In 1979 Tom enrolled as an art major at Grand Canyon College, where he also taught photography and sculpture courses. It was at Grand Canyon that he married his second wife of 34 years, Cindy Franklin. Cindy was also an artist and an educator who encouraged Tom to become certified to teach. In 1996 Tom and his wife founded the Franklin Phonetic Primary School. This charter school has been one of the most successful charter schools in the state of Arizona. In 2011 Franklin Phonetic Primary School was awarded as one of only two charter schools in Arizona to receive the prestigious National Blue Ribbon award for outstanding academic achievement and has also been named a Title 1 School of Excellence. A new campus of the school is scheduled to open in the Sunnyslope area where Tom spent all of his early childhood. Although Tom officially retired in 2012, he continues to serve on the school’s governing board and still teaches art and technology workshops.His current photography show, “Lighting the Fire” so named because it was the beginning of a musical era, will feature Tom and John’s photographs, mostly never viewed before and will surely become a treasure trove for music fans and experts alike.
Johnny Franklin was born August 1st 1941. He was the second oldest boy in a family of 8 children. Although Johnny spent his early years working in his family’s heating and cooling business in Sunnyslope Arizona, he had far different aspirations for his lifetime career. From his early years, Johnny wanted to be a music promoter. Even while he was in high school he began forming fan clubs for popular artists of the day such as Fabian and Johnny Cash. The Franklin Family had a working Juke box on the front porch of their home. Local teenagers could often be seen dancing in the street to the music.
During high school Johnny worked as a photographer for local radio stations KRIZ and KRUX. He also promoted dances around the Phoenix Area. Johnny loved to discover new artists. Many of these performers, such as Johnny Cash, would visit Johnny when they were in town. Johnny was the president of the Al Marion fan club and discovered acts such as Dick and Dedee. Many performers developed friendships with Johnny. Fabian almost missed a Phoenix performance when Johnny distracted him by taking him out to a night club down the street from his performance venue.
Johnny travelled all over the country to photograph performers. Because he and his brother Tom became known to the security guards, they would often be able to get backstage at major events. John had no trouble photographing such rock and roll greats as Elvis and the Beatles. He had the reputation of being almost everywhere and was even immortalized in a Frank Zappa Song.
Johnny loved to visit the set of the popular television show Wallace and Ladmo. This show began in 1954 and was on the air continuously until the late 1980’s. Johnny was known as the show’s unofficial photographer and his pictures were used for publicity shots, coloring books, and other promotional merchandise. Johnny’s younger brother Tom got his interest in photography by accompanying his older sibling to the KPHO studios.
Today Johnny’s Wallace and Ladmo photos appear in publications such as “Ho Ho Ha Ha Hee Hee Ha Ha” and “Thanks for Tuning In”. Johnny has fond memories of travelling around the state with the shows stars. One of the best things about the show is that the performers loved meeting with the public. Not only did the Wallace crew perform at the Arizona State Fair, Fox Chris town theater and other performance venues, they also travelled to towns around the state raising money for charitable causes. Sometimes they did this by forming sports teams including baseball, basketball, football and even boxing matches. Johnny capitalized on their efforts by followed the crew filming anything possible.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s Johnny and his younger brother Tom would often attend multiple major musical events on the same day . They would often sell the photos to fan magazine and ended up publishing their own fan magazine “A Closer Look”. In addition to photographing live performances Johnny also photographed artists when they appeared on television. Often this would provide music historians with the only record of a performer playing a particular instrument. Today the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) features many Johnny Franklin Photos.
While Johnny tolerated Rock and Roll music his true love was Country and Western. . He would often visit the Riverside Ballroom to photograph such famous artists such as George Jones, Wanda Jackson , and Patsy Cline. Many of Johnny’s photos can be found at the Grand Old Opry Museum in Nashville Tennessee. When he would photograph performers he often sent them copies free of charge. Some of these artists, such as George Jones, continued to display these photos well into the later stages of their careers.
Johnny has become known as an authority on Patsy Kline. He is credited with taking photos of Patsy when she first donned a western outfit purchased at a local Phoenix store instead of her black cocktail dress and photographed Patsy at her final performance shortly before the tragic plane crash.
John also enjoyed custom cars and was one of the founders of the Arizona Truckers Custom Van club. Working with his brother Tom, who was accomplished at auto painting and bodywork, he created a show van that toured the country in exhibits such the World of Wheels.
In addition to photography John loved merchandizing in general ,and visited state fairs, and country music events across the country. Even in his later years Johnny made a habit of attending and photographing musical concerts, accurately predicting which performers would eventually achieve stardom. Johnny died in Sunnyslope Arizona at the age of 70.
12/21/2013 Addition! Up above in the biography we talk about how John took photos of country music greats such as Patsy Cline. You may have also noticed that there are not a lot of Johnny Franklin photos on this website. That is due to the fact that later on in life John sold many of his photos and then his negatives. He started selling off his negatives from the 60’s first since he was always more interested in the country western bands. When he knew buyers were interested in a band that he didn’t have the negatives of he would ask Tom Franklin for his, which Tom gave him to help him out. Later on though he ended up selling off many of his prized photos and negatives. We only post and watermark the ones that are in our possession. However, I found a collection of some of Johnny’s best pictures online and have gained permission to share them here. Thank you so much to Owen Bradley’s “Quonset Hut” for letting us use these. You can find them on his facebook Here. Thank you.