|Janie Marie Fricke|
|Born||December 19, 1947|
|Origin||South Whitley, Indiana, U.S.|
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (August 2017)
Fricke was one of the most popular female country singers of the 1980s, producing a string of hits and proving herself a versatile vocalist with a particular flair for ballads. She won the Country Music Association's "Female Vocalist of the Year" awards in 1982 and 1983.
Fricke was born in South Whitley, Indiana, in 1947 to parents Phyllis (née Kyler) and Waldemar Fricke. She learned piano and guitar as a child; her first vocal influences were folk artists such as Joan Baez and Judy Collins. Despite growing up in a musical family and spending much of her childhood singing at home, school, and church, her parents encouraged her to continue her formal education for a "respectable" career.
While studying for her bachelor's degree in elementary education at Indiana University, she was a member of the Singing Hoosiers. Responding to an audition call posted on the bulletin board at practice, she was thrilled to get a job singing commercial jingles and station breaks (one of her most notable commercial jingles was for the Red Lobster seafood restaurant chain, in which she sang their famous slogan, "Red Lobster for the seafood lover in you"). Her parents insisted she return to school to finish her degree, which she did, and then headed to California to pursue a career. Returning to Nashville, she signed with the Lea Jane Singers, which marked the beginning of her commercial success.
In 1975, Fricke moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she became an in-demand background vocalist. She sang background for numerous other artists at the time; including Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap, Lynn Anderson, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty, and Eddie Rabbitt. However, Fricke's work as background vocalist on several recordings by Johnny Duncan first brought her to national attention. After supplying uncredited background vocals for such Duncan hits as "Jo and the Cowboy," "Thinkin' of a Rendezvous," "It Couldn't Have Been Any Better," and "Stranger," Fricke was finally rewarded when she was given equal billing with Duncan on his cover of Jay and the Americans' "Come a Little Bit Closer," in which she sang the song's chorus. However, Fricke's contribution to Duncan's number-one hit "Stranger" in 1977 likely generated the most interest. In that song's chorus, Fricke sang the line, "Shut out the light and lead me....". Listeners wondered who the mystery lady was singing those words in Duncan's song. Because of this, Fricke was able to gain a recording contract of her own from Columbia Records, where she remained over 10 years, beginning in 1977.
Fricke teamed up with the Heart City Band, and her 1977 debut single, "What're You Doing Tonight," just missed the top 20. Collaborations with Charlie Rich (the number-one hit "On My Knees") and Duncan (the top-five "Come a Little Bit Closer") kept Fricke going strong through 1978, but her solo singles over the next few years had minimal success. However, Fricke did have two top-20 hits between 1978 and 1979: her cover of Hank Locklin's "Please Help Me I'm Falling (In Love With You)," which reached number 12; and "I'll Love Away Your Troubles for Awhile," which peaked at number 14. However, country radio still failed to regularly air Fricke's recordings, so most of her other singles did not chart very high between 1978 and 1981.
During this time, Fricke had already released three studio albums, beginning in 1977 with her debut album, Singer of Songs. The album produced her first three singles, "What're You Doing Tonight?", "Please Help Me I'm Falling (In Love With You)", and "Baby It's You". In 1979, Fricke released her second and third studio albums, Love Notes and From the Heart. Only Love Notes produced one top-20 hit. None of Fricke's albums at this time had yet charted on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.
In late 1980, Fricke's producer, Billy Sherrill, noticed her limited success and realized the issue could be changed. Sherrill advised Fricke to establish an identity by focusing on one style, and she then began to record ballads. As a result, Fricke had a breakthrough year in 1981, when she landed two top-five hits with "Down to My Last Broken Heart" and "I'll Need Someone to Hold Me (When I Cry)." Fricke continued to have her breakthrough success from 1982 through 1984, when she scored six number-one hits: "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby," "It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy," "Tell Me a Lie," "He's a Heartache," Let's Stop Talkin' About It," and "Your Heart's Not In It."  Three of Fricke's No. 1s were spawned from her 1982 album, It Ain't Easy, which became a successful-selling album. In 1983, Fricke toured with the Heart City Band and Alabama.
