Randy Franklin grew up in Charlotte and has made his home here ever since. As a working musician, he and his band have brought Charlotteans joy in good times and given voice to their sorrow in more difficult days.
A recent recipient of Crisis Assistance Ministry’s Rock Star Volunteer award, he understands the critical work of preventing homelessness and preserving dignity for neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet. That’s why he’s brought together local musicians for an annual benefit concert for more than a decade.
We checked in with him recently to hear more about the concerts, his commitment to our community, and a little something he’s doing these days to lighten the mood during stay-at-home orders.
To date, you’ve raised over $11,000 dollars and even more awareness of the needs of our neighbors. How did the benefit concert series start?
I was watching the news when I saw a story about Crisis Assistance Ministry. This was during the great recession of 2009. There was a long line wrapped around the building of clients waiting to be served. I was quite moved by the need that I was witnessing. I felt compelled to do something. After speaking with some fellow musicians I knew that as a group we could make a difference. I contacted Joe Kuhlman of the Evening Muse and he immediately volunteered his venue for our concert. I contacted Carol Hardison and told her about our idea and she was so grateful and honored for our commitment. We were the ones that were honored to do it.
What has been your most memorable experience with this effort?
There are so many. The first couple of years, I had to make phone calls to recruit musicians to participate. Ticket sales were slow. But then word began to spread about what an amazing show we were producing, and what a great organization we were supporting. I started having to turn away musicians wanting to play. We began selling out the show and we have now sold out eight consecutive shows. We also began to receive testimonies from musicians and fans who had utilized the services of Crisis Assistance Ministry and how that assistance had literally been life-saving. That was a powerful moment.
Why do you keep doing this every August?
Unfortunately, the need for assistance continues to be great in our community. 15% of people in our area live below the poverty line, higher than the national average of 13.1. In a recent think tank analysis of economic mobility (the ability to find a good job, provide for children) in America’s 50 largest cities, Charlotte came in dead last. If you grow up poor in Charlotte, you are most likely to stay poor.
Why does this community need Crisis Assistance Ministry?
We are so fortunate to have Crisis Assistance Ministry serving the needs of our community. When my wife and I were in our early twenties, we had two small children, and the bills began to mount. I was working three minimum wage jobs trying to keep us above water. There were many sleepless nights worrying about the power bill, the water bill, the gas bill. There were times when I had to pawn my music equipment to keep the lights on. It was a difficult time. Today we have resources through Crisis Assistance Ministry to help families navigate through those challenging times. That’s a huge weight off of these working families’ shoulders, allowing them to focus on their jobs and the health and well-being of their families.
What’s the hope for the 2020 concert?
My first hope is to be able to hold it at all during this “new-normal” pandemic era. This year’s show is dedicated to the music of Elton John, scheduled for August 8th at The Evening Muse. I hope that we as a state and city have found ways to safely reopen our restaurants and live music venues. There are so many musicians and service industry folks out of work right now.
I hear you’re doing something special to lift spirits right now. What are you doing during the stay-at-home order?
I’m trying to focus on my blessings and not to get caught up too much in the 24-hour news cycle, though it’s easy to do. I’m writing and recording new music and even took some online violin lessons! I perform a live stream “Happy Hour” show every Friday at 5 pm via Facebook Live on my personal Facebook page. I’m still learning and adapting to this new online “Venue”. You can google Randy Franklin & The Sardines and find my social media sites.
Tell us a little bit about you in general – your family, your hobbies/interests.
I was born and raised in Charlotte. I have very deep roots here; my great-grandfather Thomas S. Franklin was mayor of Charlotte in 1907-1909. I have been married to my wife Cherri for 38 years, and we have two children and three grandchildren. When I am not playing music, I enjoy spending time with my family at the beach or the Blue Ridge mountains. I am also active at Myers Park Baptist Church, where I have been a lifelong member.