Black Frank & Muddy Waters –
[Nikon F-2; Tri-X]
Having recently been reunited with my photographic negatives and prints, I have many a point from which to tell a story or two in the future! This is one of my favorites, marking a reunion I effected back in the day.
Back in the day, nobody was terribly interested in doing any recording of acoustic blues artists, especially in Chicago, even though the stuff was there. In 1974, the “powers-that-be” of LIVING BLUES (Jim & Amy!) were on my case to do something about that, since none of the local labels could be bothered. So, beginning in 1974, I began recording a couple of their important artists – Honeyboy Edwards, and Homesick James – in what might be called “living room” solo sessions, for their first LP of that ilk. That’s another story, but out of that I got to know two fine musicians and people, and recorded some great music. Each was given copies of the LPs I had released at that point… it may have been the first eight albums.
While thumbing through them, Homesick stopped, looking hard at the cover photo of Trix 3303, and said, “That’s “Black Frank”! Where he at ??” Now there’s a back-story here. Back in the day, W.E. folks were curious about the sides that Sam Phillips recorded for both Chess and Sun by one “Harmonica Frank”. Not being able to “tell” what sort of person this Frank was, questions were asked of Black artists from both Chicago and Memphis, obvious places to start. “Anybody know someone named Frank who played guitar and rack harmonica together back in the day” being the essence of their queries. “Nope” being the usual response.
One or two folks from Chicago vaguely remembered there being one “Black Frank” after the war, but he wasn’t around Chicago for all that long. Black Frank remained a name of mystery… until Homesick! Frank Edwards was in fact the elusive Black Frank, and Harmonica Frank was Frank Floyd, a former white med show performer from Mississippi. He played the guitar and had his harp sticking out of his mouth as he somehow sang around it and played it alternatively*. He would also play two harps at the same time, like Peg Leg Sam did… one with his mouth, one with his nose.
I filed away Homesick’s reaction to the Frank Edwards LP for future use. That time came in 1976. Muddy Waters and his band were performing some dates in Atlanta at The Great Southeastern Music Hall. By that point in time I had made myself known to and accepted by many performers, including Muddy**. I mentioned to Frank that I was going to see Muddy one evening and he asked to go along – he hadn’t seen Mud since the late forties in Chicago! So, I thought that was a good idea and acted on it. We went backstage into the dressing room early in the evening and they saw each other and memories flooded back… see accompanying photo. Muddy ordered a bottle of champaign to share; Frank wasn’t drinker, but it was the thought that counted… he had a sip or two.
Looking back, this is one of the times that I had a possibility/idea and acted upon it almost immediately… they would be rare in my life! Made me feel good to bring these old acquaintances together after so many years! Their expressions in the photograph up top say it all.
PETER B. LOWRY Sydney Nov, 2016
IN MEMORY OF: Amy vanSingel… vale, and thanks, my friend.
* The only performer that I met who also did that was the legendary Henry Johnson. How he did it, I do not know! Sam’s two at once was marvelous enough as it was!!
** Muddy came to know me pretty well and almost was recorded by me. I wanted to “do” Pinetop Perkins (his pianist at the time, and unrecorded as a soloist) in two settings: one with Robert Lockwood and his band doing jump tunes; one with just a guitar player (like Johnny Jones did for Chess). I mentioned the idea to Muddy and he said, “Let me know when you do that… I’ll play on them!” Unfortunately, I was running out of extra money then and never got to it… a grand idea it was, though. So close!