Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

This Stallone prefers to deliver KO punch with his music

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Frank Stallone's career is far from over.

After spending most of the past 30 years working as an actor, the 61-year-old is focusing on getting back to his first love: music.

"I've got to say I'm regretful in a sense. I put my music on hold for a bit and started doing a lot of movies then people forgot I was a musician, which bothers me," he says over the phone from his Los Angeles home. "I said about four or five years ago: I'm rededicating myself to music and going full bore with it."

Stallone got his start playing in high school bands in Philadelphia before forming the band Valentine, featuring guitarist John Oates of Hall & Oates, in the early 1970s.

Stallone's first movie role was as a street-corner singer in Rocky, written by and starring his brother Sylvester Stallone. He wrote music for other Stallone films and scored a top 10 hit in 1983 with the synth-pop track Far From Over from the movie Staying Alive.

The song is not only Stallone's biggest hit, but has made him a huge star in Australia, where comedy radio DJs Hamish & Andy started championing it as a feel-good anthem in 2010 and coined the term The Frank Effect: "The feeling of elation and considerable physical boost one gets when listening to Far From Over by Frank Stallone."

The track charted on iTunes and Stallone was flown to Australia to play a sold-out show in front of more than 1,500 fans.

"Richard Branson paid for our flights on Virgin Air, the concert sold out in minutes and they had a ticker tape parade for me at the airport. It was like the Beatles," Stallone says with a laugh.

Stallone didn't just appear on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack of the film, but had a role in Staying Alive as a guitarist trying to woo John Travolta's girlfriend.

His acting career took off with a steady stream of work in movies, most notably the films Barfly and Tombstone, but he continued to record sporadically.

"They said, 'He's a young guy, not bad-looking, let's put him in the movies,' then one thing led to another and now I've done more than 60 movies, but I always had bad management and bad agents," he says. "You know how you have people who can make something little into something big? I had people who made something big into something little."

And things weren't any easier just because his brother was Sylvester Stallone.

"You're not used to it. All of the sudden you're Rocky's brother. At first it was, 'How's your brother?' Now it's every other person: 'How's Rocky?' It's not even your brother anymore, it's Rocky," he says. "You kind of disappear, which I wasn't used to because I was the frontman in rock bands."

Stallone is currently in the process of looking for a booking agent to get him more regular gigs. He has two different bands he plays with around L.A.: his four-piece rock band and a larger ensemble that covers big-band material and pop standards, something he's been doing since the mid-'80s.

"The thing was, I could always sing that stuff. I was always a closet big-band singer and Sinatra fan -- then my management lost my record deal," he says. "In 1985 it was all going urban and I said, 'I don't know how to do that. I come from a whole different school. Let me find something I can do that nobody my age is doing.'"

One of the albums, In Love In Vain, was recorded with a full orchestra in Toronto at Manta Sound and released years later. He never received the masters and the studio has since shut its doors.

"If anyone in Canada has those Frank Stallone masters, I'd pay a reward," he says.

If anyone in Winnipeg has them, they can bring them to the Pyramid Cabaret Friday night, where Stallone will make his local debut backed by the Rod Hussey Revue. Tickets are $18.50 at Ticketmaster.

Stallone met Hussey a month ago after being introduced by clothing designers Chip and Pepper Foster, who live in L.A. The ex-Winnipeggers are Hussey's cousins and friends with Stallone.

During Hussey's last visit, he met Stallone and the two started jamming. After a night on the guitars, Hussey invited Stallone to Winnipeg.

Friday's show will feature some Stallone solo material and covers of rock and blues songs, he says. If things go well he'll look at bringing his band back for a tour through Canada.

But there's no chance of seeing Sly on the mic.

"My brother, as famous as he is, would give up almost everything if he could sing. He's the most frustrated singer in the world.

"I said, 'I'll trade you: I'll be Rambo and you can sing,'" Stallone says with a laugh.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2012 E7

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