Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I got ya covered for your fix this week of crazed, one man band plinkers, pluckers, and bangin' hollerers.
In actuality, Harmonica Frank Floyd may not be quite so bangin' and crazed musically as some of his musical contemporaries like Hazil Adkins. And, well, he's not really technically a one man band, more of a guitar and, er, harmonica man. With peculiar vocal tics. Oh, those peculiar vocal tics.
Floyd got an early start in music, following, naturally enough, carnivals and, most importantly, medicine shows. These shows, typically used to sell questionable medical products, think Hadacol, were generally an anarchic series of performances and lectures, barkers and sideshow freaks. Floyd fit in well with this crowd, developing his slightly loopy style, approaching each subsequent show or rare recording session as an act, the soul shouting emcee, selling you a twisted boozy product of dubious believability, of swamp mosquitoes and peepholes.
Course the believability factor played a large part in his being signed to Chess Records in the 50's. Legend has it that Chess thought that Floyd was Black, and was greatly embarrassed, after releasing several singles by Floyd, to discover that he was more or less a white feller, with traces of Cherokee in his bloodline. A good ole boy, as it were. It's easy, I suppose, in hindsight, to wonder how this "mistake" was made. While Floyd certainly pulls from the Blues as an influence, his style certainly suggests more pull from the Country and Folk side. At best Floyd was an unsubtle stylist. At his worst, and it seems this would have been anathema to Chess, Floyd could sound like a poor man's black-face minstrel, something he surely had great exposure to whilst logging his medicine show miles. Hardly then, one would imagine, an ideal calling card for inclusion on the Chess roster. Who knows? If anyone has any further information on the whole Chess/Frank Floyd story, I'd be fascinated to read more.
Floyd was known to play his harmonica like a cigar, inserting virtually the whole damn thing into one side of his mouth and wailing away. Make of that what you will.
Why should you listen to Frank Floyd, then? Is the phrase folk trash already taken and safely compartmentalized into a nice Best Buy section of the music racks? It's, well, greasy and raggedy stuff, obscene at times, and certainly worth your time if you're a fan of the junk we spew here at the Mountain.
Edit: Got slightly scooped on Floyd, I just found out. Mr. Dan Fontana's got a video of ole Frank right here.
Harmonica Frank Floyd: Mosquito Bar Britches (mp3)
Harmonica Frank Floyd: Howlin' Tomcat (mp3)
Harmonica Frank Floyd: Knothole Blues (m3)
Please consider supporting your local, independent record store. If you've got the dough.