Blues Music Now! Obituaries

Delta blues man Frank Frost dies at 63

By Jeff Stevens

HELENA, Ark. — Frank Frost, one of the great Mississippi Delta blues players, died on Oct. 12, 1999, in his home in Helena, Ark. He was 63.

According to the Phillips County, Ark., coroner's office, the cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Frost, who played harmonica, piano, organ and guitar, was a staple of juke joints throughout the Delta, often found playing in his own juke in Helena or Big Jack Johnson's place in Clarksdale, Miss.

However, like fellow Southern blues men Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, Frost received national exposure in the 1992 documentary Deep Blues, produced by author Robert Palmer. The film and the accompanying soundtrack introduced blues fans to the world of the Mississippi Delta juke house.

Frost also made a cameo appearance in the movie, "Crossroads." He also played on the film's soundtrack."

Frost was born in Auvergne, Ark., on April 15, 1936. After he moved to St. Louis in 1951, he met drummer Sam Carr, who became his longtime partner. They toured together in 1954 along with Carr's father, famed blues guitarist Robert Nighthawk.

Frost also toured with Sonny Boy Williamson as a guitarist for the legendary harp player before moving to Mississippi with Carr in 1959. Frost learned the harp from Sonny Boy as well as Willie Foster, who let Frost jam with his band after he first arrived in St. Louis.

Carr and Frost met guitarist Jack Johnson in 1962 in Clarksdale, forming an enduring partnership. Later that year, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips recorded the trio on his Phillips International label. "Hey Boss Man!" was credited to Frank Frost with the The Night Hawks in recognition of the band's backing role for Robert Nighthawk.

Elvis Presley's guitarist, Scotty Moore, produced the trio, augmented by several session musicians, for the Jewel label four years later.

The Phillips and Jewel sides were later re-released on one CD by Charly Records of London, England.

Frost's recording career hit a dry spell until he was rediscovered by Chicago blues fan Michael Frank, who had formed his own label, Earwig Records. In 1978, he recorded the trio under the name, Jelly Roll Kings. The album, Rockin' the Juke Joint Down, featured Frost on organ, piano, harmonica and vocals.

Frost recorded his own album for Earwig, Midnight Prowler, in 1988.

In recent years, Frost's health deteriorated, although he continued to perform. Just four days before his death, Frost made an appearance with Carr at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena. Frost played harmonica from a wheelchair beside his longtime mate.

Frost is survived by a brother, sister and several children.

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