The albums that time forgot
The Value of a Song
By Bill Glahn, Big O
Back in 1972, Bob Frank released his first record, a fantastic piece of Southern folk music on Vanguard Records. Although several Vanguard executives requested that he play material from the album at the record release showcase concert, he refused, stating that he only wanted to perform his newer material. Vanguard subsequently “tanked” the record, refusing to promote an album by a songwriter who wouldn’t use his concert performances to “sell” material that they now owned.
Was this an act of self-sabotage by an artist with a fear of fame? Or was it the act of a songwriter who viewed his songs in different terms than purely commercial ones? This week I got my answer.
Bob Frank isn’t totally unknown. John Hiatt tells of an obscure Memphis folkie named Bob Frank, who was the driving influence for Hiatt to pursue a career as a songwriter/performer. In Robert Gordon’s book, It Came From Memphis, Jim Dickinson tells of a song called “With Sabers In Our Hands”, recorded by Jerry McGill at Sam Phillip’s studio. “If the South had had that song, they would have won the war.” Gordon assumed the song was an old traditional piece, and Dickinson didn’t mention that it was actually a song written by Bob Frank. So Bob Frank got no mention in Gordon’s widely-read book. Apparently, Bob Frank is just destined for obscurity.
Others in the Memphis area have referred to Frank as “the Bob Dylan of the South.” But any comparisons with Dylan can stop with such testimony and Frank’s Vanguard album. Bob Frank wouldn’t release another record for 30 years. No fame. No fortune. No accolades from the critics. Just a lingering and uneasy thought among anyone who had ever heard his Vanguard record… “Whatever happened to Bob Frank?”
Several years ago a tape trading buddy sent me a 1973 recording of Bob Frank performing at The Old Quarter in Houston. Like at the album release concert, Frank paid little attention to the songs from the self-titled Vanguard album (although several do appear in the set). Instead, he performs a batch of (then) new material, including a fascinating unreleased tune called “The Face on the Barroom Floor.” I had written about that song several years ago in Live! Music Review. The last verse in that song described how a painting of a woman was viewed by some as the face of beauty and by others as the face of a whore. The impression left by Frank’s song was that it was probably the face of both. I compared the song to the music industry in my essay.
On the occasion of the release of Keep On Burning, Frank’s first album in 30 years (produced by Jim Dickinson and featuring members of the North Mississippi Allstars), I exchanged some emails with Frank. I mentioned “The Face on the Barroom Floor” as being one of my favorite Bob Frank songs. Frank replied: “I was in this bar in Deadwood, South Dakota, back in, oh, say 1970, I think it was the Old Number Ten Saloon, the one Wild Bill got killed in, this place has so much shit hanging off the walls, you can’t even see the walls. Buffalo heads, musical instruments, pictures, weapons, I don’t know what all. And hanging up there among all this stuff was what looked like a portion of a floor that had been ripped up and nailed on the wall. It had this picture of a young girl on it, in red paint. Very pretty young girl, long curly hair, and the wood it was painted on was sort of a rust colored brown. It was the face on the barroom floor, cut out of the floor and hung on the wall.
“Well, me being drunk, as was my wont back in those days, immediately a song came to mind. Now, I knew there was already some poem about the Face on the Barroom Floor, but I didn’t exactly recall what that poem was about… obviously a woman… but I didn’t remember any of the lines… so I took it upon myself to do it my own way. And so, as me and my lady friend drove around Wyoming, drinking sherry and taking in the scenery, I wrote that little poem about Tolliver and the face he painted on the barroom floor. I actually mailed it back to the Saloon from somewhere down in Arizona a few months later, but that was the end of it….”
I told Frank that after my essay had been published I heard from one of the other writers for Live! Music Review. He had never heard of Bob Frank, but he had been to that saloon in the mid ‘70s, and the painting of “The Face” was hanging on the wall and right next to it was a framed paper with handwritten lyrics.
Frank: “I just figured they (the Saloon) read it and threw it away. Man, that is something like exactly what I wanted, but I never knew it. I never knew exactly what I wanted when I sent them the lyrics. I just wanted them to see the song. But that’s it. That’s exactly where those lyrics belong. On the wall next to the painting. Man, this is one of those weird things in life that really makes sense. I mean, nobody will ever know about this, but it just is sitting out there in Deadwood. A painting on the floor hung on the wall, and a song in handwritten lyrics in a frame beside it. This is poetry turned into reality, or vice versa… This is the kind of shit I used to live for. And the mystery of it is what makes it so enticing… Who painted that picture? Prob’ly somebody just like the guy that wrote those lyrics…”
Frank’s response is the perfect illustration of why artists create. For great art, the rewards are never measured in money. The reward is measured by the artist’s ability to communicate his feelings. And if those feelings are communicated best on the wall of a saloon in South Dakota rather than on a tape rotting away in some record label’s vault, that is reward enough for Bob Frank. So my question was answered. Bob Frank’s refusal at his Vanguard showcase wasn’t an act of self-sabotage. Like Tolliver’s painting, it was the act of an artist who really did know the value of art.
