Born into a musical family, Franklin first took the stage at age 5. He got his big break in 1984 as bassist in stellar supergroup the Firm, with guitar legend Jimmy Page, vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band). Franklin’s signature fretless growl was a distinctive and instantly recognizable element of the band’s first hit, "Radioactive." 
After two hit albums with The Firm, Franklin subsequently performed with Blue Murder (John Sykes, Carmine Appice), David Gilmour, Kate Bush, Whitesnake, Donna Lewis, Pat Travers and many others. An in-demand session bass ace, he has appeared on more than 150 albums. Franklin has released two solo albums, Brave New Tomorrow and Wonderland, and a bass instructional DVD.
While maintaining his music career, from September 2003 through July 2011, Franklin served as Artist Relations Manager for Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and SWR. He returned to music performance full-time in mid-2011, when he joined Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s band for the tour supporting the guitarist’s 2011 album, How I Go.
He is credited with introducing the fretless bass to the hard rock and heavy metal audiences, as the fretless bass is not commonly heard in these genres. This has earned Franklin the nickname of “Fretless Monster”.
In January 2006 Fender introduced the Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Bass, a distinctive instrument, with an alder body and modern C-shaped maple neck with an unfinished and unfretted ebony fingerboard with side dot position markers. Other features include vintage tuners, Hipshot Bass Xtender drop-D tuner on the E string, and three-way pickguard switch that controls an American Series Precision Bass neck pickup and a Tony Franklin signature Jazz Bass bridge pickup with hex-screw lugs and ceramic bar magnets.
Although mostly known for his fretless work, Franklin’s been doing sessions with the same fretted Precision Bass for many years. Fender released the Tony Franklin Fretted Precision Bass in 2008, a replica of the instrument used throughout his career. The signature fretted bass is similar to his fretless model, with Precision and Jazz Bass pickups and a three-way selector switch that provide an array of tones.
Prior to his work with The Firm, Franklin toured and recorded with English folk/rock singer-songwriter and guitarist, Roy Harper, appearing on eight of his albums between 1982 and 2013.