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The Joel Frankel Story (in 1999)

Joel Frankel is a serious songwriter and a big kid.
Like many musicians, Joel left New Jersey for Los Angeles. There he found some success with songs for film and television (Big, The Heights), founded a band that was courted by the major labels, and wound up in Chicago putting out recordings for adoring consumers under three-feet tall.
"I wanted to learn guitar when I was six. To prove to my father that I'd sit and practice, he had me hold my big sister's violin thirty minutes everyday for a month to show I'd stick with it." He stuck with it. His childhood included living in Oklahoma, Denver, North Dakota, St. Louis, New York and Washington D.C. and eventually an adolescence in Princeton. "I used to sing obituaries as a kid. It got me interested in songs about life and death. It's how I started writing songs." It wasn't until college that the allure of free beer was enough to entice Joel to perform in public as a solo acoustic instrumentalist. Upon earning a degree as a dietician, he moved to Philadelphia and started a more appetizing career choice, that of a rock musician. He formed his own band, Enuchs From Munich, to play his songs. On a personal trip to L.A. he succeeded on his very first attempt at selling a song. The publisher was Dave Gillutin, known for his early association with Neil Diamond.
Enticed to move to the West Coast, he bought a van with New Jersey slide guitarist Jon Spiegel. A stopover in Chicago turned into a winter residency. He made musical connections in Chicago and started working again with a friend from back East, keyboardist Eddie Ganet. He also met the woman he would eventually marry.
Arriving in California, he landed his first job as an engineer's assistant for songwriter Barry Mann and producer/publisher Steve Tyrell. Early on he experienced a strange taste of glamour by receiving a Grammy. Granted, it was a UPS driver attempting delivery to the truly deserving Barry Mann. While attending the Grove School of Music for his first real musical training he was joined again by Eddie Ganet, himself a Berklee graduate. They formed a band called Down Boy Down. They worked with Bill Graham Management, were the first band to ever play the China Club, and appeared live on KCRW. But Joel had always been doing more than rock'n'roll.
Back East he had been performing children's concerts and found his impish enthusiasm even more in demand in Hollywood. "I was teaching at a place called Dance & Jingle. One of my songs, 'We Go Together,' was on a tape they used. The music supervisor for the film Big heard his kid playing my song over and over. So he used it right before the classic keyboard dance scene, way, way, way back in the background. I didn't even hear it the first time I saw the film." Through his published works and growing industry interest in Down Boy Down, more of his songs made their way into movies and television (e.g. MTV's Catwalk series). The band worked with Elton John's arranger Paul Buckmaster and producer/engineer David Holman, best known for his Olivia Newton-John credits. Upon the birth of his daughter, Layla, Joel moved to the hometown of his wife to raise their family in Chicago.
Upon his return to the Windy City he began teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Soon after Down Boy Down was reformed, this time with Bad Examples lead guitarist Tom O'Brien, when Eddie Ganet relocated to Chicago. But Joel found himself concentrating ever more heavily on his children's music career. "I love working with kids. I'm so child-like as a person that it feels natural. It has real meaning for me spiritually, even if the chord changes are pretty damn easy." He released two cassettes on his own Crunchy Records: Don't Sit On A Cactus and I Can't Sit Still. Billboard's Moira McCormick wrote in the Child's Play column that the latter was "...one of the most delightful, original children's cassettes we have come across in recent times." And those children's cassettes were finally issued on compact disc in late 1998. A third album, JoJo the Scarecrow, was issued by Digital Generation Entertainment in 1999.
Realizing success with his children's career he felt that now was the time to make sure he is known as a serious songwriter as well. "I'm also a mature person who wants to write about a drought, coffee, or getting laid. These are not necessarily kids' issues. I believe that songs have their own will and energy and that I have an obligation to let them go." Ralph Covert of The Bad Examples had been a longtime fan and was always prompting Joel to make a record. "Since Ralph knew and loved my songs he made the perfect producer. I needed the discipline." Covert assembled an ensemble of musicians from Chicago's best bands. Credits include Larry Beers (Champaign, Charming Beggars), Lenny Marsh (Big Shoulders), John Rice (Insiders), Buddha Slim (Remainders), Pickles Piekarski (John Prine's Famous Potatoes, Bad Examples), the aforementioned Tom O'Brien and Eddie Ganet, plus two members of Brother Brother: Jon Spiegel and keyboardist/guitarist John Zdon, who also engineered the sessions.
If Peter Pans Out is the compact disc debut of Joel Frankel, who has temporarily grown up.
Addendum: Joel has returned to writing and performing children's music has since the time the above bio was written he's released the splendid Sea Of Chocolate Chips compact disc. Visit www.joelfankel.com for more details.