The Song: Face on the Barroom Floor
Monthly Archives: December 2011
Bob– I’ll have to tell you the truth, since you ask, but it’s strange. I had a dream in which the name “Bob Frank” was sort of flashing insistently on a screen. (To my knowledge I had never heard of you in my life.) Then I found myself in what seemed to be a bookstore with lots of shoppers in line; I thought “Oh no, this must be the Bob Frank line…” but it turned out they were all buying other stuff, and then I found these Bob Frank items for sale in a box. They looked like CDs, and I was about to buy them, but then I woke up. I thought it was a pretty interesting dream so I wrote the name Bob Frank down on the pad I keep beside my bed and went back to sleep. The next day I did a web search for Bob Frank, and discovered there was areal Bob Frank and a website selling his CDs. So I was pretty interested because of the dream, and wanted to buy a CD but I try to restrict my online shopping to Amazon. I checked Amazon and they were selling one Bob Frank CD which was Ride the Restless Wind, which I ordered and received. I rarely like “country music” but Ithought your songs were good, and different, nothing like what you hear on the radio. I grew up in the country. Also I’m still interested in why I dreamed your name–so I broke down and ordered two more CDs from the CD Baby website. Now, every word of this account is true. I have had things like this happen sometimes.
Since you are Bob Frank I guess you have a right to hear it. I wouldn’t blame you though if you didn’t necessarily believe it. I wish you the best of luck, fulfillment and inspiration!
My brother just pointed me at your web site like he pointed me at your music in the 70s and I am glad to have found both. It’s been nearly thirty years and we still break into song (yours) whenever we call or see each other. In fact, there was/is a whole bunch of guys in Reidsville, NC, who knew every word and would sing the whole thing any time a beer was shared or when none was available.
I moved out to Seattle in 1985. In Idaho, on the drive there, I left the main road heading for Waitsburg on an odyssey to visit the shrine. After spending a night in the mysterious town of Lewiston or Clarksburg, whichever is closer to Waitsburg, I rolled on into town to show my girlfriend around. I took pictures of the cannery, a little wooden bench and main street then headed down south to Walla Walla and snapped a pic of 210 Oak Street. It was about 6:15 in the morning and the police were suspicious of this truck towing a car driving around town so they stopped us. After I explained what I was doing they were happy to lead me over to Oak Street, thus escaping the cold steel rack. I sent the pictures to my brother, Will, trying to set his soul awhirl. He passed them around. Years later he gave me a bottle of Cleveland wine to commemorate his trip there.
My copy of your album was ruined when the basement flooded before I had unpacked the boxes when I moved to Woburn, MA. I had made a tape of it but the grooves were so deep I had to put two pennies on the tone arm to get the needle down far enough to get the sound. What a loss.
I tried to track you down on the internet and wrote several letters asking people where to locate you; with no success. I just wanted to know what happened and what you were doing. We are all still waiting for your next smash release. I did find a guy who had a copy of you album in vg condition but I no longer had a turntable to play it on. He was nice enough to burn a CD for me since I was already buying the album. Ahh, nice tunes.
Well, anyway, itís nice to see your page and learn there is more music to be had. Thanks for everything. I love them all but Canadian Pines is really special to me.
Good Time Boogie, 2002, somewhere in the woods of North Carolina. When Bob sang some songs from the old Vanguard album, the audience stood up and sang along with him. It was like old home week. Like a 30 year reunion — and Bob had never even met any of these folks before!
Dear Bob Frank,
I have loved your music for many years…since 1965, in fact.
I am so glad you have a new CD out. I really love it.
p.s. Please tell me what your last name is.
I thought I’d drop you a line to let you know that I received your CD and it’s a treasure. Is it true that you writ Sabers in Our Hands while in high school?
Say it isn’t so! What a piece of work! Worth the price of admission right there as they say. Right on. Great CD. Keep on burning and be true to your school.
I got the suprise of my life today when Alf S. from Norway, with whom I’ve, the last year, exchanged music and questions about the “mysterious” Bob Frank, (whose album I and a couple of friends have held dearly and spent many hours of listening to) sent me an e-mail, saying that Mr Frank suddenly has materialised on the web!! Long live the Internet and so nice to hear that you still are producing music and writing songs. I have corresponded with Vanguard records a couple of times the last few years and they knew absolutely nothing about your recent activities or actually nothing about you.
I’m a 55-year old rock, jazz, blues and folk lover, myself a guitarist and singer, from Sweden, by profession a librarian. My particular interests in music (my taste is very wide) are the period of folk meets rock i.e. the sixties, especially the Elektra and Vanguard- artists. I sincerely hope that Vanguard will release your old album in good CD-quality (I have a CD with it transposed from an album of good quality) and wish you good tidings and greetings from Sweden. I will tell my friends of the inner circle!
Hope to see you perform soon, I was in California last year, I have an old friend who lives in Sausalito so I’ll be back.
Lots of greetings from Staffan Fenander
Glad to see the big blue veins on your ankle bones are still pumping.
For the longest time, I thought another Bob Frank (of Blue Lunch http://www.bluelunch.com) was you — undercover. In fact, it wasn’t until I found your site that I realized he wasn’t feeding me a line.
Anyway, thanks for the many FINE tunes. We’ve enjoyed your songs over the years. Sure would like to see your original album come out on CD as I can no longer find my copy (probably got stolen!!)
Unbelievable! My decades long search has ended! There I was, an 18-year-old kid at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, in the year 1972. Andy McCleod, the guy across the hall in the freshman dorm with a great music collection says, “Hey, come listen to this.” I hear, “Judas Iscariot had a friend in the Roman Guard….” What an incredible song, what an incredible album.
