October 1957: Connie Francis was finished. Her recording contract with MGM was almost at an end and she had failed to make an impact, bar a recent duet with Marvin Rainwater on The Majesty of Love. The record company had let her know they would not be renewing her contract, and she had one single left to record.
Born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero on 12 December 1937 in Newark, New Jersey, to Italian-American parents, she was encouraged at a young age by her father to sing and play accordion in talent contests. She was only four when she began her move into the entertainment world.
By the time she graduated, she was occasionally featuring on TV talent shows as Concetta Franconero or Connie Franconero. Before appearing on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, Godfrey advised her change her name to Connie Francis and drop the accordion.
In 1955, her father and her manager financed a four-track demo that nearly every label turned down, on account of Francis sounding too similar to singers like Kitty Kallen and Kay Starr. MGM only signed her because one of the tracks was called Freddy, and that was the name of the son of a company co-executive, who thought Francis’s success with the record would make a nice birthday gift. But Freddy had sank.
And so Francis prepared to give it all up and study medicine at university, but she had one last single to record. Her father had asked her to perform a cover of Who’s Sorry Now?, a break-up song by Tin Pan Alley songwriters Ted Snyder, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Originally recorded by Isham Jones & his Orchestra in 1923, it had also featured in the Marx Brothers film A Night in Casablanca in 1946.
George Franconero Sr told his daughter that adults would remember the song, and, with the proper arrangement, teenagers would love it too, but she disagreed, and several heated arguments took place. She delayed recording on the other three tracks at the session so much, she told her father there wasn’t enough tape left to record it anyway. However, he insisted, and the session ended with seconds of tape left to spare.
After its release, it seemed Francis was correct – Who’s Sorry Now? hadn’t made an impact. But on New Year’s Day 1958, she performed the single on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and the momentum began. George was right.
Until I discovered the origins of the song, I thought Who’s Sorry Now? was an example of the growing sophistication of pop – so it must have been very innovative back in the 20s. A jilted lover has warned her ex that they would regret leaving them, and they’ve been proven right. The fact vows are mentioned suggests they have divorced – not your average subject matter for a pop song. Producer Harry A Myerson did an excellent job in proving Francis’s father correct – the song sounds completely of its time, and is key to its success, as is Francis’s delivery. For someone who didn’t like the song, her performance really suggests otherwise as she is in complete control, especially as the drums kick in for the second half of the song and she mocks her ex with ‘I’m glad that you’re sorry now’.
After so many failed attempts, Francis was fully deserving of her new stardom, and it was ironic that it was her old singing partner Marvin Rainwater’s Whole Lotta Woman that she knocked from the top. Who’s Sorry Now? was number 1 for an impressive six weeks, with a double A-side to come later that year.
She had also finally broken the ridiculously long run of male domination of the charts. No woman had been at the top since Anne Shelton with Lay Down Your Arms in October 1956 – 17 months previous.
Written by: Ted Snyder, Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby
Producer: Harry Myerson
Weeks at number 1: 6 (16 May-26 June)
Singer Toyah Wilcox – 18 May
Singer-songwriter Paul Weller – 25 May
Actor Ronald Colman – 19 May
Actor Robert Donat – 9 June
Writer Edwin Keppel Bennett – 13 June