With a sound inspired by a melding pot of Americana, country, blues, and rock, Fran O’ Connell discovered a love for music later than most. A graduate from Columbia University, a Veteran, and a seasoned entrepreneur, O’Connell is no stranger to heart ache, hard work, and the pursuit of the American Dream. All which have inspired the inception of The FrannyO Show, the musical moniker of O’Connell. The FrannyO Show has recorded two albums in Nashville with Rolling Stone acclaimed producer Jamie Kent. The most recent of which was inspired by O’Connell’s brother, David O’Connell, a fallen Holyoke Police Sergeant who passed away in 2016. Channeling the power of music to make a difference, these experiences have led O’Connell to the launch of Breaking The Silence, an annual benefit to help raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention. O’Connell frequently tours with his dynamic band throughout the Northeast and is currently in the studio working on his third album.
Featuring Fran O’Connell; singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica fanatic, accompanied by Richie Adelson on drums and Dave Stern on bass / vocals.
The band hails from Western Massachusetts and you’ll find them playing favorite local spots like, Pic’s Pub, Celebrate Holyoke, and The Iron Horse. Fran and the band call the pioneer valley home and are proud to be a part of the healthy and vibrant local music and arts scene.
If home is where the heart is, Fran O’Connell’s heart is in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The son and brother of Holyoke police officers, he remains true to the heritage they share and the old mill city to which they dedicated their lives. His song is theirs.
“I consider myself extremely wealthy, but not in a conventional way,” Fran says. “What I’m doing right now, this very day—as a nurse and business owner turned musician—and have been doing for several years, makes me feel wealthy in happiness and friendships, in how I have been able to move through the world in a kind of whimsical way. I have some of what you could call plans, but I’m one of the very few people I know—and I know a lot of people—who have as much independence as I am fortunate enough to have.”
That good fortune didn’t just happen. It was a choice: to spend time with the people he wanted to spend time with, talking about and doing things that he wants to do.
Does this make Fran the most selfish person on the planet?
“I’ve thought about that and asked myself that question,” he says. “And I don’t think I am.”
Fran believes he was given a gift very early in life, as a nurse being exposed to death and dying and taking note of what he calls the important things in life.
“I have tried to make certain that I never forgot that gift from people who went before me, what people I was taking care of told me about their lives, if they had any regrets,” he continues. “I have learned from that experience and applied what I learned to my life, to the people I love and the music I make.”
As a boy, Fran grew up with an extended family living in the same house. There were eight people, including his grandfather, who did not move to a nursing home until he was 97 years old—where he lived just two weeks before dying.
Something that didn’t exist back then was a service like the one that became O’Connell Care at Home. So, when Fran finally went to nursing school, he remembered what he had learned from watching his grandfather: how important it was for someone to be at home as long as possible.
“My grandfather never missed a family birthday party or other celebration,” Fran remembers. “He was there, and I saw how much that enriched his life, saw it up close and personal, because I was also lucky to be part of it.”
Fran was 20 years old when his grandfather died. He had been studying speech pathology at the University of Massachusetts. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do in his life. So, he took a basic nursing class, kind of nursing 101, pretty much because he needed three credits and thought the course would be easy.
“Holy cow!” he thought, “nursing sure looks like a good way to make a living.”
And with all the baby boomers about a decade older, he realized that the need for good nursing was going to grow. And so he transferred to Columbia from the University of Massachusetts, where he would later return for a masters degree. And in 1987—now married to his first wife Ann, and with their first child about to be born—he and Ann started a business called O’Connell Professional Nurse Service that eventually became O’Connell Care at Home. Today, that business has four offices in western Massachusetts and is still growing.
Someone suffering from a chronic illness or condition is not going to be covered by Medicare or regular health insurance, unless they have a policy for long-term care. You either have to pay out of pocket for such services or become income-eligible. This is a hugely complicated subject to summarize, but overall as a country, Fran believes, “we are doing a very bad job of taking care of our elders.”
However, if someone has the foresight to hire Fran’s home nursing care service instead of placing themselves or a loved one in a nursing home, the service can help with everything they need. O’Connell Care at Home will cook dinner for people, keep them company if they want to take a walk in the park. The list is long and, explains Fran, “We do an impressive intake with everyone to be certain we match you with the right person from our company.”
Meanwhile, about ten years ago, with three grown daughters, a second wife named Kim, and daydreams about running for mayor of Holyoke (which he eventually did), Fran was at his vacation home in Vieques, Puerto Rico, when his life took a dramatic turn. It all started with a guitar he had bought his oldest daughter, Alison. Never really warming to the instrument, she had left it in Vieques—under a bed, it turned out, which is where Fran found it late one afternoon.
Fran had always loved to sing, but as an athlete in high school he rarely had time for music. Once he was raising a family and working, the only singing he did was in the shower. Later, he tried his hand at bass, learning four chords, but he confesses that he sounded so terrible Kim told him she was going to leave if he didn’t quit.
Was finding Alison’s rejected instrument a second chance? He stayed up all night to find out, and in the morning announced to Kim that he was going to start a band!
Kim couldn’t stop laughing.
Flash forward to something Bonnie St. Martin, wife of his producer—yes, producer—Jamie Kent, said to one of the many new old friends Fran has made since that all-night vigil with his guitar: “Fran’s new career is a passion story.” Jamie partly ascribes what Fran has done to his background as an entrepreneur, starting and leading that home care nursing company. It’s as if Jamie must have known what Fran once said to the band’s drummer, Fran’s longtime Holyoke friend Richie Adelson, when Fran first approached him: “If I learn how to really do this, will you play in my band?” Adds guitarist Dave Stern: “Fran has such seriousness of purpose, with defined goals.”
Now, says Fran, “If SONY offers me an exclusive recording deal, I couldn’t be happier than I already am. And here’s something a little strange or surprising: the less I seem to care about success, the more it seems to land on my doorstep.”