How did you get into Rockabilly?
I guess with a name like Frankie I was tainted by fifties from birth. My mum was a big Elvis fan so that is the only music I had to listen to when I was little. Naturally the Fonz was a big hero of mine growing up but so were all the rebels in teenage films. Most good coming-of-age films had fantastic 50s soundtracks and I recall being hugely influenced by films such as the Outsiders and the Wanderers. As I got older my music tastes expanded to include everything from punk to country but my interest in fifties stayed with me in the clothes and the style I liked and with the books I read. Kerouac and Bukowski are still mainstays of mine and of course To Kill a Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time. I rediscovered the fifties again in my twenties with The Stray Cats and jive dancing (they call it rockabilly dancing in ‘Stralia) and as they say the rest is history.
What was the first fifties music you listened to?
‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Hailey was in the intro to ‘Happy Days’. I couldn’t get enough of it. I also loved ‘La Bamba’, it came back on the charts in the eighties courtesy of the Ritchie Valens’ biopic with Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s probably the best biopic on a 50s musician to come out (then again I am a sucker for eighties films, look out for Brian Setzer playing Eddie Cochran in the film).
How did Diamond Jive come about?
By the time I came to London in 2007 I was hugely into Rockabilly dancing and music and with this big move I took the opportunity to throw myself completely into the subculture. The scene in London and Europe was really great at the time and I met cool people and went to some great nights. Hoola Boogie (South London Pacific) and Sugar Push (Positively Fifth Street) were great clubs. The Black Gardenia (Soho), The Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club and Ye Old Axe (Shoreditch) had retro nights which became institutions and were great places to meet people. I met awesome people like Miss Aloha (Hula Boogie), Martin Powell (Dj Dandy) Lydia Penke (Hell Kittie Kittie) and Oona Fortune (Dublin Chanteuse, Rockin Dj and designer of the Diamond Jive Logo) and had the pleasure of working with all of them. There were people doing all sorts of permutations of retro. From sleazy Italian gangsta affairs to girls on rollerskates and rooms full of cake. After a couple of years a good friend of mine Heather (DJ Lil Bop) and I decided we would like to teach dance. I asked a local pub in South East London known as the Railway if we could teach in their upstairs room and they said we could if we did them a favor and played some tunes in their bar downstairs from time to time. We of course agreed and Diamond Jive was born.
What is so great about Rockabilly Jive?
We are so lucky we love the best things! Really we do! Fantastic raw energetic music with a rich history and deep roots in Country, Gospel and Blues and a style of dance that is versatile, fast, stylish and very inclusive. You only need a few moves to get started. There is so much music from the 50s you can spend a lifetime exploring it and once you get into the music you get into the furniture, the art, the list goes on.
What do you hope to achieve with Diamond Jive?
I’d like to see it continue to bring people together from all walks of life and ages in an inclusive and welcome setting where we can continue to share our love of the music, dance and have a good time.
Who is your favorite Rockabilly artist?
A very controversial and difficult question but if I had to pick someone above all (excluding The King himself) it would have to be Little Richard. He truly must have sounded like a nuclear bomb to the little kid’s ears in the fifties. He was gay, black and loud in times of segregation. I am convinced he could bring you back from the dead. I’d like to design a t-shirt that says “In the event of an emergency play Little Richard”. He’s guaranteed to wake you up and make you party.