Johnny Frigo (December 27, 1916 - July 4, 2007) was an American jazz violinist and bassist. He first appeared in the 1940s as a violinist before working as a bassist. He returned to the violin in the 1980s and enjoyed a comeback, recording several albums as a leader.
Frigo died at age 90 of complications from a fall. He had been battling cancer, according to some reports of his death.
Frigo was born in Chicago and studied violin for three years beginning at age 7. In high school he started to play double bass in dance orchestras. In 1942 he played with Chico Marx's orchestra and performed a comedy routine on violin with Marx on piano. He entered the United States Coast Guard during World War II and played in a band on Ellis Island with Al Haig and Kai Winding.
After a brief turn at active service near the end of the war he moved to New Jersey. He toured with Jimmy Dorsey's band from 1945 to 1947, later forming the Soft Winds trio with Dorsey's guitarist Herb Ellis and pianist Lou Carter. During this time he wrote the music and lyrics to "Detour Ahead", which has been recorded by Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans, and Carola. During that time, he also wrote the sardonic swing tune "I Told Ya I Love Ya Now Get Out" which was recorded by June Christy and the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Chicago jazz vocalist Erin McDougald recorded the song 50 years later on her album The Auburn Collection (2004).
In 1951 Frigo returned to Chicago, primarily working as a studio bassist and arranger. He also led the band at Mr. Kelly's, a popular Rush Street nightspot. Between 1951 and 1960 he played fiddle hoedowns and novelties with the Sage Riders, the house band for the WLS radio program National Barn Dance. He played with the Sage Riders for another fourteen years after WGN revived the show in 1961. In that time he worked with Chicago jazz vocalist Anita O'Day in live and studio recordings done in Chicago. He was featured (on bass) on O'Day's quartet version of "No Soap, No Hope Blues". Frigo is credited as playing fiddle for the track "A Rectangle Picture" on the Mason Proffit album Wanted released in 1969 on the Happy Tiger label.
In the mid-1980s Frigo largely abandoned playing bass to concentrate on violin. After performing with Monty Alexander, Ray Brown, and Herb Ellis at Chicago's Jazz Showcase, he was invited by Alexander join the trio for several live dates that produced Triple Treat II and Triple Treat III (Concord, 1987). Johnny Carson asked Frigo why it took so long to start his career as a violinist. Frigo replied, "I wanna take as long as I could in my life so I wouldn't have time to become a has-been".
He performed as a jazz violinist at festivals worldwide, including the Umbria Jazz Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival. Frigo also was a published poet and artist and played flugelhorn. He wrote and performed the 1969 Chicago Cubs fight song "Hey Hey, Holy Mackerel."
Frigo was married twice and had one son with each wife. He was survived by his second wife, the former Brittney Browne, and one son, jazz drummer Richard "Rick" Frigo, who was born to his first wife, Dorothy Hachmeister. His other son, Derek John Frigo, who was born to Browne, was the lead guitarist for the rock band Enuff Z'nuff. Derek Frigo died of a drug overdose on May 28, 2004.
|Jump Presents Johnny Frigo||2009-06-02||JCD 12-33||Jump|
|Summer Me! Johnny Frigo Live at Battle Ground||2008-07-24||8021||Log Cabin|
|Johnny Frigo's DNA Exposed!||2002-02-05||19258||Arbors|
|Live at the Floating Jazz Festival||1999-08-24||358||Chiaroscuro|
|Debut of a Legend||1994-01-01||JD119||Chesky|
|Live from Studio A in New York City||1988-11-16||CD: JD001
|I Love John Frigo...He Swings||1957-12-12||LP: MG20285
CD: Verve 145602
|Love Words||1958||Ken Nordine||Dot|
|Solitaire Miles||2006-01-01||Solitaire Miles||Seraphic|
|Quiet Village: The Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny||2006-11-21||Martin Denny||Rev-Ola|
|Out of Nowhere||2006-01-01||Harold Fethe||Southport|
|Keep the Coffee Coming||2006-09-16||Anita O'Day
|Blue Suede Shoes: Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight||2006-02-28||Pee Wee King||Bear Family|
|Comes Love||2005-06||Elaine Dame||Blujazz|
|Simply...With Spirit||2005-05-10||Hanna Richardson & Phil Flanigan||Arbors|
|Barn Dance Favorites||2004-09-08||Pine Valley Cosmonauts||Bloodshot|
|Strange Weather||2004-05-04||Jack Donahue||PS Classics|
|Multitude of Stars||2004-06-08||Statesmen of Jazz||Arbors|
|Hot Club of 52nd Street||2004-05-25||Bucky Pizzarelli & Howard Alden||Chesky|
|Singin' Our Mind/Reflectin'||2004-05-25||Chad Mitchell Trio
2 in 1
|The Slightly Irreverent/Typical American Boys||2003-10-07||Chad Mitchell Trio
2 in 1
|Legends||2003-07-01||Skitch Henderson & Bucky Pizzarelli||Arbors|
|Delicate Hour||2003-01-07||Patty Morabito||Lml Music|
|Pentimento||2002-06-04||Jessica Molaskey||PS Classics|
|Triple Scoop||2002-03-26||Monty Alexander||Concord|
|Romance Language: French songs for lovers, featuring Johnny Frigo||2002-02-14||Claudia Hommel||Maison Clobert|
|RCA Country Legends||2001-09-25||Skeeter Davis||Buddah|
|Hoagy on My Mind||2001-07-17||Phillip Officer||Jerome|
|Now and Then||2001-01-01||Claiborne Cary||Original Cast|
|Time, Seasons and the Moon||2000-09-19||Linda Tate||Southport|
|Little Things We Do Together||2000-01-01||Anne Pringle & Mark Burnell||Spectrum|
|Round About||1999-02-09||Audrey Morris||Fancy Faire|
|Royal Street||1997||Raul Reynoso|
When My Fiddle's in the Case: The poetry and paintings of Jazz violinist Johnny Frigo, 2004, Lost Coast Press.