located at 900 West Riverside Dr. Burbank 91506 For info/reservations call
(818) 645-2425. Another plus, there’s usually never a cover charge.
P.S. Actor/singer Bill A. Jones informed us that music can be heard at Las Hadas Restaurant in Northridge most Tuesdays at 10:30am. They will be holding a fund raiser for the Suicide Prevention Group in September.