“Bob Frank” quickly became the music of choice for what became the class of 1976. Though I only made it to the spring of 1973, I left Ripon with my cherished copy of “Bob Frank,” which then accompanied me through the ups and downs of the next 13 years. In 1986, I split with my wife and–oh Lord–she kept the albums! For the next 16 years I’ve tried to replace the only album I really cared about. Several times, I even contemplated calling my ex-wife (then came to my senses).
Not long ago, I found a copy for sale on the Internet, ordered it, only to be told by the seller it had been sold just five minutes before. In the meantime, I became curious about Bob Frank, the guy who wrote and sang these incredible songs. Who was he? What happened to him? Why did he only make this one album? In my mind, this was one of the great mysteries of our time. Amazingly, almost nothing could be found on the Internet, something that only increased the mystery since there is something about everything on the Internet.
There were a few things, though, enough to make me know it wasn’t all some decades-long imagining of mine. There was an interview with singer John Hiatt where he said: “I went down there when I was 18 and I walked into a publishing company that published this guy that I’d met down there who was named Bob Frank, a folk singer. I was very impressed with his work and I said, “Well,how are you surviving down here.” He said, “Well, I write for this publishing company and they pay me money. Yeah, $25 a week. Like an advance.” So I just thought, “Damn it, that’s what I’m going to do.” So I went into the same publishing company and played some songs. They said, “What do you want?” I said, “Twenty five dollars a week just like you give Bob Frank.” And they accepted so, I was a professional. I was on my way. I was artistically successful because I was doing what I want to do, which is, write and sing. And somebody was paying me dough.”
I also found a musician in Cleveland with the name of Bob Frank. I e-mailed him asking if he was THE Bob Frank. I got a weary e-mail back saying: “No, not the same guy. But I get asked that question a lot.”
Then, today, I was reading Nick Tosches’ book, “Where Dead Voices Gather,” and who do I find written about on page 55 but Bob Frank.
“OK,” I say, “I gotta find a copy of ‘Bob Frank’ and I gotta find out what the hell happened to him.” I am a journalist by trade, fairly expert at tracking people down, so I’d set myself a mission.
I went back on the Internet to start the search afresh. I type in “Bob Frank.” What’s the first thing to pop up? bobfranksongs.com! I had to pick myself up off the floor.
All this to say, “obscure” or not, you are one hell of an artist! Please let me know the shipping cost of “Keep on Burning” to Culver City, CA. I have some friends I want to say “Hey come listen to this” to.
With best regards,
MR. FRANK ,
AROUND 1970 I PURCHASED YOUR ALBLUM, “BOB FRANK.” MY ROOMMATE AND I LISTENED TO YOUR ALBLUM NIGHTLY AND I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW MUCH PLEASURE IT GAVE US BOTH. UNFORTUNATLY OUR APARTMENT WAS BROKEN IN TO AND EVERYTHING WAS TAKEN. I ONLY HAD THE ALBLUM A COUPLE OF MONTHS AND WE HAVE BOTH BEEN SEARCHING FOR THE RECORD FOR THIRTY YEARS. WE HAD THE FIRST COUPLE OF STANZAS MEMORIZED FROM “BEFORE THE TRASH TRUCK COMES.” HOWEVER I THOUGHT THE TITLE WAS “WINO” AND OF COURSE LINES FROM “JUDAS ISCARIOT” and “COLD CANADIAN PINES” HAVE BEEN PLAYING IN MY HEAD ALL THESE YEARS AND THEY CREATED A BOND BETWEEN US THAT CONTINUES TODAY. JUST FOR HISTORY’S SAKE I BOUGHT IT AT A STORE IN LOUISVILLE, KY. CALLED KARMA RECORDS, LONG GONE OF COURSE, EXCEPT FOR US. I JUST WANTED TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR CREATIVITY AND ORIGINALITY AND FOR THAT BOND GARY AND I SHARE TODAY.
I LIVE IN CLARKSVILLE, IN., ONLY A MILE ACROSS THE OHIO RIVER FROM LOUISVILLE, KY., AND HOPE THAT YOU WILL BE IN THE MIDWEST SOMETIME SOON. FINDING YOUR WEB SIGHT WAS LIKE FINDING A LOST FRIEND. OH YEAH I SPENT ABOUT $40.00 BUCKS ON SOME DUDE NAMED BOB FRANKE HOPING IT WAS YOU, AND HIS NORWEIGEN SAILING SONGS WERE NOT AS DEPRESSING AS FINDING OUT HE WASN’T THE REAL BOB FRANK.
BEST OF LUCK TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, AND I GUARENTEE I WON’T LOSE YOU AGAIN.
You should check out our class website again. We taught our lesson today using your song and the kids were so enthusiastic. They insisted on learning the song themselves, and we recorded a 60 second clip which you can listen to on their site. Hope we didn’t butcher it too much! They’d be thrilled to death to get an email from you if you have time to drop them a line. And once again, thanks for the great information. We posted your email on their website so they can access it at home and show their parents what they are learning.
Erin Lipkind, 5th Grade Teacher, Missoula, Montana.
Well hey…for a start I’m coming to you live from Australia and I was one of those cats who shelled out his five bucks for your Vanguard LP and then thought “Shit,I’ve just bought the record that’s changed my life!” It remains that good but after that I was resigned to the fact that was where it started and ended…seemed you were one of those the music biz couldn’t categorize so it was going to be all over after one album. (From memory I’m sure I bought John Hiatt’s “Hanging ‘Round The Observatory” and Keith Sykes Vanguard LP at the same instance..see where I’m coming from?) There was a connection with you and John Hiatt in Nashville I’m sure of…both were contacted songwriters at Tree Publishing.??
