Freddie Frank, bopping in Texas (Abbott, Starday, Permian: 1953-1961)

A staple of the Odessa country music scene for 50 years, guitarist-fiddler Freddie Frank (1931-2005) spent his formative years in Kilgore. Part of the same circle that included Jack Rhodes, Red Hayes, Jimmy Johnson, Curtis Kirk, Al Petty, Bobby Garrett, and Jim Reeves, Freddie, like Johnson, was not able to translate his vocal talents into the sustained recording career that he deserved. Instead, there was the all-too-predictable pattern of a few scattered releases on oddball labels in the ’50s and early ’60s, including his own Permian label. A Capitol session c. 1955 could have turned things around for him — but it went unissued (and no one has got a trace of it).

Mineola, Wood Cty

12,000 Texas Longhorns” was Freddie’s debut, from early 1953, and issued on Fabor Robinson’s Abbott label (# 125). A memorable Jack Rhodes-J.C. Lile song, “Longhorns” was recorded superbly by the pros at KWKH Studio in Shreveport with Red Hayes’ band providing the solid support: Joe “Red” Hayes and Kenneth “Little Red” Hayes (fiddles), Al Petty (steel guitar), and Leon Hayes (bass). Freddie supplies his own rhythm guitar. Flipside « Off to parts unknown » is slowlier, although a vigorous slice of hillbilly bop. Red Hayes seems to have been everywhere in the early ’50s. He would eventually follow Freddie to Odessa. Next Abbott issue (# 126) by Curtis Kirk was presumed as having been recorded at the same place and occasion as Freddie Frank. 

“12,000 Texas LonghornsFrank Freddie  "12,000 Texas longhorns"

Billboard March 7, 1953

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Frank Freddie "Off to parts unknown"Off to parts unknown

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As for Jack Rhodes, he remains a controversial figure. Some people loved him; others hated him. Freddie’s comments, made to me in a 1999 interview, are revealing:

I went to work at the Reo Palm Isle (in Longview). I played lead guitar for Jim Reeves there when he was first starting out. When I left there, Red (Hayes) came in there and started working. He introduced me to Jack Rhodes. I moved up to Mineola and was staying up there helping him write songs. Jack had a bunch of people writing song-poems. We’d go and collect those and bring ’em back, and I’d write the tunes for ’em. Make ’em meter out, and doctor ’em up. They could put “DS” after my name — doctor of songs. Jack didn’t write very much of nothing. Jack was a manipulator. He reminded me of Boss Hog on ‘Dukes of Hazzard.’ Jack owned the motel (the Trail 80 Courts), and was bootlegging (liquor), and he could afford to do what he wanted to.

I think Jack had the sheriff paid off in Mineola. I don’t think he was arrested there. But I think he did get raided when he lived in Grand Saline. They were making their own whiskey up there. I think that’s why he moved to Mineola, ’cause he couldn’t manipulate the law in Grand Saline. I told him when he died, they’d probably screw him in the ground like a corkscrew.

But he put the con on just about everybody. When I got enough of it, I got enough, and I left…never called him, never spoke to him again. I think that was the same thing with Red (Hayes).”

Freddie is listed as co-writer with Jack Rhodes on Gene Vincent‘s “Five days, five days » (Capitol 3678), but received no credit for writing the music to Vincent’s “Red Blue Jeans and a Pony tail” (Capitol LP T 768 « Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps »). “Five Days, Five Days“, credited by Rob Finnis to Jimmy Johnson, may actually be Freddie with Leon Hayes on tremendous bass. Franks had been quickly adapting his voice (he even adopts hiccups) and playing to new trends. From the same sessions came a version of the evergreen « Trying to be my baby »[see the story of this song in this site]. On the other hand, Frank was not listed among artists involved in the “Louisiana Hayride“, according to Imperial, who runs an ambitious reedition program (20 CD) of tapes saved from this famous radio/live show. 

Freddie FrankRed blue jeans and a pony tail

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Gene Vincent & the Blue CapsRed blue jeans and a pony tailVincent Gene & the Blue Caps

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Freddie FrankFive days, five days”(possibly)

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Vincent Gene  "Five days, five days"Gene Vincent & his Blue Caps “Five days, five days

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Freddie FrankTrying to be my baby

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Earlier in 1953 the team Jimmy Rhodes-Freddie Frank had been cutting two sides for Starday in Beaumont, Texas. The very fast « Gypsy heart » (# 117) has fine fiddle and guitar, and vocal credited to Franks, while the flipside « Al’s steel guitar wobble » is a showcase for Al Petty, supported by a good piano (is this Starday house-musician Doc Lewis?). Both sides have Frank on rhythm guitar.

