The names of few bassists over the past two decades have become more synonymous with the fretless bass guitar than that of Tony Franklin—the Fretless Monster!
In January 2006, Fender proudly introduced the Tony Franklin Signature Model Fretless Precision Bass® guitar, the design of which the renowned bassist played a prominent and hands-on role in (Franklin juggled his professional music career with his numerous artist relations duties for Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and his role as a clinician for Fender and SWR through mid-2011). It’s quite a distinctive instrument; Franklin used the original in his work with Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, Whitesnake, Blue Murder, numerous sessions and his own successful solo career. Fender released the Tony Franklin Fretted Precision Bass in 2008, a replica of the instrument Franklin has used throughout his career.
A born performer who first took the stage at age 5, Franklin got his big break in 1984 as bassist in stellar supergroup the Firm, with guitar legend Page, vocalist Rodgers and drummer Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band). Franklin’s signature fretless growl was a distinctive and instantly recognizable element of the band’s first hit, “Radioactive.”
After two hit albums with the Firm, Franklin subsequently performed with Blue Murder (John Sykes, Carmine Appice), David Gilmour, Kate Bush, Whitesnake, Donna Lewis, Pat Travers and many others. An in-demand session bass ace, he has appeared on more than 150 albums. Franklin has released two solo albums, Brave New Tomorrow and Wonderland, and a bass instructional DVD.
Further, Franklin’s exemplary chops have also been called on for dozens of television credits, including Late Show With David Letterman, Beverly Hills 90210, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Good Morning America, Top of the Pops (U.K.), VH-1, MTV, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush (Finland), dozens of Japanese programs and more. Sony released Tony Franklin: Not Just Another Pretty Bass, Franklin’s first sample loop library, in 2006.
Franklin returned to music performance full-time in mid-2011, when he joined Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s band for the tour supporting the guitarist’s 2011 album, How I Go.