So somebody listened to my prayers and hence “Keep On Burning”!! CD Baby are going to get my business there on that one and I wonder if I’m permitted to give hysterical feedback!! Ummm…welcome back,Bob!! (Oh yeah, if you’re talking with Jim Dickinson please tell him I look forward to “Free Beer Tomorrow” and thank him for having the taste/foresight to bring Eddie Hinton up to Ardent to sit on Toots Hibbert’s Memphis album.) Must annoy some head at Vanguard about giving your first LP a CD reissue..my vinyl copy dies numerous aural deaths with each spin now…very painful.
Thanks so much for the update and keeping me in mind….’preciate it!!
Now here’s the news– received my copy of “Keep On Burning” today and I’ve probably heard THE CD of 2002!! Seriously it is that rich a body of work and further evidence of a singular vision. Charlie Patton had it,Woody Guthrie had it,Hank Williams had it and you have it too. Hard to believe I’ve been waiting for over twenty five years for a sequel to the Vanguard album…then again your Vanguard album has a timelessness about it that it could have been recorded in 1972 but it also could have been recorded last week. Built to last,huh?
Hearing such songs like “Canebrake”, “Journey To Myself ” and the “director’s cut’ of “Judas Iscariot” make me realise how much you’ve been missed,bro. “With Sabers In Their Hands” is a real revelation…amazing that you were only a kid when you wrote it! Fucking deep song…kinda like if Shelby Foote wanted to put his novel “Shiloh” to music and something that John Stewart would have loved to have put into the Kingston Trio’s repertoire if he’d heard it back then. All killer,no filler as they say.
Round of drinks for Jim Dickinson…he really knew what you were about throughout “Keep On Burning” and only he was the one to produce. A hack producer would have fucked it all up if he were assigned to produce “Keep On Burning”. With Jim it’s kindred spirits,right? I believe for your next CD Jim wants to record you at Sun Studios with Roland Janes on lead guitar?? Only Dickinson would have that vision….go for it!!
Now if Vanguard can show foresight and heart by reissuing your first LP the world suddenly becomes a fairer place. Once the stuff of dreams for me but hey…maybe not for much longer.
All the best,Bob.
Some bozo clogged up my in-box with a shitload of spam which was probably why your messages got bounced back to you. Glad they all finally got through as I was greatly flattered,believe me.
Seriously “Keep On Burning” represents everything I dig/love about music and the wonder of the human voice. It’s all there..the gift of narrative, the humour and what Charlie Feathers would call “feelin'”. You draw from the deeper well and like so many Southern writers, be it Mississippi John Hurt or Tony Joe White, you can create a mood out of thin air. A rare gift. Has anyone written such a defined song as “Old Truckers”? Most of the cookie-cutter writers in Nashville would treat it as parody and it would be just silly…you don’t and subsequently I can almost smell the diesel oil and nicotine when I listen to “Old Truckers”. The real deal, as they say. “Break My Heart Again” can make me cry (that’s a compliment…I don’t shed tears for just anything!) but don’t tell my wife that!!!
Thank you so much for forwarding my “rants” to Jim Dickinson…guy is a big time hero of mine and “Dixie Fried” is one of my fave party albums. Liked Jim’s deal with Raisins In The Sun (with Chuck Prophet, Jules Shear, Harvey Brooks etc)..sort of an anti-Wilburys concept. That CD rocked. And I know, likeme, Jim is a huge fan of the late and so great Eddie Hinton. Look forward to hearing Jim’s “Free Beer Tomorrow” and the CD burn of your Vanguard album. Be nice to hear it with some clarity again as my vinyl copy is near flat-lining.
Yer Bud Down Under
I want the CD “Keep On Burning”…
A cousin of mine introduced me and my brother to your music back in the late seventies. He had the Vanguard album. I vividly remember a song with the lyric, “Take a look at the wino, take a look at the bum. Foul breath, ___ ____, and teeth rotting out of his gums. What is the name of the song? What are the missing words? Is the song on any CD of yours?
I’ve been looking for information on you for awhile now. Good to see there’s a website. I’d certainly like a copy of the new cd and would like a copy of the first album if that’s possible (maybe one made on a cd recorder). Let me know if that’s possible.
A cousin of mine introduced me to your first album, which is among his favorites. I’d never heard anything like it before or since and to this day we still quote lines from that album to each other (especially from “Wino”).
Good to hear you’re still doing well and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Sometime in 1975, when I was in the Navy living on the beach in Imperial Beach, CA, another shipmate of mine from Tennessee, John Wilkes, aka Flash, introduced me to your music. I had an old 8-track of the Vanguard album Flash gave me for many years until I finally wore it out. I have spent many hours tripping and listening to the wonderful and unique music you produced on that album. Judas Iscariot, Trash Man, Memphis Jail, She Pawned Her Diamond (for some gold), and another I cannot remember the title to but had the lyric, “and she held me with her blouse,” are among my favorite songs of that era, right on up there with, “Sweet Home, Alabama,” (I’m an old Alabama ridge-runner living in Texas), “Stairway to Heaven,” and,”Layla.” Those songs I have, but yours have gone to that old 8-track player in the sky, and I need another Bob Frank fix.
