"In the Heat of the Night" marks 20th Anniversary of “Christmas Time’s A Comin’”
Christmas CD made music history bringing together TV, bluegrass, gospel and country legends (Pictured Above: Randall Franks)
It was just over 20 years ago that the stars of one of the hottest dramas on television stepped into the recording studio to raise their voices to assist charities that focused on drug abuse prevention.
Show stars Alan Autry, “Bubba Skinner,” and Randall Franks, “Officer Randy Goode,” organized the effort under Autry-Franks Productions bringing together the cast and numerous stars of country, bluegrass and gospel music to assist.
To mark the anniversary, the “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” CD is available again in association with original partner Sonlite Records, but this time exclusively available through the non-profit Share America Foundation, Inc. continuing the original purpose denoted by the cast and music stars.
“This project was a labor of love for us back then. Alan and I discussed earlier this year that we needed to share it once again with the millions of Heat fans who still watch us everyday and may have missed it the first time around,” Franks said.
Franks was the studio producer on the eight-month long production that included over 60 performers, visited seven studios in four states, included 12 recording engineers and took over 175 studio hours to complete.
“Christmas is a time for family and as we look back now, we notice that there are a few vacant chairs left by our Heat family and those entertainers that supported this project, so it makes us cherish these recordings even that much more,” Franks said. "Christmas music is timeless and I know these recordings will touch hearts this Christmas and for many decades to come."
The CD was originally released in association with Sonlite Records, Crimson Records and MGM Worldwide Television Group and debuted officially from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with a special appearance by Franks, Autry and show co-star David Hart.
Autry and Franks joined other cast members including the late Carroll O'Connor, the late Howard Rollins, Anne-Marie Johnson, Hart, Geoffrey Thorne, and Crystal Fox to perform a favorite Christmas song. Other cast members including Wilbur Fitzgerald, Bob Penny and Sharon Pratt joined in on group performances of "Jingle Bells" and "Christmas Time's A Comin'.''
Franks and Autry brought together several music stars that donated their performances. Among them Country Music Hall of Fame members Jimmy Dickens, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, the late Kitty Wells, the late Pee Wee King, and the late Grant Turner.
Other stars included Jesse McReynolds, the late Jim McReynolds, Jerry Douglas, the Whites, Mac Wiseman, the Marksmen Quartet, Ralph Stanley, the Lewis Family, the late Doug Dillard, the late Chubby Wise, Mose Davis, Bobby Wright, the late Johnnie Wright, the late Josh Graves, the late Jimmy Martin, Buddy Spicher, Jim Hoke, Abe Manuel, Jr., Ken Holloway, John Farley, Bill Everett, the late Gene Daniell and Wayne Lewis.
The project includes the sounds of bluegrass, jazz, rhythm and blues, Cajun, country and pop.
"One of my fondest memories of the project was bringing together the cast of a hit TV drama and my musical heroes - the legends of bluegrass on a recording for the first time in history," Franks said. "Never before had all those bluegrass stars entered the studio to appear on the same song. Carroll loved it so much, he chose it as the title cut."
Franks said one unique opportunity this time around is fans can also see never-before-seen original cast interviews about the project as special Internet features added at Randall Franks TV on YouTube between now and Christmas.
It is also available online at www.shareamericafoundation.org or via mail for a donation of $20, inside the U.S. ,and $25, outside the U.S., to the Share America Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 42, Tunnel Hill, Ga. 30755.
Autry and Franks continue acting. Autry's latest film is "Forgiven" and Franks's latest film is "Lukewarm."
For more information about Alan Autry, visit autryentertainmentgroup.com or Randall Franks, visit randallfranks.com.