An interview with Cranky Frankie Blandino, Stan Kozlowski, and Johnny Sciascia
by Katy Shea
If you find yourself in a sea of saddle shoes and pompadours, a good mix of tattoos as well as groups of beautiful girls in ’50s inspired dresses and liquid eye-liner, there’s no doubt, you’ve been lucky enough to stumble into a Crank-Tones show. The band’s sound is as unique as their fans. They seem to have popped straight out of 1956 (even their on-stage banter is reminiscent of the era), and yet have enough modern appeal to pack Boston clubs. Their success is due not only to their talent as players but to their loyalty to traditional rockabilly. The Crank-Tones’ live show is an experience that has made loyal fans out of everyone from metal heads to Gothic industrial fans. I recently caught up with these inspiring cats at the Middle East, and it went somethin’ like this.
So how long have you guys been together?
Frankie: Well, we’re very untogether as a matter of fact…
Johnny: What kind of an answer is that? Frankie and I have playing together now for five and a half years, Stan’s been here for about four years.
Stan: Four years? I don’t remember.
How did you guys end up forming The Crank-Tones? Were you all playing rockabilly then?
Frankie: I was playing hockey.
Johnny: (laughs) Frank was in a band called The Premieres, I was in a band called the Boogeymen. One night we were at an Evan and the H-Bombs show at Johnny D’s and he said, “Hey, my bass player’s leaving town. Do you wanna play?”
Frankie: I thought he was someone else, though.
Well, why rockabilly?
Frankie: Why not?
Stan: Cuz there’s only three of us, and rockabilly is appropriate for three guys.
What other types of music have you guys been involved with?
Frankie: I’ve even played in disco bands.
Stan: So have I…
Frankie: Polish disco bands.
Tell me a little bit about your audience. The Crank-Tones seem to have a pretty huge cult following. How do you explain the devotion you receive from your fans?
Frankie: The chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear and when I do, it’s something unusual.
Uh… you guys play a good mix of originals and classic rockabilly tunes. You write originals that are almost indistinguishable from songs written over forty years ago.
Johnny: Well, Stan is the real thing on drums, because he listens to the real thing.
Stan: I just try to copy Ringo.
All: (rampant giggles)
Stan: I’m serious, I keep things very simple and that way I don’t step all over Frankie and his solos.
Johnny: Stan is the Ringo of rockabilly.
Frankie: Rockabilly Ringo.
There are bands coming up now that are moving away from traditional styles and finding a great deal of success. How do you feel about that?
Johnny: I know there are a lot of bands trying to bring rockabilly to another level… which I think is fine, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who really enjoy that, but personally, I really don’t think rockabilly has ever been played better than it was in 1956. I try and do my best to play it just the way they did then, and hope people will dig it.
Why do you think the new non-traditional styles of rockabilly are attracting most of the attention?
Johnny: It’s all because they have matching suits, they’re younger, and they have better hair.
Frankie: They have a little more punk energy to their playin’, and we just sorta, well, we sound like old guys.
Stan: We have punk energy too, we’re just more refined.
Frankie: I don’t know, I can’t explain it. I don’t wanna say that one is better than the other, it’s all good, we’re just different.
Any long-term plans for the Crank-Tones?
Stan: 401K plan maybe? The older we get, the Crankier we get.
Frankie: We’ll be putting out a record soon, within the year or probably before that.
Johnny: We want to put out a record that will sell, so we’ll get more money per gig. Then we can play less and make more.