Over the past 15 years, I have searched high and low for a replacement to this album, one of the most cherished and listened to of my vast collection of 60s-70s music. I have run dozens of web searches, cruised used record stores, pestered Block Buster, Wherehouse, and Sam Goody clerks in my search for a replacement. Today I feel like I got lucky.
At my age, finding your website was more thrilling than getting hit on by a 25 year old Penthouse Playmate…(however, it is not as ego-boosting)
Bob, I work in the private aviation industry and I have come into contact with a few celebrities over the years, but I usually was not impressed with their attitudes so I have never attempted to initiate contact with any of these folks and until now, I never saw any reason to. I have talked about your music to anyone who would listen for damn near 28 years in my quest, and just finding this website was worth the price of this computer and then some.
Getting to the point of this message, I want another copy of Vanguard. I can not see where I can order this album on your website, and I would spend a week, “lying on my back on a cold steel rack in the Memphis jail,” just to obtain another copy.
If you can take a moment out of your busy day to help this old veteran and gray-haired hippy to acquire this treasure, it would just make my day.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for your wonderful music.
Bob, Bert Stegall, and Jimmy Crosthwaite, at Shambala Records in Memphis, 2002.
When I was in college in the early 1970s, your wonderful record on Vanguard was a favorite classic. Although the album has been out of my hands for 15 or 20 years, I honestly remember every one of those fine songs. For at least two decades, I’ve wondered how you could have disappeared from the face of the earth with your wonderfully quirky lyrics and soulfull voice. It’s nice to see that I was mistaken and you are alive and well!
Finding your web site and listening to “Pawned her diamond” and “Judas brings back lots of wonderful memories.
I’d like to buy “Keep on Burning”. You want a check or do you take VISA?
I sure wish you’d record some of your old stuff again. I help a friend of mine book some music up here in Oregon and we ran down another of our old favorites from the 70s, James Talley now mostly selling real estate back in Tennessee. In fact we got James to come up and do a couple shows up in Oregon. Any way he re-issued some of his old stuff, and even better re-recorded a bunch of old stuff with a crack band. It’s hot.
Which is a long rambling way round to asking you: 1) Are you ever going to reissue/rerecord the old stuff? 2) Ever do any traveling up the Pacific NW and want to do some gigs?
Anyway, wonderful to find you’re still picking up the guitar and I look forward to trying the new album,
An old fan,
Bob, I am really pleased to find you on the internet alive and well. An old friend of mine called to tell me you had a new cd out. I’m an old fan or at least I loved your old album on Vanguard. In fact I still listen to it. I’m jazzed to hear Keep on Burning. I produce a music series at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, about an hour east of Portland, Oregon. It is on Wednesday evenings in October every year. I’d love to have you perform here in 2003 if you are interested. You’ll love it here, and it’s a great little gig. We’ll treat you right. I’ll keep in touch as I put the 2003 line up together. This year ‘s line up is all done. I’ve got Tom Russell, Tish Hinojosa, Steve Young, Geoff Muldaur and a few others lined up. You can see where you’d fit in to the type of performers we feature. You can check out Timberline at http://www.timberlinelodge.com. In the meantime, I’d like to buy your latest cd. And I’ll rattle the cages at Vanguard for a re-release also! Please tell me how much the cd will cost with shipping.
Thanks, Jon Tullis
been looking for a while! Brings back memories from the 70’s. Now if we could get that re-issue I could quit looking for my old scratched version. Thanks.
hi, i had the first album 30 years ago and it was one of my favorites… i would greatly appreciate a copy of the album, tape, cd or whatever i can get…. if possible i would love to have the lyrics and chords to Judas Iscariot..
then of course i would like to have the entire collection…please get in touch with me at my email.. or my address. My name is Roger McCune, and I really appreciate this,, I have been combing used record stores for years with no luck… thank God for the internet, big fan, Roger
What a treat and a surprise to get your e-mail. I was really happy to do an internet search on your name and to find your website finally (I first looked for you about three years ago). I first heard your album around 1978 when I got out of the army and was hanging with some folks who were part of your cult following. Your album was played about every third rotation. When one fellow got a new copy I make a cassette which was promptly absconded by another acquaintance. So, I haven’t been able to hear your music since around 1981 or so until I found your website. I play guitar and I have attempted to play a song or two of yours, but always longed for the real thing. And to hear that you are thriving well is just icing on the cake. We all had the same illusions about you that were written about in your bio. It was funny to read. I miss the song about the two friends and the Winchester and the trip to Singapore.
You are a wonderful songwriter and I plan to introduce your music to my two boys, Sam (3 1/2) and Grady (7 months) – I started having kids late!
Anyway, thank you for writing. It is really a kick to get a writing from one of my heroes. I will also write once I get the cd’s, if you don’t mind.
I have been enjoying your cd. It was nice to re-visit Judas Iscariot and I am not sure I have ever heard “With Sabers in Our Hands”. It is remarkable that you wrote this song when you were so young. Being the great grandson of a confederate soldier myself, I really felt it stirring the my blood. I have to admit, I have never heard more politically incorrect words in a song (the reference to the fun of scalping a Yankee brother). Man, you had guts even at that age. But, when you place the song in context, it has to be a true reflection of the times…
Well, I’d better get back to the kids. I cooked some ribs tonite and they were pretty good. Not as good as those Memphis ribs (I’m an old Tennessee boy, too), but not bad for North Carolina pork You take care.
