Francis Day

Francis Day was a beautiful singer. A soprano in the Boys Choir, he was a soloist in a performance of Handel’s Messiah backed by the National Symphony Orchestra and The Washington Choral Arts ensemble in the National Cathedral, at age 12.

In 1969 he joined the legendary Claude Jones Band as singer and guitarist. With that band Fran performed on the Mall for 35,000 protestors gathered for the 1971 May Day anti-Viet Nam war demonstration; in the Sylvan Theater for Earth Day; for parties at Kay Graham’s home, the Saudi ambassador’s residence, and the British Embassy; the P Street Beach, The Cellar Door and Emergency in Georgetown, The Showboat in Adams Morgan, and the Rt 1 VFW hall. A photo of the family band, taken by Steve Szabo of the Post, won the White House Press Photographers Award and was displayed in the Nixon White House. Fran later became the front man for the Mystery Band, a reincarnation of the Claude Jones Band, and lead a band of his own called The Manports.

On guitar and piano Fran’s touch was exquisite, but his real strength was his singing. His voice was soulful and haunted, had qualities of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel of the Band and also Smokey Robinson, but was immediately identifiable as his own. Though he loved and admired Bob Dylan the most, Fran’s expression was direct and clear. His performance of I Shall Be Released, for instance, had an emotional power Dylan seldom offered.

Fran Day was a graceful man. He was a varsity swimmer and all-around athlete, a smooth and confident dancer, and debonair dresser. He was compassionate and democratic and always for the underdog. He didn’t tell them well but he loved jokes. And dogs, to the point of misanthropy. He was a devastating commentator on the bad taste and delusional conceits of strangers and friends. Fran was a devoted consumer of books and alcoholic beverages and so a gimlet-eyed prosecutor of crimes against literature and language. He was loved and admired by his many friends, ex- and late wives, girlfriends, and dogs.

Francis Bigelow Day died of ALS on Good Friday April 19, a quarter mile from his childhood home on the Rockville Pike. He was born in Baltimore on March 25th 1949, the 3d child of Dr. Robert Day and Joan Goodin Day. In 1955 the family moved to Newark St, NW. Fran attended St. Albans School and Wesleyan University. He lived in DC the rest of his life until 2014 when he moved to the Moyaone Reservation in Accokeek Maryland.

He is survived by his sister Dr. Deborah Day, and two bothers, Robert Barton Day of McLean, and John Anthony Day of Melk, Austria.

7 comments to Francis Day

  • John,

    I don’t think anyone could have written a more beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Franny than you wrote.

    Michael Oberman

  • John Hall

    Thank you Michael

  • admin

    a smooth and confident dancer…

  • Lex Lindsey

    I was a classmate of Franny’s at St Albans. I enjoyed hearing the band play many times. I last saw him at our 50th reunion in 2017, when he was not doing well, but kept his courage and sense of humor.

    In about 2012 or so, I was golfing at Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast. On the practice tee, I looked over, and who was there but Franny. I recall he had sailed up the West Coast with Stephen Goodwin, who had written a book, Dream Golf, about Bandon Dunes. He invited me to join them for dinner and we had a great time reminiscing.

  • Hal

    In the new documentary “Once Were Brothers,” about Robbie Robertson and The Band, there is a crowd shot from the Dylan/Band 1974 tour at 1:16:31. In the middle of that shot it sure looks like Franny Day enjoying himself at the show. Can anyone confirm?

  • Steve Cox

    Hi Hal: I saw the movie with Fran’s brother,Bart, and we were both certain that we had seen Fran.

  • Thank you John for this beautiful tribute to Franny Day. I will always love and miss Franny. It never occurred to me that he could not tell a joke well because he was a great raconteur and said so many witty things and had such a humorous outlook on life but I cannot recall him telling one. And he was a great mimic. My son Ben has a wonderful sense of humor and I am sure he has Franny to thank for that because Fran loved reading to him from The Onion, along with Thurber and Dickens, and introduced him to Black Adder and Jeeves and Wooster.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>