“When Mel Brooks was directing Blazing Saddles, his 1974 western send-up, he wanted an over-the-top title song, the kind that Frankie Laine delivered for Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) and the television series Rawhide. Brooks told everyone that he needed a singer with that authentic Laine quality. Then he had an idea. How about Frankie Laine?
“Well, Frankie wasn’t too keen; he was working in Las Vegas, and Brooks needed the song in a hurry. Anyway, he’d never heard of Mel Brooks. On the other hand, he thought, why turn down work when you never know if anyone’s ever going to offer you anything ever again? This was something he worried about, and not just when he was at the peak of his success. The way he put it was this: “I went up like a rocket and may come down like a cement balloon.” He worked all the time. So he said OK, and gave the song everything he’d got.
“There’s just one detail to be added to the story. Nobody had mentioned that Blazing Saddles was a comedy. Frankie recalled the incident in his 1993 autobiography, That Lucky Old Son: “I thought I was doing a song for another High Noon, and I gave it my best dramatic reading … When I saw wacky things happening on the screen, like a guy punching a horse, I sunk down into my seat with embarrassment.”
“Frankie, who has died aged 93, took it well, enjoyed the joke, told the story against himself and won admiration for being a good sport.”