Franco Rosario Castellani was born in Turin, Italy on May 31, 1945. His first stage appearances were as the singer of a group called ‘I Ragazzi del Sole’ (The Sun Boys). He had lived in London for a while and spoke very good English, He sang the blues better than anybody else in Italy and he was always quite a hit with the girls. He felt a bit hedged in and straight-jacketed within the group especially after inviting offers and proposals to go solo started falling into his lap. The record company director Alfredo Rossi along with the songwriter Franco Califano changed his name to Pierfranco Colonna because it sounded more classy for an elegant Italian bluesman especially because the surname of Colonna is well known in Italy for its noble origins. He recorded two records and the public started to notice him, especially after he overwhelmingly won the upcoming-new-talents contest of the very popular Sunday television program ‘Settevoci’ (Seven Voices) hosted by the famous Italian Television Master of Ceremonies Pippo Baudo. They began nicknaming him as the ‘Whiteman with a Black voice’ but that nickname was later tailored to fit another Italian singer with the same tone of voice named Fausto Leali.
In his shows, along with his own songs, he would only do songs of Otis Redding and Georgie Fame with his own group of musicians roped in from other well-known band. In May of 1968 Pierfranco Colonna and his group were the backup attraction in the Rome concerts of Jimi Hendrix. The singer from Turin seemed just one step from great fame and success. Just three months later, on the Adriatic Romagnolo Coast, at the Bobo Club of Misano Mare the first downfall: He never made it to the stage, he was brought down by of an explosive mixture of drugs and alcohol. From then onwards it was a sad endless downwards trail: a few bad records, few and far between public gigs, many hospitals, drug abuse and incarceration in Italy, more drugs and prison in South America, and everywhere else more drugs and hospitals.
In the middle 1990’s he returned to Italy and he managed to break the drugs and booze habit and he tried a comeback to the world of stage and music. In 1999 he made an album called ‘Percorsi’ (Trails). His undying art was still intact and deeply rooted within, but his body was exhausted and his voice worn out. One significantly suggestive title in his album ‘Percorsi’ was, Maledetto Amore (Dammed Accursed Love) that seems to sound like a last verse in a diary: “My soul is a Company that is going broke, I have sold too many shares, I have had too many trials and tribulations, it’s me who is wrong, I say sorry God but I can’t take any more, I want to go away, to rest a little, damned accursed love, dam my… I don’t know what”.
On the 17th of June 1997 the Rai 2 aired the News Health program ‘Tg2 Salute’ by Michele Bovi, dedicated to Pierfranco Colonna and the existential pathological ups and downs of his life
Pier Franco Colonna died from a tumor in Turin on July 9, 2001. He was 56 years-old.
Franco (Franco Rosario Castellani) [5/31/1945,
7/9/2001, Turin, Piedmont, Italy (tumor)] – singer, formed the bands ‘I Ragazzi del Sole’, ‘Boa Boa’
Unca Dunca (TV) – 1961-1970 [Sings: “Unca Dunca”, “Anche Lei Lo Sa”]