Photo by Daniel Coston

The Musical Journey of Randy Franklin

By Catherine Ball

It was a hot Saturday afternoon in Charlotte when Randy Franklin walked into Harper's restaurant. Wearing his classic blue jeans and a Drumstrong t-shirt from one of his recent performances, he sat down and began to talk about his musical journey. It all started on Christmas day in 1966 when Randy was just six years old. His parents gave him a guitar and he was completely surprised because he did not ask for one. He did not know that this single event would lead him to being in five bands, making six albums, and doing countless shows.

He started taking guitar lessons by the age of ten with teacher Fred Nance. He says Fred was a good teacher but he did not enjoy the songs he was learning. "He was teaching me campfire songs," he says. The songs Randy learned taught him the basics but he really wanted to learn rock and roll songs. He says, "The Beatles were everywhere." By the age of 12, he moved to Providence Drive where he met his current band member that he has played with for 35 years, Ed Leitch. Ed, one year older than Randy, also played guitar and taught him how to play current songs at the time by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles.

At the age of 13, he and Ed formed their own band and named it Redwood, inspired by the redwood trees in California. "I was very into the 'earthy' movement," he says. He did a lot of backpacking trips where he would play acoustic and bluegrass music while camping. By the time he was in high school, he formed another band called The Blue Ridge Boys.

After Randy graduated from high school, he formed another band with Ed and drummer Aaron Tucker called The Providence Drive Band, the street name where he and Ed grew up. "I would describe us as a southern rock band, we played guitar and banjo," he says. This is when Randy actually started performing at bars and restaurants. The Providence Drive Band became the house band for Simon Sez, a local bar at the time located in the Elizabeth area of Charlotte. They played on Thursday nights for an event called Belly up to the Bar, sponsored by WBCY Radio. "People could get drafts of beer for a nickel so you can imagine what kinds of people were there," he says. Randy recalls it being extremely crowded with up to 500 people at times.

After being with The Providence Drive Band, he formed a duo with singer Gina Stewart. By this time, he was 20 years old and wrote his very first song titled "You," inspired by a broken relationship. He got married during this time and two years later, he had his first child. From 1984 to 1996, he did not play in any bands or do any shows. "I wanted to be a really good dad," he says. Although Randy was not performing, he did write many songs.

On New Year's Eve in 1996, Randy had a musical revival. He was at a party where his 15-year-old nephew's band was playing. Randy was there with his older brother Tommy who played drums along with his longtime bandmate, Ed. When his nephew's band took a break, he, Ed, and Tommy decided to pick up the instruments and start playing. Everyone at the party loved them. This was when Randy decided to start playing again. He, Ed, and Tommy decided to form a band and named it Crisis. Crisis was Randy's most successful band yet, they did opening performances for bands and artists such as Styx, The Smithereens, Don Dixon, and Mitch Easter. Unfortunately for the band, Tommy got a promotion at work and could not play as much. The band is still currently together but they only do a couple performances a year.

With this extra time, Randy took the time to focus on his solo career and released his most popular album to date, "Bloodlines." There are 15 songs on the album and he got the inspiration for many of them from personal experiences and observations. He got the inspiration for one of his songs on the album, "Papua New Guinea," from meeting a woman in Walgreens. She was working at the photo counter and he noticed she looked very exotic. He struck up a conversation and proceeded to ask her where she was from and she said Papua New Guinea. When he exited the store and got back to his truck he said to himself, "That girl from Papua New Guinea," and just like that, he came up with the chorus. One of his most popular songs on the album is "Always," which has almost a half million views on YouTube. He wrote "Always" for his daughter's father-daughter dance at her wedding. He says, "Writing songs is like birthing a child and asking which one is my favorite is like asking which child is my favorite."

Randy currently does performances with his most recent band, Randy franklin and The Sardines, at many local spots around Charlotte and the surrounding areas. They recently performed at Thirsty Beaver and he says it was one of his favorite performances thus far. He says, "It was hot, crowded, people were handing us tequila shots, it was great; this is what rock and roll is about." Stacey Woods watched Randy and his band play at Thirsty Beaver and says, "Randy and I were teenagers in the 70s. We were both heavily influenced by the music of that era. I think he would agree that those years were among the best years of our lives. What Randy has been able to do is capture the music and spirit of that decade with his current band. The show at the Thirsty Beaver was a vehicle that allowed all of us to transport back to that marvelous decade if but only for a few hours. Randy and his band The Sardines gave us their all and the crowd gave it right back to them."

Randy is currently working on a new album and already has two songs completed, Anywhere You Go and the other Constellation Prize. He is thinking of naming the album "Restless Guitar Syndrome." Before he releases the full album, he will be releasing single versions along the way, something he has not done before. He expects to release the album sometime in 2017.