Banjo Frank Bio


The first music I liked a lot was the commercial folk of the late 50's and early 60's. Kingston Trio, the Limeliters and so forth. From that I was drawn to the Leadbelly Woody Guthrie Pete Seeger Lomax Songbook level. There was a realness to the music and the words actually said things. So when I first learned guitar that was the music I tried to play.

Of course the Folk Era ended abruptly with the assassination of JFK and the arrival of the Beatles. In the mid to late 60's and on into the early 70's I played bass in bands a little and did a few recording projects but I was more a songwriter than a performer until in the mid 70's and on into the early 80's I was a solo act and bass player in the Cleveland Acoustic Scene.

In the early 80's I was also in charge of the Red Horse Hollow, a very basic little good-sounding acoustic performance space in Lakewood, Ohio. Fondly remembered. My running it was actually an instance of voters not always choosing wisely. Anyhow I had some money at the time and I used some of it to keep the place going. Also, I bought a Green Ford Bronco. When I noticed the money diminishing I thought I'd be better off already in motion than stuck in Ohio.

In 1984 I moved to Portland Maine where I did a bit of random club playing. The Bronco got me back to Ohio from Maine a couple of times for summer gigs, playing bass with Richard Greer at the Casino on Kelley's Island. The Bronco finally became non-operational with transmission issues in the winter of '87 in a parking lot at Wellesley College, near Boston. I had a friend there. Deborah. Then in the summer of '87 I got into street playing. Exchange Street in the Old Port. That fall I headed down to New York and got acclimated to playing in subway stations and sleeping in parks. Spent a few years there. When I was fully acclimated a typical day would involve playing a morning set at Astor Place, spending the afternoon in Central Park, playing a couple of evening sets somewhere, then hanging out at the International Bar on 1st Avenue (East Village) until it closed. Then crashing a couple of hours in Tompkins Square Park. Worked for me.

At the International Bar I met a friend who had money and liked to go to Grateful Dead shows. He took me along to the New Years '92 show in Oakland. So then I was in San Francisco for most of the 90's, playing the sidewalks and BART stations. I made a series of cassettes at my buddy Mike Coykendall's very nice home studio to sell when I played. The first one was all traditional, them old folk tunes, but the subsequent ones had more and more originals. I kind of got into a nice writing groove for a while out there. Those were the days.

So come 2000 I was back in Ohio and it turned out that my Mom had a nice apartment on the lake with a spare room and she needed someone to drive the car and take the trash to the dumpster and so forth. Worked for me. I kind of got out of playing music. Delivered pizzas for a few years. Eventually though I started doing open mics again, first just the Enclave in downtown Willoughby, but later Gary Hall's open mics and Rider's and some others. Got me back into writing songs. Also evenutally I got back into street playing on the strip in downtown Willoughby. Which got me back into playing banjo.

Banjo Frank




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