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This guy wanted to marry me. He said "It's me or the horn." I said, "Well, it ain't you, babe" - Martye Awkerman, trumpet, quoted in Swing Shift, "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s by Sherrie Tucker

Author Topic: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny  (Read 1044 times)

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Offline TenBrook

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SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« on: March 24, 2017, 10:31:06 AM »
For the March SOTM I chose a song known by many names, most popularly ‘Frankie and Johnny.’ I won’t go into the real life history behind the song but it’s worth exploring if you haven’t already. The general consensus is that the song, then known as ‘Frankie Killed Allen’, originated with song writer Bill Dooley in St. Louis shortly after the events that inspired it occurred in 1899. The first published version of the melody came in 1904 with ‘He Done Me Wrong (Death of Bill Bailey)’ by Hughie Cannon. This in turn inspired the version more closely resembling the song as it was later recorded, ‘Frankie and Johnny, or, You'll Miss Me in the Days to Come’, published by the Leighton Bros & Ren Shields in 1912. A pdf of the sheet music is available here: http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:152.019

The first recording comes from 1912 and was made in London by Americans Gene Greene and Charley Straight based on the Leighton Bros version. The only video I could find includes an introduction by author and blues historian Dr. Peter Muir. The intro is well worth your time but if you want to skip straight to the song it kicks in at around the 4 min 54 sec mark.



The first recording made in America was by Al Bernard in either 1919 or possibly March 1921 depending on where in the web you look.



Next up seems to be the Frank Crumit, Paul Biese Trio recording from 1921.



The song, in recordings at least, seems to have been popular with old time musicians. One of the first to record the song was Roba Stanley in this version from 1925.



Also from 1925 comes a stripped down ukulele version from Harry Frankel aka Singin’ Sam.



One of the better known old time versions (aside from the Jimmie Rodgers recording) is ‘Leaving Home’ by Charlie Poole. I found it interesting how closely his lyrics follow the Leighton Brothers version. I'd love to know where he learned it (from an earlier recording or perhaps straight from the sheet music) but searching found nothing.



A wonderful old time version I hadn’t heard until researching is the Dykes Magic City Trio’s ‘Frankie’ from 1927.



One of the first country blues recordings appears to be Coley Jones’ ‘Frankie and Albert’ from 1927 but unfortunately it was never issued. , despite much digging, I was unable to find a video for the song and even more surprising I couldn’t locate a collection on LP or CD that contains the track. I’m hoping that’s not actually the case and that maybe someone here can point us to a place where we can hear it.

And finally, in 1928 we get Mississippi John Hurt’s classic ‘Frankie’.



And the following year we get Charley Patton’s 'Frankie and Albert'.



There were many jazz recordings of the song but I went with a version by one of my favorites, King Oliver.



A great piano blues version was recorded by Nick Nichols and Alex Moore near the end of 1929.



I had hoped to link to the first recording Leadbelly made of the song while still in Angola but aside from a medley containing the song toward the end I couldn’t find a video. So I went with this version from 1935. I’d be curious to hear others favorite Leadbelly versions, it seems he recorded it a handful of times.



And last but not least comes a Cajun version. I stumbled on the fact that Leo Soileau had recorded the song early on in my research but it seemed there was nowhere to hear it until I somehow stumbled on a message board where someone had kindly posted an mp3. I took it upon myself to make my first upload to Youtube so I could include it here.

« Last Edit: March 24, 2017, 12:57:09 PM by TenBrook »

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2017, 11:02:37 AM »
Great post, TenBrook. To the best of my knowledge the Coley Jones recording is only known from a title in the ledgers and was never issued, so there's no recording out there to be found (unless a test survived.) I've been fiddling the Dykes Magic City Trio version lately, so maybe I'll post a video later if I get around to it.

Offline TenBrook

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2017, 11:11:50 AM »
Thanks Lastfirstface. I don't know how I missed that the Coley Jones version wasn't released. I somehow imagined I saw a photo of the 78 on discogs but maybe that was in a dream.

I'd love to hear your take on the Dykes Magic City Trio's version.

Lew

Offline banjochris

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2017, 01:18:58 PM »
One of the better known old time versions (aside from the Jimmie Rodgers recording) is ‘Leaving Home’ by Charlie Poole. I found it interesting how closely his lyrics follow the Leighton Brothers version. I'd love to know where he learned it (from an earlier recording or perhaps straight from the sheet music) but searching found nothing.

