Volume #19, Issue #2 -- April 1992

Frank Wakefield & The Good Old Boys
By George Saunders

Frank Wakefield likes to say he's from the "hills of Manhattan." Actually, he hails from the hills of Tennessee.

Frank's musical career started when his dad gave him a guitar at the age of five. A self-taught player, he tuned the guitar his own way and was soon playing at square dances and churches. At sixteen, Frank got his first mandolin from his mom, and his brother-in-law, taught him the basics. Frank took off from there. He continued playing mandolin and guitar in church, and started working for an evangelist called "Brother Ivy." Frank worked for the evangelist until a memorable event in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1951, when Brother Ivy brought a copperhead rattlesnake into his service. The lively snake started to wrap itself around the evangelist who then began swinging the snake around and around. The snake accidentally got loose and ended up in the audience. Needless to say, the 5,000 folks in attendance immediately headed for the exits, knocking over chairs, tables, each other, and the tent itself during the stampede.

It was then that Frank knew he had to find another way to make a living. He played mandolin in bars, at square dances, and wherever he could find an audience. Frank moved from the hills of Tennessee to Detroit in 1953, and started to write. During his stay in Detroit, he wrote 20 songs, including the now staple bluegrass songs, "New Camptown Races," and "Leave Well Enough Alone."

Following ten years of traveling and performance, Frank recalls a few memorable events--like the two times he played in the "hills of Manhattan" at Carnegie Hall with Red Allen and the Greenbriar Boys.

In 1967, Frank was featured with the Leonard Bernstein Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Frank Wakefield has participated in over thirty recording projects, and has played with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Garcia, Don McLean, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, McReynolds Brothers, Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Doc Watson, Emmylou Harris, and Ricky Skaggs, to name a few.

In 1974, Frank opened a show for the New Riders and instantly became friends with Dave Nelson. From that friendship came the idea for a traveling group of musicians--Frank Wakefield and the Good Old Boys.

The Good Old Boys have always included the best bluegrass musicians that Frank could find. Such notables as Peter Rowan, Bill Monroe, Bill Keith, Vassar Clements, Chubby Wise (author of Orange Blossom Special), Don Reno, Jon Glick, Rick Lindner, and Craig Vance could often be found joining the Good Old Boys.

Frank Wakefield and the Good Old Boys reunited in San Francisco in 1991. His new record, Frank Wakefield and the Good Old Boys (Relix Records), is taken from a live 1975 show featuring Dave Nelson. It is just a taste of the excellent music that Frank has produced over the years. A tour is currently under consideration.

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