At age ten, she was accepted on Startime, a New York City television show that featured talented child singers and performers. Its host, the legendary TV talent scout, Arthur Godfrey, had difficulty pronouncing her name and suggested something "easy and Irish," which turned into Francis. After three weeks on Startime , the show's producer and Francis' would-be manager advised her to forget the accordion and concentrate on singing. Francis performed weekly on Startime for four years.
After being turned down by almost every record label she approached, 16-year-old Connie signed a recording contract with MGM, only because one of the songs on her demo, "Freddy," also happened to be the name of the president's son. "Freddy" was released in June 1955 as the singer's first single and went nowhere. After a series of flop singles, she undertook what was to be her last session for MGM on October 2nd, 1957. Francis had recently accepted a pre-med scholarship to New York University and was contemplating the end of her career as a singer. Having recorded two songs, she thanked the technicians and musicians, hoping not to have to have to record the third song her father had in mind, an old tune from 1923. After a false start, she sang it in one take. That song was "Who's Sorry Now" and when MGM executives heard it, they issued it as a single release. The song caught on quickly and when Dick Clark played it on American Bandstand, he told its eight million viewers that Connie Francis was "a new girl singer that is heading straight for the number one spot."
"Who's Sorry Now" went to number 4 on the US pop chart and number 1 in the UK and was the first in a long string of hit records between 1957 and 1962. These included reworkings of more oldies, such as "My Happiness", "Among My Souvenirs" and "Together". Among her more upbeat songs were "Stupid Cupid" (another UK number 1) and "Where The Boys Are" by the new songwriting team of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Her other US Top 10 entries included "Lipstick On Your Collar", "Frankie", "Mama", "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" (her first US number 1), "My Mind Has A Heart Of Its Own" (another US number 1), "Many Tears Ago", "Breakin' In A Brand New Broken Heart", "When The Boy In Your Arms Is The Boy In Your Heart", "Don't Break The Heart That Loves You" (US number 1), "Second Hand Love" and "Vacation".
Francis made her film debut in 1960 with Where The Boys Are, and followed it with similar comedy musicals such as Follow The Boys (1963), Looking For Love (1964) and When The Boys Meet The Girls (1965). The 1963 song, "In the Summer of His Years," written as a tribute to the assassinated John F. Kennedy, remains one of the earliest known charity records, with proceeds donated to dependents of the policemen shot during the incident.
Although she had sold 35 million records by 1967, she was pushed aside by the 60s beat boom and turned to working in nightclubs in the late 60s. She did much charity work for UNICEF and similar organizations, besides entertaining US troops in Vietnam. She also extended her repertoire, and kept her options open by recording albums in several languages, including French, Spanish and Japanese. Late 70s issues included more country music selections.
She ended her 12 year relationship with MGM in 1969, choosing not to renew her contract when the company was taken over by Polydor. She opted instead for domestic life with her third husband. Francis didn't return to the recording studio until 1973 when the writers of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," long-time friends, wrote "The Answer" especially for her.
Up until then, her professional life must have seemed like a fairy tale, but all that was about to change. In 1974, with her husband's encouragement, she returned to the stage, with disastrous consequences. After her third performance at The Westbury Theatre, outside New York, she was assaulted at the hotel she was staying in. Ultimately, this incident contributed to the end of her marriage. She later sued the motel for negligence, and was reputedly awarded damages of over three million dollars. During 1975, nasal surgery temporarily robbed her of her voice.
For several years afterwards she did not perform in public, and underwent psychiatric treatment for long periods. She was on the comeback trail in 1981 when her brother, George, was brutally murdered. It took seven more years to determine that through all of those events, she was also a manic depressive. She finally made her return to the stage in Las Vegas in 1989, however, while at the Palladium in London, England, her speech became slurred and the tabloids reported that she was suspected of being drunk. In 1991, she had trouble speaking on a US television show, and, a year later, collapsed at a show in New Jersey. She was diagnosed as suffering from "a complex illness", and of "having been toxic for 18 years". After drastically reducing her daily lithium intake, she signed a new recording contract with Sony in 1993, buoyed by the fact that her 1959 hit, "Lipstick On Your Collar", was climbing high in the UK charts, triggered by its use as the title track of playwright Dennis Potter's television drama. In 1995, she recorded "The Return Concert", a live album which was released on Legacy Recordings.
Connie continued to perform live and in 1996 had a number of major album releases including, "The Swinging Connie Francis", a collection of Jazz songs from the 1930s and "Connie Francis, Live at Trump's Castle" produced by Dick Clark's record label, Click Records. She also recorded "With Love To Buddy", a collection of Buddy Holly songs which remains her latest album, although Connie releases Compact Disc albums and EPs in limited quantities on her own label, Concetta Records, containing previously unreleased material from her private archives. In late 1997 through 1999, Pendulum Entertainment Group issued some of the original MGM Connie Francis albums on CD.
In late December 2004, Connie Francis headlined in Las Vegas for the first time since 1989. In March and October 2007, she performed to sold-out crowds at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. She also appeared in concert in Manila, the Philippines, on Valentine's Day 2008. In 2010, Connie appeared at the Las Vegas Hilton with Dionne Warwick, a show billed as Eric Floyd's Grand Divas of Stage.
As of 2016, Connie's official website www.ConnieFrancis.com did not show any upcoming tours or shows pending for the 77-year-old singer.
For more, be sure to read Gary James' Interview With Connie Francis