Thanks for sending the cd. Just wanted to let you know my wife and I liked it a whole lot. I know next to nothing about music (other than being a fan…bumped into John Prine in the early 90s and kept searching for good stuff from there), but it seems to me some records get better the more you listen to ‘em and some don’t. Your’s does. As the kid of an old trucker, I especially enjoy that song…but they’re all great.
Something tells me we won’t see you playing in Minnesota anytime soon, but I hope I’m wrong.
All the best,
The CD arrived yesterday — I hope the check showed up as well.
I got a chance to listen briefly, and enjoyed what I heard. I don’t think you’re a barefoot Randy Newman. You might be barefoot, but your voice is much better and your songs a bit more natural. A barefoot Bill Staines?
I loved the Jesus song — very much not what I was expecting when it began.
Anyway. Nice stuff. Thanks.
I have listen to your songs for the past 25 years, I have the old Vanguard album I bought off the cutout rack. Just by accident I found your web-site. I can’t wait to hear some of your new works. Glad to hear your still out their kickin.
Many, many thanks! 🙂 Your CDs are great. Particularly like “Judas Iscariot” — especially when “you could hear them shuffling down the hall with the sandals on their feet.” However, for obvious reasons will have to forgo playing that ballad to the classes 🙂 … but certainly will consider “With Sabers in Our Hands” — a few Civil War aficionados in the 12th grade. With regard to the Gest, haven’t decided which fit or fits to play for them yet, but that’s a moot point since each of the eight bring Robin Hood and his friends to life in a way that “round robin” reading simply doesn’t do. You should consider recording other English ballads — and some Scottish ones, too! 🙂 Thanks again for taking the time to send the CDs. Your effort is very much appreciated. Would like to send a check as promptly as you sent the ballads –please don’t forget to advise of total cost.
I’ve tried for years to find out who you were and how to get more of your music. I think the old Vanguard album is one of the finest collections of songs that I own (I have 6000 albums and cds). I’d like to order your two newer cds. ..
Also, I’ve tried for many years to replace my worn out copy of the Vanguard LP without much luck. Is there any possibility of getting those tunes on cd or even cd-r. The mp3s on the website sound great, but there are only 5 of them. Help!!
It’s great to know that you are alive and still making great music….
Thanks, Jim Ball.
I’ll try to keep the BS to a minimum but I can’t tell you how glad I am to find your site. I would like to tell you that Memphis Jail is completely worn out in vinyl and I have searched for years just to find another worn out vinyl disc. I would like to know if you have for sale the rest of the Memphis Jail’ songs in addition to the CD’s I can purchase? Please list for me all the music by you I can purchase along with shipping and handling and what methods of payment are accepted. Thank you very much in advance.
I am sure you are aware of this, but just FYI on a reply I received from Vanguard. I will get many more sent from my comrades over the next few weeks to hopefully encourage them along.
On the other hand, thank you for the CD. It arrived in time for a family cookout and was given much air time. My son (age 16) told me a couple of days ago that it was one of the few CD’s of mine that he actually like……how’s that for staying power. Good luck on getting Vanguard to re-issue it, I would certainly buy it again. ..
Hey Bob, it feels like forever ago that I sat on your back porch listening to you pick and grin… I was all of four years old when you moved. I am Tammy Kephart, or I was… Rose and DEWEY Kephart’s daughter. It’s been thirty years. You lived in a duplex on a 210 acre farm owned by Albert and Stella, Munish, Locke. Hillboro Rd. …. Just a few miles down Hillsboro from the bluebird. We lived in the house next door.
My brother Ronnie, is a mechanic. I’m a special ed teacher. I have mom and dad’s promo copy of your album. I have always treasured it.
Judas Iscariot is my favorite song on the album. Way before it’s time…
Pretty ironic, I have never touched any illegal substance, and I love that song.
Don McGregor, Bob and another old Memphis boy.
Hello Mr. Frank,
Well, I had your Vanguard album back in the early 70s and I thought that you were, by far, one of the best lyricists that I had ever heard in my life. As the years progressed your album got misplaced from my collection, actually I think I sold it when I divested myself of all my earthy possessions back in 1980 (Be Here Now, no-materialism and all that rot, you know what I mean?) Anyway, I’ve been looking for it ever since I came to my senses again (and brother, it is next to impossible to find). Through the 90s I kept checking the internet looking for information as to your whereabouts with absolutely no reference to be found. Then out of the blue a friend of mine who heard me mention your work in an interview from a local publication here in Bloomington, Indiana, sent me the link (she also tracked down a copy of the album from a record dealer in Germany!) It’s so great to hear that you are recording again and I definitely want to pick up both of the new releases you have available. And as your Website says, I would prefer to send all the money to you. So if you have the time, write me back and let me know the cost specifics and I’ll get a money order sent right out.
