Franck Pourcel And His French Fiddlers

The French have had their share of musical stars through the years, and seem to have been especially strong in instrumental pop and light classics, a genre sometimes called Easy Listening. A while back I wrote about Paul Mauriat, and another good example would be his friend and frequent collaborator, Franck Pourcel.

Pourcel was the son of a French Naval musician, and while growing up in Marseille he received a classical education in music, centered on violin. Beginning his career in the early 1930s as a classical violinist, it didn’t take long for the young musician to get distracted. It was the fpadvent of the early jazz age, and he was fascinated by the new sounds he encountered. He was also inspired by French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, who would gain fame for his career with guitarist Django Reinhardt.

It didn’t take long for Pourcel to join the jazz revolution, and soon began appearing in various groups, eventually landing in the French Fiddlers. It was a combo that specialized in jazz versions of the classics, and Pourcel began a long-time membership that would eventually see him leading the group. Pourcel also played in or led various other groups — even spending some time in the U.S. — and as his musical career was progressing, also got married and became the father of a baby girl.

By the 1950s his musical efforts were beginning to lead to good record sales, with songs like “Blue Tango” and an instrumental version of the Platters’ “Only You,” which would be Pourcel’s best on the U.S. charts. He continued to find musical success for many years, sometimes performing with his own groups or with friends like Mauriat but also doing a lot of composing and arranging. In addition, he led several world-class orchestras, often returning to his roots in classical music. He died in 2000 at age 87.

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6 thoughts on “Franck Pourcel And His French Fiddlers

  1. Geeze, you come up with some of the most wonderful things. hadn’t thought of that icky version of “Only You” literally since it was ubiquitous ion the radio. It took me back to my 10-year-old self. I hated the thing even then; I still do, but the memories it conjures are wonderful. And the Mauriat link reminded me once again that there was a time when you could turn on the radio and hear the Beatles, the Stones, Inna-Godda-Da-Vida and “Love is Blue” all in the same station. The days when a string orchestra could make money on “Only You,” and when the lovely “Love Is Blue” could even be heard by a mass audience, are sadly long gone. Thanks for the bittersweet memories.

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  2. “Bittersweet Memories” is my middle name. 😉

    Seriously, this humble thingy I call a blog is all about music and memories, and even as I write it I sometimes go through some ups and downs of my own.

    PS thanks for another outstanding comment — and just for the record, that song isn’t one that I particularly like either, but I did enjoy the music on the video.

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  3. Contrary to popular opinion, I found myself really liking Pourcel’s cover at the time. I thought it was a great arrangement and well presented. Also, and this is a personal opinion, I think this version of “Only You” appealed to the adult population of the day. “Only You” was part of the Rock and Roll birthing which wasn’t all that popular at the time except with us kids. I think it was songs like this that helped bridge and bring the older population on board with the Rock and Roll movement. It was the older listeners like our moms and dads who had pushed Pourcel’s version of the song into the charts, not the kids. It was the kids who pushed the Platters version into the charts.

    Of course, no one will ever top the Platters’ version. In the early nineties after getting into synthesizers I did my own version of “Only You” which was probably quite reminiscent of Pourcel’s version.

    I was blown away by the video. Thanks for posting it. What a four-piece group that is! Speaking of Paul Mauriat and cover versions…..”Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones is one of my favorites and Paul did an excellent cover version of the song. I think comparable to that of Pourcel’s version of “Only You”.

    GREAT POST….. 🙂

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  4. Alan, not to beat a dead horse, but I think your observations of how early rock was made accessible by “highbrow” versions such as Pourcel’s is right on. And it;’s probably why I couldn’t stand it. I thought it was a desecration of a great song, created for my parents. Those times were all about rebellion. If my parents liked it, it couldn’t be any good! (Now watch–the Geeze will be playing Bert Kaempfert any day now!)

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  5. So-o-o-o…you haf a problem with Bert Kaempfert? 😉

    You know, speaking of German musicians…does anyone know where I can get either a CD or downloads of music from a composer/bandleader named Herbert Rehbein? He’s been gone for 30 years but is kind of a cult favorite for an album called Music To Soothe That Tiger. Unfortunately, it’s out of print and I’ve tried Googling with no success. Here’s an Amazon link for samples of some of his music. (But they’re sold out.)

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  6. Went to Amazon and sampled. At first I was completely mesmerized; eventually the identical bass figure in every single song became downright maddening. (Even “My Yiddesche Momme” becomes a dreamy make-out song!) As with Enya and “soft jazz,” for me a little of some stuff goes a long way. Snippets of Rhebein do take you back to cinched waists in Dior dresses, White Shoulders perfume and lipstick-smudged cigarettes….

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