Frank Wakefield

Frank Wakefield is a mandolin player from Emory Gap, Tennessee who has played with many great musicians including Jimmy Martin, Red Allen, and Ricky Skaggs.  He has also influenced the sound of those such as David Grisman and Ronnie McCoury.  Frank has, several times, played in Carnegie Hall and in 1999 was even nominated for a Grammy.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Wakefield was born in 1934 to a family of musicians and by age 6 was already playing the harmonica.  During his teenage years he played the mandolin to his brother Ralph’s guitar.  The brother duo specialized in gospel and old time music and sometimes appeared on their local radio station in Dayton, Ohio.  Later in 1952, Frank toured around the midwest and at Bean Blossom with Red Allen and the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys.  They toured together for about 3 years.  From 1955-1957 he worked with the Chain Mountain Boys out of Detroit where he recorded his first RPM.  These recordings included the popular “New Camptown Races.”

Frank Moved on the tour with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys until 1958.  Next, Frank reunited with Red Allen to form Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians.  It’s with this band that he appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1963.


In 1964, Frank became the mandolinist for the Greenbriar Boys.  Then in 1972 he finally launched his solo career.  Throughout this period he toured with many popular artists with genres ranging from blues to country to pop.  Frank’s album “The Kitchen Tapes” has, to this day, sold over 200,000 copies

Robert Cantwell: Hillbilly Music

Robert Cantwell describes the radio as a tool to bring many different types of people together and take them to a new region or city.  I guess I don’t really know how the radio works, but how does a family in  North Carolina pick up a radio station out of Chicago?

In many of the readings and especially in this piece by Cantwell, they discuss how the banjo player was often used as comedy relief or that there was a comedy act within the music.

Funny Banjo Players: Five Plucky Pairings of Comedy and Music

They also refer to black face, minstrel acts, and rural medicine comedian acts. Why did musicians feel that just their music wasn’t entertaining enough?  Now, people will go to concerts of many genres of music that have no comedy in them at all.

Dock Boggs

“Dock Boggs” was born on February 7, 1898 in West Norton, Virginia.  His given name was Moran Lee, after an admired town doctor, but his father started calling him Dock as a child.  Dock went to school up to seventh grade but at age 12 he began working in the coal mines of Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.  Dock heard the songs that he played from other musicians and his family.  He was heavily influenced by African American music being a turn of the century artist and he’s considered part of the bridge connecting traditional African music with old time music.  Dock was also an excellent dancer and many of his routines were imitations of people living their everyday lives.  Though Dock wasn’t a drunk he led a hard life and was a heavy drinker.  His life influenced his songs as he often sang about sadness and death.

“Lonesome songs always appealed to me.”

In 1927 Dock recorded several songs, including Country Blues and Sugar Baby.

After these recordings Dock decided to stop working in the mines, bought a Gibson Mastertone banjo, and put together a stringband to play locally however, after about a year economic hardships and other factors caused the band to fizzle out.  His first music career was short lived as the Great Depression hit soon after these 1927 recordings and the development of his string band.  He was married in 1918 to Sara from the mountains of Kentucky, and their relationship was very rocky during the 1930’s.  Sara was very devoted to her husband even though he may have been whatt is considered a “rambling man.”

Dock had to pawn his banjo to a friend and begin work in the coal mines again when the depression hit hard on Sara and him.  He worked hard in the coalmines until 1960 when he began to take an interest in music again.  Dock went back to the friend that he pawned his banjo to 25 years ago and picked up where he left off.  He played for family and friends, but also at concerts and festivals.  His second musical career was much more successful and he continued to play his music until he died on February 7, 1971, his 73rd birthday.  He would be 117 this coming Saturday.

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