'Lefty' Frank James
Today's highlighted Madison-based musical act is Frank James.
"Lefty" Frank James has been writing, singing and performing country and rockabilly music for well over four decades. He has extensive Nashville writing experience, and has earned a place in Madison country legend as both a performer (on guitar, bass, drums and harmonica) and as founder of the Country Corners nightclub in McFarland. "If you enjoy Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and more," James promises, then you will appreciate his act.
Here is James' extensive bio:
Frank's country music roots go deep, stemming from his West Virginia coal mining family. The family moved to the New York City area during WWII to work in the defense plants. It was there, at the age of about 7 or 8, that Frank began singing in the Honkytonks that his family frequented. Around 1962 he began singing professionally.
Relocating to Wisconsin in 1965, Frank continued his musical career. Playing clubs and shows, that featured future stars such as, Bobby G. Rice and Joe Sun. Frank was also a featured singer on a weekly Sunday live radio show broadcast on WMAD-AM from the Park Ponderosa Ballroom.
Frank eventually moved to Nashville, landing a job as a writer on TNN's Fandango game show. Frank was also a writer on WSM radio's Waking Crew show, hosted then by Charlie Chase. This made it possible for him to spend time backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, and the Hee Haw television set. There he met and worked with many stars of both shows such as Jack Greene, Jeannie Seely, Faron Young, Hank Snow, Red Sovine, Jean Shepard, David Houston, Hank Thompson, Ernie Ashworth and more! Through some of his Nashville connections, Frank became friends with the Merle Haggard organization and traveled with them for two years. The professionalism he learned from this group has become invaluable to him.
In 1989, radio station Q106 FM sponsored the first annual Madison Country Music Awards show. Area fans voted Frank "Local Country Artist of the Year" the first two years. Frank's nightclub "Country Corners" was voted top "Country and Western Nightclub of the Year" in 1989, 1990, 1991. Frank was inducted into Madison's Country Hall of Fame in 1994.
Long after opening 'Country Corners', the Madison Repertory Theater asked Frank to audition for the lead role in the Broadway hit musical, Pump Boys and Dinettes. The part involved acting as well as singing. Frank won the role but had to turn it down due to the great success and his total commitment to his nightclub.
In the year 2001, in Madison Magazine's country music category, Frank was named a local legend. In November 2002, Frank finished in the top ten contestants of USA Network's Nashville Star competition in Orlando, Fla. In October of 2004, Frank opened a show for Grand Ole' Opry star "Penny DeHaven". In November 2004, Frank had the honor of sharing the stage with "Bobby G. Rice".
Frank's original songs are currently receiving airplay in the USA and worldwide.
James made his latest set of original songs available in 2005. Titled All Over Again, the 11-track album recorded in Nashville and released by True Heart Records features traditional country, honky-tonk and western swing. Several storied Music City pickers accompanied James in the studio, including John Wesley Riles (backup vocals), Hoot Hester (fiddle and backup vocals), Hank Singer (fiddle), Doug Jernigan (steel guitar), Scott Sanders (steel guitar), Hargus "Pig" Robbins (keyboards), Gene Chrisman (drums), Mike Leech (bass), Dave Smith (bass), and Pete Wade (acoustic guitar, dobro and six string bass). More details can be found in reviews of All Over Again.
More information about James' history and music can be found at lefty-frankjames.com, including a photo gallery, a list of awards, details about his previous album The Honkytonk Cowboy, and a calendar of his upcoming performances.
In addition to performing solo (complete with drums, guitar and a harmonica), James also appears live with his band Frank James & the Gang. They play every Thursday evening at Country Corners in McFarland. Their next show is set for tomorrow (Dec. 14), with two more of the weekly gigs following before the end of 2006. He will play one more show before the New Year, too: James will be performing at a New Year's Eve party at the Homestead Bar & Grill in Arlington, just north of DeForest off Highway 51.
This is the latest featured entry from the Madison Music Project, an online database of Madison-area musicians. Please register or update your current profile on the project for consideration in these highlights.