I can’t wait to hear the new material. I’m glad you are happy, in good health and working again. You were always a great inspiration to me and my own attempts at songwriting. I think you should hassle Vanguard and get them to reissue the album on CD (tell ’em to put some bonus tracks on there while they’re at it)
All the best, and Happy Holidays,
I learned about you in 1980 when I was working as an electrician’s helper and the electrician I worked with used to sing “Before the Trash Truck Comes” over and over until I asked, “Who wrote that song?” So he told me about your album and about how no one knew what had happened to you since the album had come out in 1972. (You had quite a cult following around Greenville NC in the late 70s-early 80s). A few days or weeks later, I borrowed the album from a friend and not long after that, another friend of mine found a sealed copy at a record show. I bought it from him, wore it out and then some low-life sob stole it. Then a while later, the same friend found yet another sealed copy of the Vanguard album which I again bought. I moved around some, got married, got divorced, went back to school, went to graduate school, lost my copy of the album again. Years later, living in Raleigh, married to my second wife, a co-worker of hers gave us a tape with “Before the Trash Truck Comes” on it, so I prevailed on him to tape the whole album for me. More years went by, I would play the tape for friends and for myself and occasionally ask people who I knew to be knowledgeable about music if they knew who you were or what had happened to you. Several folks remembered the album or remembered hearing some cover band sing “She Pawned Her Diamond for Some Gold,” but no one had more than vague memories. Finally, a couple of months or so ago, I did a web search–not my first one, but I guess my first one since you put up your web site–and found your web site, then saw an article about you in NO DEPRESSION (I have a review in their last issue, the one with Johnny Cash on the cover, of a band called The Contenders who were out of Nashville in the mid 70s). So, finally, last night I made my way back to your web site and finally got around to writing you.
At any rate (this was probably a much longer answer than you wanted) I’m happy to hear that you’re alive, well and still writing songs and I can’t wait to hear the new songs. Thanks so much for getting back to me.
I just found this website. Something called my attention to the remembrance of your songs upon driving into work this morning. When I got to my office, I logged onto the internet and typed Google.com. Once there I typed in “Bob Frank” just to see if you happened to be anywhere on the world wide web.
I remembered listening to your album “Bob Frank” back in college from ’72 thru ’76, and recalled the songs Judas Iscariot, She Pawned Her Diamonds…, Before the Trash Truck Comes, etc.
I guess I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed the music then, and after listening to a few songs again on this web site, They are Timeless, absolutely TIMELESS !
By listening to your music, you should also know a bit of my “sordid” past.
Thank you so much for your special blend of music.
I have lost my things to a fire and had your album Bob Frank. I really love your music and want to replace that album. If you can please help i would be grateful.
Just wanted to let you know that I have just reviewed ‘Keep on Burning’, for The Green Man review online magazine. www.greenmanreview.com The review should be online within a week or two. I hope you think that I’ve done you justice. ‘Break My Heart Again’ is currently my favourite song to fill in a tax return form to!
Unbelievable! First time I’ve ever gotten an email from the artist after ordering the CD.
I was supposed to have been a 1969 graduate of Southwestern [actually took me 4 more years – but I made it] I have vague recollection of seeing “Cowboy Bob Frank” lurking around the Lynx Lair. The recent editilon of the alum Mag had a blurb about your new CD and looking around the internet I stumbel;ed on this one.
In the intervening years I’ve becomne attached to Memphis music [Jim Dickinson, Mudboy, Alex Chilton etc] I heard Dickenson’s plug on his “1000 footprints” album
If you can tell me where i can find your Vanguard Lp – new used or in any form — let me know I’ll snatch it up too
hi bob ,a friend of mine has an old album of yours(yes, an album)…an annual christmas tradition of his is to play your album each year! your album is called “bob frank” only. needless to say after 30 years its a little scratched up(so are we) we would like to purchase the new one with judas iscariot but would really like a copy of the old one from ’72. seeing as most stores laugh at us looking for a turntable, we were hoping you could help us carry on this tradition in style. the last concert listing was for memphis, in october, and we are here in cleveland, ohio, hoping to hear from you. thanks, sheila flannery
congratulations, bob! you are now in the jukebox at the 750 club! my friend joe called to tell me your *1 fan mike was heading to the bar from the shop. he would meet me there. i ran downstairs with the dollar in my hand joe came in thru the back; we waited patiently for mike to settle in with a beer and say hi to friends then we punched in 4205 judas iscariot. to watch the look of recognition come over his face was priceless. he is such a quiet gentle man that to see his face light up like that from your voice was something i wished you could have seen. he walked over to us with his mouth agape, gasping “h-how did u do this???? you guys are magic!!!” luckily, the jukebox man has gone along on many a camping trip with us. i had a great valentine day; a present came to me from the chesapeake bay in person so now i am back to work at the zoo.. and working on your picture (at the zoo) its very quiet at the cleveland zoo in the winter, so my boss never minds me drawing as long as im there.. i will send the drawing soon………also, i am all irish
My no good boys stole and lost my only record (diamonds for gold) several years ago and only now finding $ and experience to use these goddamn machines on my sheep and dirt farm in New Zealand where I’ve been hiding out for the last 20yrs and now I find you are apparently live and well and do exist and are not a figment of my imagination I do definately want to hear some of those old tunes lying on my back on my old wooden rack. Best of all to you and I will keep in touch now with your website and most definately buy the rerelease of “Diamonds”. Adios-Later….PJ
