Our Honoree: Frank Stokes

Frank Stokes onlyFrank Stokes  was an American blues musician, songster, and blackface minstrel, who is considered by many musicologists to be the father of the Memphis blues guitar style.  Stokes was born in Shelby County, Tennessee, in the vicinity of Whitehaven, located two miles north of the Mississippi line. His parents died when he was a child, and he was raised by his stepfather in Tutwiler, Mississippi. He learned to play the guitar as a youth in Tutwiler and, after 1895, in Hernando, Mississippi, which was the home of the guitarists Jim Jackson, Dan Sane, Elijah Avery (of Cannon’s Jug Stompers), and Robert Wilkins. By the turn of the century, at the age of 12, Stokes worked as a blacksmith, traveling 25 miles to Memphis on weekends to sing and play the guitar with Sane, with whom he formed a long-term musical partnership. Together, they busked on the streets and in Church’s Park (now W. C. Handy Park) on Memphis’s Beale Street.

Around 1920, Stokes settled in Oakville, Tennessee, where he went back to work as a blacksmith. He teamed up again with Sane, playing dances, picnics, fish fries, saloons, and parties in his free time. The two joined Jack Kelly’s Jug Busters to play white country clubs, parties and dances. Stokes and Sane performed on Beale Street as the Beale Street Sheiks and first recorded under that name for Paramount Records in August 1927. Stokes eventually cut 38 sides for Paramount and Victor Records. “The fluid guitar interplay between Stokes and Sane, combined with a propulsive beat, witty lyrics, and Stokes’s stentorian voice, make their recordings irresistible.” Their duet style influenced the young Memphis Minnie in duets with her husband, Kansas Joe McCoy.  Some of his recordings are:

  • “Memphis Rounders Blues”
  • “Mistreatin’ Blues”
  • “Mr. Crump Don’t Like It”
  • “Nehi Mama”
  • “Old Sometime Blues”
  • “Right Now Blues”
  • “Rockin’ on the Hill Blues”
  • “South Memphis Blues”
  • “Sweet to Mama”
  • Tain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do
  • “Take Me Back”
  • “Wasn’t That Doggin’ Me”
  • “What’s the Matter Blues”
  • “You Shall”

See more information about the event, here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1037083906414037/

Looking to see you there!!