CLEVELAND - In a departure from our regular Video Vault format, where I post vintage WEWS footage, the video in our player contains an interview shot last year with Frank Artino, a singer and a longtime “regular” on the Gene Carroll Show.
It’s easy to see how The Gene Carroll Show changed Frank Artino’s life, ask him the name of his second daughter and he’ll answer, “Gina”, named in honor of Gene Carroll.
Artino, was a regular on the WEWS Sunday entertainment Gene Carroll Shows from 1967 until 1982, more than 30 years later he continues to be recognized from being on the show.
The show aired weekly at noon and was live from our Studio A for its first two decades.
Gene Carroll began performing on WEWS in 1948 as Uncle Jake and two years later started the variety show. Uncle Jake’s Funhouse, a children's entertainment show, featured an elevator mock-up that enthralled Artino as a child.
“The camera made it look like it was a big wooden elevator,” Artino said.
He described being on camera as a child and how he and other children had to shake to give the illusion the elevator was moving. His three-year-old sister cried with disappointment at the TV elevator.
Artino had no idea his WEWS appearance as a child in the Uncle Jake elevator would be just the first of hundreds of visits to the 3001 Euclid Avenue studios.
Years later, Artino was discovered by producer Ben Rand. Artino had the lead in a play and after a performance, Rand, who had been with Gene Carroll since his radio days, went backstage to invite Artino to audition for the Carroll show.
Artino, sitting in the same studio he performed in for years, remembered the audition as if it was yesterday.
“I went down there the Friday after the show closed, five o’clock, 1515 Euclid Avenue,” he said.
After meeting Blanche Albritton, the show’s pianist, Artino sang briefly, Carroll stopped the singer quickly. Artino was afraid he made a mistake but Carroll asked, “Do you know anything about letters?” Artino sang “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”.
“Be here at 8:30 Sunday morning, you’re going to be on the production number,” Artino recalled Carroll saying to him.
It began a relationship Artino and his wife Jessie had with Carroll until Carroll’s death in 1972.
Carroll was loved and revered by performers nationally. Frank and Jessie spent part of their honeymoon visiting the Carroll’s in Florida. Helen met the newlyweds but Gene wasn’t home yet as he was golfing with entertainment giant Jackie Gleason.
An entire year’s worth of shows were taped in five months so Carroll and wife Helen could spend time in Florida, according to Artino. Three shows were taped on Sunday, 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. In between shows two and three, they would head to Artino’s east side home where Jessie would cook dinner for the Carroll’s, Gene would often sneak in a short nap.
Even though the show switched from live to videotape not long after Artino joined, there were shows that were occasionally done live which led to an embarrassing TV moment for Artino.
The singer messed up while singing the song “Sealed with a Kiss”, he told the director to stop. Carroll came on camera, “Frank, we’re live.” “Oh well, let’s continue,” Artino said to the TV viewers.
Artino would suggest songs to sing for a show but Carroll had final say.
“Gene had a perfect-pitch ear and he could tell, and he stopped some of us if it wasn’t perfectly pitched,” the singer said.
In clips of the show, an audience could be heard applauding, but according to WEWS videographer Bob Seeley, the studio was too jam-packed to house a real audience; a recorded applause track was used.
“You had six guests and a special guest and the production number, you had forty people in the studio in cast and crew,” Seeley said.
Our video player contains two segments of Artino’s memories. They include; Gene and Helen Carroll, the show, the crew, show superstar Andrea Carroll (no relation to Gene), pianist Albritton, producer Rand and finishing with Artino singing a Gene Carroll favorite, “My Funny Valentine” in the same studio where Artino last sang in 1982.
He and other Carroll show regulars keep in contact.
Artino continues singing with a group called Showstoppers, and yes continues to be asked, "Are you Frankie Artino from the Gene Carroll Show?"
Click here to see the Gene Carroll 25th anniversary show hosted by Don Webster.
Click here to see the tribute to Gene Carroll when he died in March, 1972.
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