By this time, Fricke had broadened her style to include more up-tempo tracks as well. She was rewarded in 1982 and again in 1983 with Female Vocalist of the Year from the Country Music Association. In 1983, Fricke released her next studio album, Love Lies, which peaked at number 10 on the Top Country Albums chart. The album spawned a number-one single, "Let's Stop Talkin' About It" and a top-10, "If the Fall Don't Get You." In 1984, Fricke released her next album, First Word in Memory. The lead single, "Your Heart's Not In It", was a number-one hit in 1984, followed by the title track, which became a top-10 hit the same year.
During this time, Fricke also tried her hand at acting when she had a guest-starring role on the Dukes of Hazzard, playing the part of Ginny, a jewel thief who hid money in the dashboard of a getaway car that was to become the General Lee in the episode "Happy Birthday, General Lee" (episode 131). She also was a part of the Louise Mandrell special Diamonds, Gold and Platinum, among other TV specials.
Fricke's 1985 album, Somebody Else's Fire, peaked at number 21 on the Top Country Albums chart and yielded three top-10 hits. Also during this time, Fricke reprised her role of background vocalist on two of Merle Haggard's 1985 singles, "Natural High," and "A Place to Fall Apart," the latter of which became a number-one hit. In 1986, Fricke released her next album, Black & White, which included her last number-one hit, "Always Have, Always Will," as well as her last top-20 hit, "When a Woman Cries," which peaked at number 20 in 1986.
Annoyed by mispronunciations of her surname, Fricke changed the spelling of the name to "Frickie" in 1986; but a few years later, she reverted it back to the original spelling.
As neotraditional country music artists, including Patty Loveless and Randy Travis, gained popularity in 1987, the style of country music Fricke had been recording since 1982 was no longer in style on country radio; and as a result, Fricke's success began to decline. Fricke recorded a top-25 hit with Larry Gatlin called "From Time to Time (It Sure Feels Like Love Again)," released on Gatlin's 1987 Partners album. Fricke's 1987 album, After Midnight, released one top-40 country hit, "Are You Satisfied," which peaked at number 32. The other singles from the album did not break into the top 40. In 1988, Fricke's Saddle the Wind album peaked at number 64 on the Top Country Albums chart. Fricke's last charted single, 1989's "Give 'Em My Number," peaked at number 43 on the Billboard Country Chart. After 1989's Labor of Love album, Fricke and Columbia records parted ways.
Fricke's album Bouncin' Back was released in 2000 under her own label, JMF Records. She decided to sell her album on the Internet exclusively. Fricke continues to tour extensively, but she sets aside time to spend with her family on her Texas ranch near Lancaster.
In 2004, Fricke released a bluegrass album under DM records, The Bluegrass Sessions. The tracks from the album were Fricke's country hits from the 1980s recorded in bluegrass style for the album.
Fricke continues to be actively involved in the music industry today. In 2005 and 2016, she attended the Country Music Association Awards. Fricke was the Firefighters' Marshal for Winchester, Virginia's, 80th Annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in May 2007. Fricke performed for five hours at the Independence Day festival in Slidell, Louisiana, on July 4, 2013, to a crowd of over 8,000.
Fricke is also an occasional participant in the Country's Family Reunion DVD series, which airs on RFD-TV.
In 1985, Fricke established the Janie Fricke Scholarship at Indiana University to benefit gifted students in the School of Music. The scholarships are open to active members of the Singing Hoosiers vocal ensemble who demonstrate financial need. Fricke has also participated in the Country Music Hall of Fame Fundraising Campaign. Other artists who also support the project include, Big & Rich, Kenny Chesney, Kate Campbell, Amy Grant, James Otto, and Gretchen Wilson.
|1979||Music City News Country||Most Promising Female Artist of the Year|
|1982||Country Music Association Awards||Female Vocalist of the Year|
|1983||Female Vocalist of the Year|
|Academy of Country Music Awards||Top Female Vocalist|
|Music City News Country||Female Artist of the Year|
|1984||Female Artist of the Year|
|1978||Best Female Country Vocal Performance||What're You Doin' Tonight||Nominated|
|1985||Best Female Country Vocal Performance||Your Heart's Not in It||Nominated|
|1986||Best Female Country Vocal Performance||She's Single Again||Nominated|