Rodes Jack & Frank Freddie "Gypsy heart"
Gypsy heart

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Next stop in Freddie Frank’s career is in Odessa (West Texas) in 1961. Unable to find a label proper to release real Hillbilly at this time, he then launched his own label, Permian, apparently a common venture with Slim Willet. Frank had 3 issues on this label. First «This old rig »(1001-A) has energetic rhythm and voice over very fine fiddle and steel. : a great Bopper. The flipside (« I want to be) On the bayou tonight », has, as expected, Cajun overtones (without accordion yet),

This old rig

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“”On the bayou tonight

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Frank Freddie "Another woman looking for a man"
Frank Freddie  "This old rig"Frank Freddie  "On the bayou tonight"
and nothing exceptional. The second issue, billed « Freddie Frank and the Lone Star Cowboys »(# 1002), even faster than «This old rig » is a tour-de-force both for Freddie and the steel player, who makes prowesses. « Another woman looking for a man » is written by Hayes, possibly one of the family (Joe, Leon or Kenneth) and such a track reminds one of Skeets McDonald‘s best honky tonkers a few years earlier, or Sonny Burns’ songs in his best moments.

a very old Freddie

Another woman looking for a man

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Flipside « So alone inside » remains untraced, while Permian 1004 is once more a fantastic two-sided bopper. Energetic voice well to the fore, fine fiddle and a rollicking steel for « Tool pusher from Snyder », revived from Slim Willet‘s original issue (1951) ten years earlier on the Star Talent label (# 770). The final side « Haywire Jones” (written also by Slim Willet and published in 1959 on Winston 1040), although a little quieter, is equally a very nice bopper in the George Jones vein. The Permian label also published Earl Montgomery (regular bassist on Winston Slim Willet issues) and Bill Massey (unheard).

Willet  Slim  "I'm a tool pusher from Snyder"Frank Freddie  "Too pusher from Snyder"

Frank Freddie  "Haywire Jones"

Slim Willet “I’m a tool pusher from Snyder

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Freddie FrankTool pusher from Snyder

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Freddie FrankHaywire Jones

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With thanks to HillbillyBoogie1 (biography); John Burton (Abbott issue) : Armadillo Killer for one Permian issue ; Uncle Gil for the Starday project ; notes by Rob Finnis to the CD (Ace) « Gene Vincent cut our songs ».. May “HillbillyBoogie1” get in touch please to get us more details from his corresponding with Freddie Frank. I really don’t know what happened to him between his Permian sides from 1961 and his death in 2005.

Cat music: the roots of rockabilly – What does mean “cat” ?

‘Cat’ has been used as a term in popular music since the Jazz years of the 1920’s. Revered by the ancient Egyptians, cats have a mystique and grace all over their own – no wonder these independent and mysterious animals became such a byword for ‘Cool’ in music from Hep Cats, jazz be-boppers of the ‘40s, and right through into 1950’s Rock’n’Roll.

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Hillbilly (Billy) Barton: Crazy lover

ultrafon D 750 billy barton blue is the night
barton

london, kentucky

London, Kentucky area

Billy Barton was born in London, Kentucky, on November 21rst, 1929. At the age of sixteen, after special training at school, he had secured a job as a tobacco auctioneer but, when he was twenty-one, his love of music carried the youngster to his first professional appearance on radio KXLA out of Pasadena, California. However, it seems to have been a further two years before Billy was to see his name on record. This first release for Fabor A. Robinson’s Abbott label was a duet with Johnny Horton on the flip of Johnny’s ninth Abbott issue. The next record on the label showed the same format, Horton solo on one side coupled with Horton/Barton duet on the  other.

At  this time, he was recording as Hillbilly Barton and would persevere with this name for a further two issues

abbott 166 before simplifying his name to Billy Barton for his remaining six Abbott platters. Although none of these records became mammoth sellers, the Country press was full of praise and D.J.s were giving them plenty of spins. One side of each of his last two Abbott discs were duets with Wanda Wayne, who he would go on to marry shortly afterwards, in December 1954.th_bbarton

Whilst on the honeymoon the couple cut at least one session for the King label of Cincinnati, but it was most probably two separate sessions in a matter of days. The penultimate of the songs is Wanda Wayne’s « Turn Your Fire Down », which is an excellent Hillbilly bopper.king 1466 wanda wayne turn your fire down

king-1457-dj-blly-barton-pardon-me-old-buddy

with thanks to Michael Cocksedge

“Pardon me, old buddy”

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It was 1957 before we know of him recording again and then it was for the obscure Stars Inc. company. After that the next two seem to have been custom pressings from the same plant, the first under the banner of a music publisher%