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Carol Fran

Oct. 23, 1933

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Carol Fran, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Photograph by MichaCarol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewartel G. Stewart
Carol Fran, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
Carol Fran performing at the 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Carol Fran, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar

Carol Fran grew up Lafayette, Louisiana, speaking both English and the Creole French of her parents and grandparents. She taught herself to play on a piano at home and began her musical career at 15 when she went on the road with Joe Lutcher and His Society Cats. During her long career, she has performed with Jimmy Reed, Lee Dorsey, Guitar Slim, Joe Tex, Ray Charles, the Ronettes, Mary Wells and Otis Redding.

In 1957, she had a hit record with a song she had written, “Emmitt Lee,” on the Excello label. The tune exemplified the style that later came to be known as swamp blues, a fusion of traditional Cajun music with New Orleans rhythm and blues ballads, featuring emotional singing and a rocking tempo, often in 6/8 (double waltz) time. Another recording, her 1965 version of Artie Glenn’s “Crying in the Chapel” for the Port label, led to a classic Elvis encounter. Fran’s version was selling well until Elvis’ version was released. She confronted The King in California, saying, “That’s taking bread out of my mouth that you didn’t need.” He promptly wrote her a check for $10,000.

After marrying saxophone player Bob Francois, she billed herself as Carol Fran and performed steadily in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. In the early 1980s, she married Texas blues guitarist Clarence Hollimon and relocated to Houston, where they formed the Hollimon Express. They toured widely in the U.S. and Europe, released three albums and became artists-in-residence, teaching the blues through Texas Folklife Resources.

After her husband’s death in 2000, Fran returned to Louisiana. In 2006, she was named Louisiana Folk Artist of the Year. She suffered a stroke in 2007 but delivered an inspiring performance seven months later at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Also in 2008, she received a Lafayette City-Parish Council Distinguished Citizen Award and was named Outstanding Jazz Vocalist as part of African American History Month. In August 2009, Fran performed at the 7th Annual Bourbon Street Festival in São Paulo Brazil, and in 2012 she received the Slim Harpo Blues Award for Female Legend of the Year.

Bibliography
Milano, Brett. “Carol Fran Wins NEA Honor.” Offbeat Magazine, June 4, 2013. http://www.offbeat.com/news/carol-fran-wins- nea-honor/
Reed, Josephine. “2013 National Heritage Fellow: Louisiana Swamp blues singer, composer and pianist Carol Fran looks back at her 60-year career.” Art Works, produced by the National Endowment for the Arts http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/carol-fran
“NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Carol Fran.” http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/carol-fran

Discography
Fran, Carol, and Clarence Hollimon. Soul Sensation! Black Top CD, 2009.
_____. It’s About Time. JSP Records CD, 2000.
_____. See There! Shout Factory CD, 2009.
Fran, Carol, featuring Clarence Hollimon. Women in (E)Motion. Tradition & Moderne CD, 2010.
Fran, Carol. The Frantastic Carol Fran. Sound of New Orleans CD, 2000; Sounds of New OrleansCar/LocoBop CD, 2013.
LaVette, Betty, and Carol Fran. Bluesoul Belles: The Complete Calla, Port & Roulette Recordings. Emd Int’l CD, 2005.
Various artists. Louisiana Swamp Stomp. Honeybee Records CD, 2010.
____. Our New Orleans: Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast, Nonesuch CD, 2005.

Filmography
Le Bleu Blues, produced for world-wide French-language broadcast by TV5 Québec Canada, 2006.
The Big Easy, Kings Road Entertainment feature film, 1987, USA Cable Network TV series, 1996-97, music included in soundtrack.
The Pelican Brief, 1993 Warner Bros. feature film, music included in soundtrack.

Other
Still Singing the Blues: New Orleans and South Louisiana Blues, 2010 radio documentary by Filmmakers Collaborative. http://stillsingingtheblues.org/

Watch

Carol Fran interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer and performing "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere," 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Carol Fran performing "Tou' les jours c'est pas la meme (Every Day Is Not the Same)," 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Carol Fran performing "Emmitt Lee," 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Listen

Carol Fran answers the question 'Could you talk about your childhood?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran answers the question 'How did you get started playing music and singing?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran answers the question 'What sort of styles did you get into?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran sings "Let it Shine" in a swamp rock style, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran talks about how her mother didn't want her to play swamp pop, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran answers the question 'What was it about jazz that appealed to you?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran talks about her first professional job, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran answers the question 'How did you meet Guitar Slim?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran answers the question 'What did you do after Guitar Slim passed away?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran talks about how her stroke affected her singing, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran talks about learning to be a musician from her husband, Clarence Hollimon, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran answers the question 'What keeps you going?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Carol Fran talks about the impact of winning the National Heritage Fellowship, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013