With their youthful exuberance and lighthearted approach to pop, the DeFranco Family was one of the most successful pop groups of the 1970s. Their debut 1973 single, "Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat," featuring the lead vocals of then-13-year-old Tony DeFranco, reached number three on the Billboard charts, the top slot on the Cashbox singles chart, and sold more than two million copies. Their second single, "Abra-Ca-Dabra," which reached the Top 40, was followed by their final hit, "Save the Last Dance for Me," which reached number 18 on the charts in May 1974.
The DeFranco Family's reign came to a sudden halt when a rock version of their tune "Write Me a Letter" failed to generate much attention and reached no higher than the 104th slot on the charts. Although their earlier hits had been produced by Walt Meskell, the disappointing sales of "Write Me a Letter" prompted their record label, 20th Century Fox, to fire Meskell and team the group with Mike Curb, who had previously worked with the Osmonds. The collaboration proved disastrous. When Curb attempted to recast the group as a cover band, they resisted and severed their relationship with their publisher and manager, Charles Laufer and Laufer Entertainment, and 20th Century Fox. Unable to attract interest from another label, they continued to tour and perform in Las Vegas. Frustrated by their inability to attain their previous heights, they disbanded in 1978. A reunion concert at Rhino Records' Retro Fest in 2000 was followed by the DeFranco Family's final performance at B.B. King's Nightclub in Los Angeles.
The five siblings who comprised the DeFranco Family were born to Italian immigrant parents and raised in Port Colborne and Welland, Ontario. Initially performing as the DeFranco Quintet, the group found success after a demo tape of their songs was heard by Sharon Lee, editor of teen magazine Tiger Beat. Impressed by what she heard, Lee arranged for Charles Laufer to fly the group to Los Angeles for an audition. Laufer signed the group to an exclusive deal with his company, Laufer Entertainment, financed a three-song demo, and helped them to secure a contract with 20th Century Records.
The DeFranco Family recorded in Los Angeles' Western Studios with accompaniment by Wrecking Crew veterans Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Carlton on guitar, and Max Bennett on drums. They appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand nine times. ~ Craig Harris