Freddie came from a musical background.
His great-grandmother had been a singer down in Missouri. His grandfather made extra money doing a one man band hustle.
And of course his mother is Geraldine Hunt.
Freddie learned about singing from the heart while listening to his family singing in church choirs on Chicago's south side. It was only natural with his exposure to music at home and church that precocious little Freddie would gravitate towards singing for love and attention.
In 1975 Geraldine and her three kids moved north to Montreal. While in Canada Hunt worked on her career and started her own label, 6 A.M. Records, which gave her two minor hits. Those hits brought her to the attention of producer/label owner Tony Green. Green produce a 1978 album for Geraldine entitled "Sweet Honesty." It was through that meeting and recording that Tony spotted little Freddie. Green was already working with another youngster (France Joli) and about to score big with her when Green signed James to an exclusive contract and set about recording him.
Green recorded four tracks with 14 year-old James. He was able to license them to Unidisc Records and after their initial release in Canada they were quickly optioned by Warner Bros. for their American distribution.
The first 12" single released was "Get Up And Boogie" which was not to be confused with the Silver Convention classic from a few years earlier. The song raced up the club charts and not only established young Freddie as a disco star, but gave Green his entree into the American recording scene as a respected producer.
The song was pure energy and Freddie's vocals, while not as extraordinary as Joli's, were able to handle the simplistic arrangement.
The song was so successful that a second 12" single, "Hollywood," was released promotionally as was a third, "Crazy Disco Music" to top ten club success.
All were varations on a theme, the theme was high energy music and simplistic lyrics that were hooked loaded. The album only contained four songs with "Dance Little Boy Blue" being the weakest one.
A second album followed in 1980. However disco was collapsing in America and Warner Bros. was closing down it's 'disco' department and passed on optioning it. "Sweetness" was not a replica of his first album.
Of the 13 tracks not all were disco or dance oriented. Wishing to broaden his appeal Green and James included the ballads "I'm Just A Fool For Your Love," "Too Young To Fall In Love" and "In Love For The First Time."
The dance cuts were as high energy as his previous releases. The standouts were; "Get Up Get Down," "Boogietime," "Dance To The Beat" and "Music Takes Me Higher." A 12" single of "Music Takes Me Higher" on Unidisc made it's way down here from Canada.
Jocks in the know programmed it but the Tony Green sound seemed passe at that point and dance floors weren't into it.
Freddie reappeared in 1982 with "Don't Turn Your Back On Me" and 1983 with "Hot Thing" both for Arista.
Both songs were quite different from his earlier Green produced material. Though they were good they failed to re-ignite his American career.
While trying to ignite his career in 1982, James along with Mom Geraldine, turned their attention to litle sister Roz. Rosalind Hunt, was one half of Cheri, a female duo. Cheri scored a major dance and top 40 hit with the quirkey "Murphy's Law." Geraldine, Freddie and bassist Peter Dowse wrote and produced the the 12" single and subsequent album. Cheri had several more 12" single releases, "Working Girl" and "Come & Get These Memories" among them, before fading away.
After his success with Roz in the early 1980's Freddie continued song writing and touring.
In the mid-1980's he landed a part in the stage revival of the musical "Hair" which led to a part as 'Flash' in the 1987 movie "Wild Thing." Touring the U.S. and Canada constantly, Freddie's status as an in-demand 'disco star' has also brought invitations to perform in Japan, Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.
In 1993 Freddie, with old friend and producer Tony Green hit the studios for another album. "Come Into The Jungle" featured 12 wonderful tracks that showcased a more mature sounding James. Released on Monogram Records, the album although excellent, failed to sell, possibly due to it's poor distribution. A 12" single of "I Can't Get Enough (Of Your Love)" did well in the local club scene, mainly a high energy track, it evoked memories of the Green-James material from 1979. Some other notable tracks are "Never Gonna Give You Up," "City Of Lust," "Hide Your Love" and "I Wanna Make Love To You." Besides the legendary Green producing the album hosted some other notables; scratching by Star, rapping by Zero Tolerance, background vocals by Freddie, Geraldine Hunt, Maurice Williams and Michelle Sweeney. It's interesting to compare the three albums James' has released. Though similar in sound they actually show his progression from child star to hip urban funkster. A maturing process that fans of his can appreciate.
"Freddie The Comedian".. Freddie started his comedy career while attending an open mic night with a friend. After watching, he decided to give it a try himself. The next week he found himself on stage doing his first of many sets to come. Since being bitten by the comedy bug, Freddie hasn’t stopped. Freddie began seeking out open mic nights to get more stage time and experience, while learning how to work the stage and getting his timing down. Freddie found himself doing shows in well known clubs such as The Comedy Nest, The Comedy Works and the Canadian comedy chain Yuk Yuks. It seems to have paid off. In 1999 he was picked to compete in the Just for Laughs, "Funniest East Coast Comic" competition. He didn’t win but it didn’t keep him down, it just made him more determined. That determination paid off when Freddie was picked as one of the comics to perform at Club Soda during the 2001 Just for Laughs Festival.
As the the century began to wind down, James along with sister Roz, formed a band The Freddie James Project. The new band plays not only his disco hits, but a wide variety of covers and rock-oriented material as well. And as the new millenium kicked in his acting career was on the rise, look for him in "Book Of Eve."
Although his recording career has been brief, he earned his place in The DiscoMuseum for dominating the club charts in the summer of 1979. If you ever have the chance to catch him, either with his band or at the local comedy club.....do it! You'll be in for a pleasant treat.
Freddie James aka Jesse Franklin in France.