Pianist and bandleader Frankie Carle’s career spanned seventy years. His ﬁrst professional job came in 1916, working in his uncle’s band for a dollar a week. He brieﬂy led his own outﬁt in 1920 before joining Edwin J. McEnelley in 1921, with whom he made his ﬁrst recordings.
In 1936, Carle joined Mal Hallett. When Hallett’s band broke up in 1937, Carle led his own regional outﬁt around New England. His big break came in 1939 when he joined Horace Heidt. Gaining exposure on Heidt’s national radio program, Carle quickly became popular for his piano style and found himself in big demand.
In 1941, a recently drafted Eddy Duchin asked Carle to take over his orchestra for twenty ﬁve percent of the gross while he was away. When Carle mentioned it to Heidt, Heidt offered Carle a thousand dollars a week plus ﬁve percent of the gross. Carle stayed on with Heidt. When Heidt decided to retire in 1944, he helped Carle form his own orchestra.
Carle’s group charted several hits for Columbia during the 1940s and appeared on two radio programs. Al Avola and Frank DeVol arranged. Vocalists included Paul Allen, Lee Columbo, Betty Bonney, Phyllis Lynne, and Marjorie Hughes. Hughes was actually Carle’s daughter. When Carle was searching for a new vocalist, his wife slipped Margie’s recording into the stack of demos, and Carle unknowingly choose her. He changed her name so as to let her build her own reputation, but gossip columnist Walter Winchell let the secret out after her ﬁrst big hit, “Oh, What It Seemed to Be.”
When the age of big bands faded during the 1950s, Carle formed a slimmed-down unit. Known as Frankie Carle and His Rhythm, the group consisted of Carle on piano with four female musicians on guitar, drums, accordion and bass. The combo played smaller halls and recorded for RCA. Carle semi-retired during the 1960s but became active again during the big band revival of the 1970s. Carle’s last tour was in 1983. He retired to Mesa, Arizona, to be near his daughter. Carle passed away in 2001, just 18 days shy of his 98th birthday.