A Colorado Musical Journey
Frankie Rino was born Frank Raymond Rino on August 23rd, 1944 in Trinidad, Colorado to Frank and Eloise Rino. Trinidad is located about 250 miles directly south of Denver.
The Rino family relocated to Denver where they resided on Galapago Street in a West-Denver neighborhood situated close to St. Joseph Catholic School which Frankie and his siblings would attend.
At a very young age, Frankie made his first public appearances at Denver’s annual Summer Rocky Mountain News Show Wagon as well as the radio station KTLN’s Show Wagon, annual summer Denver happenings in which the wagons would travel around the various Denver neighborhood parks, providing a diverse array of amateur entertainment, all free to the public, drawing very large audiences during the warm summer evenings. Frankie performed solo, playing guitar.
Beginnings – The Checkmates
After graduating in 1962 from St. Joseph High School in Denver, Frankie joined “The Checkmates” a ‘garage band’ that included Ray Sekera, Curt Fisher (drums) and Dave Adams (guitar). The Checkmates started off in the early 1960’s as “Johnny & The Checkmates prior to replacing Johnny (who was John Paul Jones) with Frankie.
Frankie would make an appearance in KIMN’s “Teen Music and Dance Festival” along with 15 local Colorado bands as well as national recording star Johnny Rivers. The two KIMN weekly survey sheets shown below are from November 15th and November 22nd, 1965.
KIMN Radio Survey – November 15th, 1965
KIMN Radio Survey – November 22nd, 1965
At a very early age, Frankie and his band, the Checkmates performed in small local venues and then were booked into a 3.2 nightclub around 1960, located on West Alameda in west Denver which would evolve into the “Galaxy” a bit later in the 1960’s. Frankie recalls that early on the spot had another name, which Frankie recalls was “The Epic”. The Galaxy building still stands today, serving as a veteran’s club. At some point The Checkmates entered the Tom Harvey Sound Recording studio located at 1699 Lincoln Street in Denver in the early 1960’s laying down two tracks “China Doll” and “Surprise” which survive in Frankie’s collection today on a 12-inch 78 RPM acetate!
Off to Buddy Holly’s Stomping Grounds – Frankie Rino & The Squires
The Squires were:
- Frankie Rino – vocals
- Jack Skinner – bass
- Eddie Everett – lead guitar
- James Woods – drums
- Gary Stephens – keyboards
In November of 1965 Frankie and his next group, “The Squires”, headed south to the famed Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico – home base for Buddy Holly and the Crickets as well as many others including Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. They cut two tracks, “Maybe The Last Time” and “We Belong Together” both of which were not released at the time but have since been made available digitally by “Nor-Va-Jak Music Inc.” a company that acquired the rights to the Norman Petty Studio recordings and masters (see the Frankie Rino Discograpy)
Since then “Nor-Va-Jak Music”, the James Brown number “Maybe the Last Time”has been included a CD collection titled “Norman Petty Recording Studios – Vault Series 1965-1969 Volume 3”. That same CD also includes classic cuts by three other Colorado based bands, the Teardrops, the Trolls and the Chandells all from Pueblo, Colorado.
Battle of the Bands – Frankie Rino & The Squires – 1967
Frankie Rino & The Innovations
Frankie’s next group, “The Innovations” accompanied him on a long play recorded in Denver independently and released in 1969. Members of the Innovations were:
- Frankie Rino
- Les James (piano)
- Denny Dale (drums)
- Tony Streno (bass and trumpet)
Les James would later form his own trio in the 1980’s and would often be joined by Frankie appearing in local Denver venues. The group released one long play album titled simply “Frankie Rino with the Innovations” recorded and produced by noted Denver area music executive Fred Arthur in 1969.
The Colorado Express with The Rendon Brothers – Vegas Bound
Moving into the 1970’s Frankie was backed by “The Colorado Express” which included Flo and Kenny Rendon – “Express” founders along with George Newman, and Jim Anderson. Frankie recorded commercials for the Denver market including Frontier Airlines, Elitches Amusement Park, and “King of the Row” – a commercial which Frankie sites as gaining the attention which led to his time in Las Vegas.
The band also performed at “The Rocky Mountain Express”.
Then in 1972 Frankie landed a five-week engagement at the famous “Stardust” in Las Vegas. That followed with a booking at Lake Tahoe’s “Sahara” , Nevada – and then an appearance on the Merv Griffin Show on November 1st of 1972, aired on ABC TV nationally and shown on Denver’s KBTV Channel 9 introduced by celebrity Danny Thomas who saw Frankie while appearing at the Stardust.
The Stardust/Merv Griffin/The Sahara
Frankie and the Rendons remained in the desert glitz Capitol for 3 years. During that time he would meet and befriend many performing celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr., Don Costa, Tony Bennett and many more. And during his stint in Nevada he became close friends with Phyllis McGuire of the famous McGuire Sisters, often invited to visit at he Las Vegas residence. He journeyed to Los Angeles during this time and made an appearance in conjunction with Johnny Rivers at the happening “Whiskey A-Go-Go”. ????
The Rinos with Frank Sinatra Jr.
Frank and Eloise in Las Vegas with Frank Jr. for Sinatra Concert
MGM Recording Session
While performing at the Stardust members of the audience included MGM Records executives – a label which would record Frankie in and release a single in the summer of 1973.
Billboard – September 15th, 1973
Billboard December 12th, 1977
With Frankie returning to Denver where he became first an officer on the Denver Police force and then a detective, where he remained for 34 years. As a Denver Police officer Frankie continued is career as a singer and entertainer and often made public relations appearances around the Denver metropolitan area to local high schools on behalf of the Police.
Frankie found himself on a fast track in the Denver adult nightclub scene appearing at many venues – and and along with the Rendon Brothers becoming regulars at La Place Pigalle. Following are many of the lounges and venues where Frankie appeared both prior – during and after his stints in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.
The Continental Broker
The Denver Coliseum
Emerson Street East
The Four Winds Snug Harbor Lounge
Frankie’s Hideaway (at Jaspers)
The Golden Ox
La Place Pigalle at Brooks Towers
The Red Vest Inn
The Soda Straw
Thieves Market at the Regency
The Tipsy Tiger
The Whiskey A-Go-Go
Frankie Rino Discography
78 – Test Pressing – “China Doll” b/w “Surprise” – Tom Harvey Sound Denver – (around 1959-60)
45 – Digital Track – “Maybe The Last Time” and “We Belong Together” – (Norman Petty Studios Clovis New Mexico – November, 1965 – unreleased
Available “Maybe the Last Time” available on Nor-Va-Jak” Compilation CD “Vault Series 1965-1969 – Volume 3”
LP – Denver Independent Lable – “Frankie Rino with the Innovation” – 1969
45 – MGM K 14584 – “What Becomes of My World” b/w “Papa Was A Music Man” – June, 1973
CD – Merv Griffin Show – November 1st, 1972
With Danny Thomas making Frankie’s performance
- “I Believe In Music”
- Interview with Merv Griffin and Danny Thomas
- “Watch What Happens”
- “What Becomes of My World” (from MGM Single)
- “California’s Calling”
- “Sugar Mama”
CD – Christmas with Frankie – FTM Studios
CD – At the Best Years – #1, #2 and #3
With Les James (piano) – Joe Lopez (bass) – Joe Joe Williams (drums) – Frankie Rino (vocals)