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About Frank Edwards
Like quite a few country blues performers, Frank Edwards could not be said to have consistent gigging and recording opportunities during his nearly 80 years in the music business. His recording career began in the early '40s on the Okeh label, resulting in a small number of sides that nonetheless seem to have had some kind of impact, even catching the attention of a large New York City booking agency that normally promoted more "uptown" types of entertainment, such as dance orchestras or radio performers. In the mid-'40s, the Taps Agency was attempting to create enough interest in Edwards to lure him back to the big city from Atlanta, an event that unfortunately never took place. As it turned out, Edwards would not release recordings again for decades. In the late '40s, producer Fred Mendelsohn of the Regal label cut several tracks with Edwards in Atlanta, but this material was not released commercially until the '60s. The Trix label finally put out a full album of Edwards in 1972 entitled Done Some Travelin', and it is considered a masterpiece.
Edwards' professional life also follows the pattern of country blues artists who headed north from Mississippi circa the second World War. His traveling partner at the time was fellow bluesman Tommy McClennan. Edwards recorded for Okeh producer Frank Melrose in 1941, eight sides in which the backup was provided by Robert Brown, also known as Washboard Sam. The release of these sides was unfortunately impacted by the outbreak of the war and the resulting recording ban, although several of the songs did come out. Following this venture, Edwards headed back south, choosing Atlanta and apparently staying put there.
Edwards covered guitar, harmonica, and vocals, and really did not need any other backing. His repertoire included quite original interpretations of blues and jazz standards such as "Good Morning Little School Girl" and "When the Saints Go Marching In," as well as original songs on a variety of subjects: prison ("Alcatraz Blues"), clothing styles ("Mini Dress Wearer"), and, well, chicken raids ("Chicken Raid"). Despite the appeal of such material, he was not able to consistently support himself as a musician, finding work as a carpenter, painter, and plumber. But except for two years following a house fire that burned up his guitar, he always played the blues. A scant two hours prior to his death, Edwards completed a recording session in North Carolina. He suffered a heart attack on the ride home and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. ~ Eugene Chadbourne