From jump blues to soul blues and all the R & B in between, Carol Fran has been singing it for nearly fifty years. Her career started when she was still in her teens with the Don Conway Orchestra and continues to this day. After moving from Lafayette, Louisiana to New Orleans she married a sax player named Bob Francois. Abbreviating her married name to simply Fran, she became a constant presence on the Bourbon Street club circuit before mounting an extended tour of Mexico. In 1957, she cut her first sides for the R&B label Excello, scoring a regional smash with her debut single «Emmitt Lee» and backing several excello’s artist in studio including Slim Harpo, Lonesome Sundown and Lazy Lester. Though she recorded extensively for Excello, only three more singles were released during Fran's abbreviated tenure with the label and she soon signed on as a featured vocalist with blues legend Guitar Slim. She continued touring with the group in the wake of Slim's 1959 death, appearing alongside various substitutes, including Nappy Brown, Lee Dorsey, and Joe Tex (By the late 60’s, Fran was on the road with the Joe Tex revue where she served as an opening act and played keyboard with the band.)
In 1962, Fran signed to Lyric and released a pair of singles, including a swamp pop rendition of “The Great Pretender”; she spent two more years on the road before catching on with the Jubilee subsidiary Port for a 1964 cover of the Orioles' classic “Crying in the Chapel”. “Crying in the Chapel” had such a good response that Port/Jubilee owner Jerry Blaine moved it over to his Josie label for wider distribution. Unfortunately, another version soon appeared by some guy named Elvis that took all the steam out of Fran’s hit machine. Carol says that when she later ran into Mr. Presley in California and told him he had done her wrong, he blamed RCA, but wrote her a check for $10,000 on the spot!
Undaunted, Fran remained with Port for a series of smoldering soul sides spotlighting her crystalline vocals to magnificent effect. While the follow-up «You Can't Stop Me» featured a Sammy Lowe arrangement, her third effort for the label, the lovely «A World Without You», was penned by Bobby Darin. Sadly, both failed to make any commercial headway; however, and after one more single for Port, «Any Day Love Walks In», Fran returned to touring. She did not re-enter the studio until 1967, signing to Roulette for a cover of Brook Benton's «So Close». Despite cutting a surplus of good material during her Roulette stay at the High Studio, the sessions remained in the can (until their released in 1999 on Westside: “Bluesoul Belles: Betty Lavette & Carol Fran”) -- embittered by her label experiences and stung by years of ill-informed financial dealings, she returned to Louisiana and spent over a decade confining her activities to small clubs.
In 1982, Fran was reunited with
Clarence Hollimon, a noted studio guitarist (Bobby
Blue Bland, Charles Brown, Lavelle White, Solomon
Burke, Marcia Ball, Junior Parker…) she briefly dated
a quarter century earlier; the couple eventually
married and relocated to Texas, recording together for
various labels such as Black Top, Jsp & “Tradition
& Modern” until Clarence’s unpredictable death in
In 1995, Carol was nominee at the 16th Annual W.C. Handy Awards as the female artist of the year and as the female vocalist of the year.
2001 saw Carol nominated once again as the Female artist of the year at the W.C. Awards. Her first solo album since the time she “teamed” with Clarence was released that same year: “Fran-Tastic”.