The DeFranco Family, featuring Tony DeFranco, was a 1970s pop music group and family from Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. The group, all siblings, consisted of guitarist Benny DeFranco (born 11 July 1953); keyboardist Marisa DeFranco (born 23 July 1954); guitarist Nino DeFranco (born 19 October 1955); drummer Merlina DeFranco (born 20 July 1957); and lead singer Tony DeFranco (born 31 August 1959).
The group had a number of hits between 1973 and 1977, including "Abra-Ca-Dabra" and their biggest hit, "Heartbeat (It's a Love Beat)." Either Tony DeFranco or the entire family appeared in almost every issue of a number of the teen magazines of this period, such as Tiger Beat and Flip. By the late 1970s, the group had faded from the pop scene.
The five siblings who comprised the DeFranco Family were born to Italian immigrant parents and raised in Port Colborne and Welland, Ontario. Initially performing as the DeFranco Quintet, the group found success after a demo tape of their songs was heard by Sharon Lee, editor of teen magazine Tiger Beat. Impressed by what she heard, Lee arranged for Charles Laufer to fly the group to Los Angeles for an audition. Laufer signed the group to an exclusive deal with his company, Laufer Entertainment, financed a three-song demo, and helped them to secure a contract with 20th Century Records.
The DeFranco Family recorded at United Western Recorders studios in Hollywood with accompaniment by Wrecking Crew veterans Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Carlton on guitar, and Max Bennett on bass. They appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand nine times.
With their lighthearted approach to music, the DeFranco Family became a successful pop music act in the mid-1970s. Their debut 1973 single, "Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat," featuring the lead vocals of then 13-year-old Tony DeFranco, reached number one on WLS for five straight weeks (and was number two there for the entire year 1973), number three in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the top slot on the Cashbox singles chart, as well as hitting number three in their native Canada on the RPM 100 national Top Singles chart, selling more than two million copies in the process. It was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A in November 1973. The song's writer, Purdue alumnus Michael T. Kennedy, was a long-time executive at Boeing/McDonnell Douglas. Their second single, "Abra-Ca-Dabra," which reached the Top 40, was followed by their final hit, "Save the Last Dance for Me," which reached number 18 on the charts in May 1974.
The DeFranco Family's active career reached a roadblock when a rock version of their tune "Write Me a Letter" failed to generate much attention and reached no higher than the 104th slot on the charts. Although their earlier hits had been produced by Walt Meskell, the disappointing sales of "Write Me a Letter" prompted their record label, 20th Century Fox, to dismiss Meskell involuntarily and team the group with Mike Curb, who had previously worked with The Osmonds. But the collaboration proved disastrous. When Curb attempted to recast the group as a cover band, they resisted and severed their relationship with their publisher and manager, Charles Laufer and Laufer Entertainment, and 20th Century Fox.
Unable to attract interest from another label, they continued to tour and perform in Las Vegas. Frustrated by their inability to attain their previous heights, they disbanded in 1978. A reunion concert at Rhino Records' Retro Fest in August 1999 was followed by the DeFranco Family's final performance at B.B. King's Nightclub in Los Angeles in April 2000.
Tony obtained a real-estate license and became a realtor with Sotheby's International Realty in Westlake Village, California.
The siblings took up residences within an hour's drive from each other in California and remained close. Although the DeFranco Family gave up its involvement in the music industry, Tony and Marisa continued to perform on occasion.
This work released through CC 3.0 BY-SA - Creative Commons