Yo Bob if I might be so bold as to use your first name, I will explain although it might seem a saga it is so poignant at least to me the Engine by which I have been reunited to/with your work. PJ is me and Jeff is my cousin to whom I was explaining an occurrence recently with my no good boys reunited in Jersey City after several years separation, the elder hunting and picking one of your songs from that ancient album Diamonds….The actual song was the one about “Lying on my back on a cold steel rack in the Memphis county jail and about how Baaaad you was or were or still am apparently being alive and well after being gone for us after all these years. I made a cassette tape from a scratchy and poppy album I borrowed from a grower friend throwing a harvest season bash at Tapewera, New Zealand and it lived in our house just over the Spooner Range in Prettybridge Valley for several years. We played it a lot and the boys worked out the cords to most all the songs and then leaving home for the local Big Smoke stole it away and subsequently got it stolen in Wellington. After a couple more years and lotsa thousands of miles distance they got the cojones to write and ask could I get another copy from the guy ect. including the usual lying excuses most fathers are accustomed to hearing. And now having gotten the wherewithal to get back to the States and getting introduced to one of the powers of the modern age by my cousin Jeff after connecting with aforesaid boys and withering parents in various parts of the country I made it to Cousin Jeff’s hide out with machine we discovered that in fact you had not been whacked by a religious zealot or worse and were only being held captive by a capitalist record company. Incidentally I have written a wordy message to these ratbags pleading for them to release you as buying a whole bloody album for the Judas Iscariot cut tweaks the nose of a $ hard to come by country boy. Cousin Jeff did the machine part of the buying as the fill in the blank order confused me(not set up for aliens) and had the album sent to his address where I as well am temporarily hiding out as well arranging my next meet with my brother down in Texas with wife and daughter never met. I’ll be balling the jack back across the old USA soon for goodbyes allround and back thru round-trip ticket NYC and back to dagging sheep from spring blowflies and marking calves and refresher training for youngest border collie bitch BillieJo and repairing fences my hard riding horse breaking old lady considers fit work for menfolk. If any part of this is unclear as an explanation look elsewhere for help cause only fast action will catch me. I am PJ and I’m sitting at Cousin Jeffs’ machine momentarily……Adios and Happy Trails
PJ has left the building. He’s on his way to TX, Lexington KY, Ithaca NY and then NYC, however I know that he would want the cd-r of the old Vanguard album. If you send me back your mailing address, I’ll get the cash in the mail. Will $12 cover it? If not let me know. I’ll then take care of getting it to PJ before he blasts his sheep-shearing body back to New Zealand.
Well Pard I gave your music a good listen to and I had heard about your endeavor of putting music to the Jest for Robin Hood’s Tale and I had to give it a try and I was not disappointed by golley, Let’er Buc!!!!
I have a lot of friends in the Western Music Buis and scene and some of us were sitting around my kitchen table discussing how your music connects with our parts in and around the tall and thee uncut & high lonesome plains of the Dakota’s as your music filled the air mixed with the aroma of coffee and wood smoke in the fireplace. Now the song “Out on the Prairie” was a haunting smoothing song to our ears, we could relate to this very well, “Journey to Myself” reminded us of the time we all have spent Cowboying out on the Range or in the Mountains and the time spent alone around the campfire warding off our own demons & doubts that are always lurking in the shadows and waiting for invite to the warmth of a mind that’s running amuck.
Ha! The fire brings out the best and that’s all the needed be said and the Song makes it so. Good Lyric’s Bob. The song, “Judas Iscariot” is a good story that a man’s made of flesh can’t run for fear, so best to buck up and sit tall in the saddle of life with the cheek reins in hand and let’er buck and if I was a betting man I place bets on God’s great plans. Now your song “Ensenada” I reckon you have fond memories of the Baja. Well I could relate for my first time I had the pleasure visting this coastline village was a time not forgotten with a gal that spent her summers raised here. I was riding out some Ponies for the Portatella Riders out of San Juan Capistrano and hooked up with this same gal at the riding stables and lassoed her and lead her North to South Dakota and made her my Wife, so I can relate and remember running our Ponies on the shores of Ensenada, Aiiiieeeeee!!! The best was your version of Robin Hood, and here’s a toast to the men of honor and courage and to your voice and guitar for taking us on this journey to bygone days of lore and a time not to much different a life of Buckaroo men on the plains.So our hats are off to you my-Friend and we wish you well.
Now I heard you rode off for a spell of time were missing in action. Well I am glad your riding on like a fellar suppose to do and making music for us to enjoy. I don’t know if you like being horseback but I’m here to extend my best paw forward in your direction and offer ya to join us if you make tracks North.
Well times are got tough and I’m working in the far remote oilfields of Alaska as I write this here letter of sorts. I want to thank you again for your talent and keep up the good works. Well pardner if you do in fact get these replies to the question asked; Let’ER Buck, on and on and on…. Keep your eye along the sky lines and listen for the sounds beyound silence…
Adios.. Always a Buckaroo Pard..
P.S. I ment what I said about being a horse back..Ha!
Roundup time in North Dakota.
“Red Neck, Blue Collar”
— sung by Jim Dickinson, on his CD Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger, Memphis International, 2006. He’s joined here by his usual cast of characters, including his sons, Luther and Cody of the North Mississippi Allstars. Jim recorded several of Bob’s songs. For awhile there, he was putting one on every album he made. He knew more about Bob’s songs than Bob did.
“Leave My Jack Daniels Alone”
— sung by Gary McMahan, on his CD, Goin’ My Way?, Horseapple Records, 2009. Gary is a World Champion Yodeler and cowboy singer out of Bellvue, Colorado, famous for songs like “The Best Cowboys Ain’t Always Human.” He also wrote “The Old Double Diamond,” which has become a cowboy classic.