Hey Daddy-O

“Hey, Daddy-O,” he calls out extending his hand as he approaches. He wears vintage clothing, a brim up pork-pie hat and warm smile. He drives a Twizzler red ‘64 Dodge Polara. He and his wife Claudia named their son Schuyler after Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.” Franklin Micare is delightfully eccentric, from another time and timeless in the same instant, with a touch of Damon Runyon; he’s a musician and much more.

Born in Albany, Franklin grew up in Slingerlands. He loved music and sang along with the radio. His mother thought he couldn’t sing until she realized he was singing the harmony parts, perfectly. He first played the drum, but when he heard the Beatles, he got a guitar.

He went into Pre-Med at Albany State because of his natural aptitude for math and because of what he calls the ‘human aspect’ of the medical profession. Between his junior and senior year he decided he loved music more than medicine and moved to Greenwich Village.

He played at all the music clubs, the Gaslight, Fat Black Pussy Cat, Café Au Go Go and The Bitter End along with other unknown folk and rock singers, Phoebe Snow and Bruce Springsteen among them. He opened for Dave Von Ronk, Melissa Manchester, David Bromberg and Mike Nesmith.

His manager got him a record deal on the Private Stock label. That took him on the road opening for Seals and Crofts, Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels and B.J. Thomas playing twenty-eight minutes for a thousand bucks, good money back then.

Shifting to Columbia Records he began touring with comedians, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Steve Landisberg, Robert Klein and Henny Youngman. His manager asked if Henny could ride along to the gig. So Franklin called Henny Youngman to make arrangements and to introduce himself, “Hello, Mister Youngman, my name is Franklin Micare.”

“Well, change it,” Henny Youngman shot back.

“He was great. He spoke in one liners all the time.” Franklin’s eyes fill with respect, “He was a sweet man, a very cool guy.”

It’s funny how seemingly insignificant events can change your life. Parting ways with Columbia Records, he stumbled into a club one night and heard Johnny Hartman who sang with Coltrane and had a Billy Eckstein voice, “I couldn’t believe how good this guy was and I said to myself, forget about trying to make it, why don’t I just get good.” Getting good is what Franklin did. He focused on his music and the joy it brought him, then something else happened.

Gigs in Switzerland began coming his way. He’d fly into Rome and drive. On one trip he found himself in Venice and heard something that further changed his life: clocks, chiming all over the city. “The bells sounded so alive in the streets. I told myself it would be good to have a lot of clocks in my house.” He didn’t have a house at the time, but knew when he did it would be filled with clocks.

Back in the states, actress Geraldine Fitzgerald heard one of his songs and contacted him. She wanted him to write a musical based on the John B. Keane play, “Sharon’s Grave.” He accepted and spent the next four years working on the musical.

With money he’d saved, Franklin found a quiet, beautiful place in Stuyvesant and moved to Columbia County. He began filling the house with clocks, but realized they had to be maintained, so he learned how. He apprenticed for years with David Fulton and Warner Paul, a mathematician, “I just got hooked on clocks.”
Three years ago he opened his own shop, “Amorous Clock,” named for a 12th Century poem by Jean Froissart. Business has been good, “More clocks than I could fix in a lifetime.” Franklin takes pleasure in maintaining clocks at the Roosevelt house, Val Kil, the Cole House and Albany Historical Society.

Watching Franklin work, it’s easy to see his love of the craft, the adjustments, the waiting, each clock having individual quirks, a special life of it’s own. It’s the esthetics and the math, the love of time that fuels Franklin’s passion; maybe it’s the clock’s human aspect of the beating heart. Still, music lives in his soul; he plays twice a week in Saratoga.

A few years back he got a call to play a gig for Yoko Ono. There were 100 songs John Lennon had written but never recorded and Yoko wanted to record them, to document the songs. Franklin sang on all the tracks, he sang Lennon’s part, even duets with Yoko. A short time later, when the remaining Beatles decided to record some of those songs, one being “Real Love,” Yoko sent them the tapes, the voice they heard singing Lennon’s music was Franklin’s. “It’s kinda like going full circle you might say,” he quietly admits.

Sitting in his shop overlooking Warren Street I watch Franklin disassemble a clock. It’s noon and the shop comes alive with bells, I think of Venice and smile.

“What’s your dream?” I ask.

“I love my wife and son. I live in the country, enjoy clocks and get to play my music, too. What else is there?”

We’ll talk next time From The Road.

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