Back in the early 90's me and my buddy Danny met this amazing man. Frank was a true 'bluesman'. He knew all the old greats. He lived a long life and was beloved by the musical community in the ATL.
Back when I first met him, I was playing drums. For those that don't know, of all the blues 'styles' the Piedmont Style is the most demanding. If your a drummer playing basic 4/4 time, it will f*ck you up everytime until you know what to listen for. Mr Frank did not suffer fools or drummers gladly, he was used to playing by himself, or with a washboarder.. He became a mentor to Danny, but didn't really cotton to me at first. I was a longhaired annoying kid, who wanted to play drums with him. He used to do this one man band thing, where he played and sang through a huge old tube amp and had one of those really old Boss Dr Rythym drum machines.....He would take about 2 minutes at the beginning of every song trying to get the machines to play a basic 'boom chank boom chank' type beat, and jump in. BUt for about 2-3 painful minutes, everyone watched as the old guy on stage tried to figure out a 30 year old drum machine. It was kinda sad.
Danny found a power cord that was disabled that looked just like the one Mr Frank used, and right before every gig, would swap it out. Then, Mr Frank would look perplexed as his drum machine wouldnt' 'work', and thus would begrudingly let me perform with him. Poor old guy must have bought 6 or 7 replacements until he finally got comfortable with me, and gave up and let me play.
One time, back before the Olympics, we had a gig booked down in Beaufort, S.C...This is usually a pretty rough gig as there is a marine base and training grounds there. Not the place to tote 70+ year old man. But Mr Frank demanded to come with us. When Mr Frank demanded something, he usually got it. We had 2 hotel rooms, Frank played a short set with us, and retired for the night while we continued the party into the early morning..Sat at 7 a.m. he knocks on the door, and tells us he needs to see 'the doctor'. Imagine our horror! Bleary eyed and hung over, we pile into the van with Mr Frank, as he gives us directions out somewhere in the Ga Islands ( I admit I slept during this commute). We pull up to a modest house, with a trailer next to it. Mr Frank knowcks on the door, a 40 something black guy answers, and into the trailer they go. About 30 minutes later, they come out and Frank rolls off 200$ to the guy and gets in the van.
I was consumed with curiosity, and badgered Mr Frank for answers, but he wasn't saying a word. Many years later, afert continual badgering, he told me the reason. "Evans ( older black people ALWAYS plurilate my first name ), I had some flying bugs in my house. I tried everything to get rid of them. Even called the 'Sterminator'. I figured someone put the bad JuJu on me, and got that dr to 'take it off'. I found out after his death: that 'man' was the son of 'Minerva' the voodoo woman of 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' fame. http://savannahnow.com/intown/2009-05-0 ... fame-dies#
I was taught by some very special people. Mr Frank Edwards, Blind Cootie Stark and Cora Mae Bryant. I was fortunate to get to travel overseas and all over the South with them. Too many crazy stories to tell here..
In 2002, Mr Frank has his 93rd Bday party..By then he had kind of 'lost it'. Instead of clear singing, he kinda 'mumbled' and often repeated songs or patches of songs. So, I was looking forward to seeing my old friend, but not really to performing with him, as he had gotten so erratic in his old age. Then something AMAZING happened. Now, remember, I had played YEARS with him, alot, and was prepared for the worst.
Mr Frank Edwards imnmediately turned 60 that day. He was STRONG! NO mistakes, no 'lost verses', his voice was POWERFUL, he was ON FIRE. It had been years since I heard him play like that. YEARS! He brought down the house.
Danny called his friend in SC and told him how Mr Frank had performed, and had gotten it back. They set up a recording session two days later. Mr Frank went up there, and cut a disc. He got in the back seat of a car, driving back to Atlanta, he fell asleep and never woke up. I know personally the people who drove that car. NO death rattle, no complaints 'Im not feeling well', nothing of the sort. He just slumped down and died.
So I came across this video on FB, and thought I would share it here. RIP Mr Frank. I hope your having a Coke and a smile upstairs, although Mr Frank was a devout athiest ( something unheard of in those circles ). He said 'I ain't never seen anyone come back'. I kinda wisj I could see ol Mr Frank again and apologise for making him buy so many power cords. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34rhe-mCQGA
"Mr. Frank Edwards was born in Washington, the county seat of Wilkes County, Georgia, on March 20th, 1909. “Wilkes County wasn’t nothin’ then but... farming place.” He “always loved the guitar” and bought one when he was 8 or 9 years old, but his father made him “carry it back. He was such a terrible Christian, he didn’t want it in his house.” At 14, an argument with his father caused young Frank to leave home for St. Augustine, Florida. “I stayed away and didn’t go back until twenty-some years. I ain’t seen him no more since.” The first thing he did when he got away from home was to buy a guitar.
In St. Augustine, he met Tampa Red, “Champion of the Slide Guitar”. Tampa Red, who was four years older, influenced and encouraged the younger musician. The two lived together for a while before Tampa Red moved to Chicago in the mid 20’s. Mr. Frank stayed in Florida for about five years before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee where he worked in a flour mill. After about five years in Knoxville, he hit the road playing music. He traveled all over the country, going up north to play in clubs in New York and Chicago in the summer and back down south in the winter to play for house parties and at cafes and in the streets. He started off hoboing, later taking busses, and eventually buying a car. Around 1934, he picked up his technique of playing harmonica and guitar at the same time. He played at times with the “Star Band”, a string band based in Atlanta. In Mississippi, he associated with Robert Petway and Tommy McClennan, whom he played and traveled with. On a trip to Chicago, McClennan introduced his manager, Lester Melrose to Mr. Frank which led to his first recording session for the Okeh label in 1941.
When the war broke out, Mr. Frank was drafted into the army. Stationed first in Macon, Georgia and then in Arizona, he made a lot of money playing for the other soldiers. After two or three years, he was discharged from service due to an injury and settled in Atlanta. There he met and played with Atlanta’s other great blues musicians like Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Moss, Curley Weaver, and Barbecue Bob Hicks. It was Curley Weaver who, in 1949, arranged Mr. Frank’s second recording session for the Regal label, backing Mr. Frank up on second guitar.
Mr. Frank continued to travel throughout the 40’s. Apparently he was well known in Chicago as “Black Frank” by other musicians such as Muddy Waters and Homesick James. Playing opportunities slacked off by the mid 60’s. In 1971, Mr. Frank was “discovered” by blues researcher, Pete Lowry, who recorded him in late 1972. The album, “Done Some Travelin’” came out on Lowry’s Trix label in ‘73.
Mr. Frank celebrated his 93rd birthday on March 22nd, 2002 at the Northside Tavern in Atlanta performing with Jim Ransone and Dave Roth from the Breeze Kings on second guitar and bass and Evan Lee on drums. The place was packed with his family, friends, and fans. Two days later he recorded a soon to be released CD in Greenville, South Carolina - his first studio recording since the Trix sessions in '72. On the drive back to Atlanta, Mr. Frank Edwards, the most beloved and respected figure on the Atlanta blues scene, passed away in his sleep. Mr. Frank went out the same way he lived his life - with the utmost class and dignity. Until the end he would put on a sharp suit and hat almost every night and drive himself out to various clubs around town to see live music. He could frequently be seen at Blind Willie’s or the Northside Tavern, sitting at his regular seat at the corner of the bar, drinking a diet Coke (He quit drinking when he was about 40 years old.) and listening to the blues that he loved so much."