Roy Harvey, Poole's guitarist for most of his records, worked in a music store in Beckley, W. Va., and learned a lot of stuff from sheet music which he then taught to the band, so definitely possible.
Chris

Offline TenBrook

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2017, 01:30:50 PM »
Thanks for the info Chris. I remember when first delving into the early history of American song that I hadn't really considered the impact of sheet music on popular/music culture before. Being from the future where it's all about recordings it was hard for me to imagine a time when going to the music store meant shopping for sheet music. Makes me wonder if anyone has compiled data on what sheet music sold the best in different areas of the country (if that data's even available).

Offline harry

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2017, 01:48:26 PM »
Thanks, TenBrook. I never knew this song was based on actual events.






Offline TenBrook

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2017, 02:01:58 PM »
Harry. Thanks for sharing those versions. I'm digging the Champion Jack Dupree take on the song. And yeah, I think many people assume the song is based on legend akin to John Henry. It's a great example of how history and folklore can intertwine. And of course it wasn't always a sure thing that the song was based on the events that later researchers pinned it on. One of the more interesting things about the song is the history of research and speculation that led to our understanding of it today.


Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2017, 02:09:26 PM »
Thank you, Lew, for the interesting choice for Song of the Month, and your research in digging up so many early versions.  Here are a couple folks might enjoy:

from Jewell Long:



from Darby & Tarlton:



You can read all about the true story of Frankie and Al Britt in Richard Polenberg's book "Hear My Sad Story", which also has the facts behind Stackerlee, Railroad Bill, Ellen Smith, Omie Wise, Delia and Cooley and others.  A thread on the book can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=11002.msg96826#msg96826 .  "Frankie and Albert" is one of the Song Family choices listed in Weeniepedia, too, and you can find lyric transcriptions for many versions there.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 24, 2017, 02:11:22 PM by Johnm »

Offline TenBrook

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2017, 02:20:45 PM »
Thanks John. I love the Jewell Long version and completely forgot about Darby & Tarlton's take which is one of my favorites. Thanks also for pointing out "Hear My Sad Story", I've had it on my shelf for awhile and hadn't read it until researching for SOTM. I'm looking forward to finding out more about the other songs included.

Offline eric

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2017, 03:01:37 PM »
An interesting old news article about the protagonists here:

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19750529&id=2O0vAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8PoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3814,7531454News

No sourcing unfortunately.
--
Eric

Offline JRO

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2017, 12:17:10 AM »
Finnish pop/rock artist J Karjalainen got bored to his career in 2010's and took a break. He's known blues and old time country fan. After break he made two albums as migrant Lännen Jukka (= West Johnny) and one with band named Polkabilly Rebels. First album he made alone and accinompanied himself with clawhammer banjo or guitar old time style. The second album he made with accorionist Veli-Matti Järvenpää also old time style. Polkabilly Rebels was a hillbilly band including piece of the cream of finnish roots musicans. Most songs J Karjalainen made himself but there are many american and finnish old songs on albums. Here is Polkabilly Rebels live version of Frankie & Albert named as Hieno mies Albertti (=Fine man Albert) because recorded version couldn't be found from youtube. Polkabilly Rebels album reached first place of the best selling album list when it was published 2010. All those albums sold well, which was surprise for J Karjalainen and the audience.


Offline Lignite

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2017, 10:32:23 AM »
Here's a little swingier update of the Charlie Poole version of Frankie and Johnny Leaving Home. The Swingbillies were based out of North Carolina, recorded 10 sides for Bluebird in 1937 and featured vocals by Charlie Poole's son "Dunk" Poole. http://picosong.com/p6bn

Offline harriet

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2017, 05:31:06 PM »
One of my favorite songs - thank you for the choice and versions. Here's Joe Callicott's version...

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2017, 01:25:02 AM »
Great choice of SOTM, and a reminder that for many of us of a certain age in the UK, it was one of the first songs we learned on the guitar, it having featured in Bert Weedon's 'Play In A Day', issued with every guitar (it seemed) purchased in the 50s and 60s!


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Offline Lignite

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Re: SOTM - March 2017 - Frankie and Johnny
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2017, 06:33:08 AM »
A rather "straight" rendition of Frankie and Johnny by Larry Vincent, the head of Pearl Records and king of risque and double entendre tunes during the 1940s. He was based out of the infamous Look Out Club in Covington, Ky. and was the author of The Freckle Song. http://picosong.com/pQYB