(Beale Street Sheiks)







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Although relatively unknown to many blues enthusiasts, Frank Stokes was acknowledged by his peers to have been a seminal figure in the development of acoustic blues music in Memphis and has been described by some later musicologists as the father of the Memphis blues guitar style. Frank Stokes was a blues musician, songster, and minstrel who was born in either December 1887 or January 1888, in White Haven, Tennessee, just north of the Mississippi state line. He was raised by relatives in Tutwiler, Mississippi, after the death of his parents and learned to play guitar there as a young lad.  He moved on to Hernando, Mississippi, which at the time was home to artists such as Jim Jackson, Dan Sane, Elijah Avery (of Cannon's Jug Stompers), and Robert Wilkins.


By the turn of the century, at the young age of 12, Stokes was working in Hernando as a blacksmith, travelling to Memphis at the weekends to sing and play guitar.  Together with Sane, with whom he developed a long-term musical partnership, they busked on the streets and in bars, and in Church's Park, which is now W.C. Handy Park. Stokes was a diverse artist who had a very powerful voice and he developed a distinctive  danceable guitar style whilst playing the Memphis circuit. His repertoire included minstrel tunes, rags, parlour songs, old-time country tunes as well as the popular numbers of the time. In 1917 Stokes linked up with fellow Hernando residents  Garfield Akers and Joe Callicott and together they worked the Doc Watts Medicine Show as songsters, dancers and comedians. Around 1920, Stokes moved to Oakville, Tennessee, where he set up as a blacksmith. He teamed up again with Sane and they worked the local dances, picnics and fish fries, and juke joints at the weekends.


     Frank Stokes - 'Tain't Nobody's Business

Stokes and Sane eventually joined Jack Kelly's Jug Busters and this later evolved into the BEALE STREET SHEIKS with Stokes and Sane as the lead members. They first recorded under that name for Paramount Records in 1927 and they went on to make a total of 38 recordings for either Paramount or Victor Records being joined on occasions by Furry Lewis.  It is said that their duet style influenced a young Memphis Minnie in her duets with her then husband Kansas Joe McCoy. Their last recording session was in September 1929, after which they returned to busking on their traditional circuit. Stokes and Sane eventually went their own ways and Stokes went back to travelling with medicine shows and also with the Ringling Brothers Circus. In 1946 Stokes moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, although he occasionally worked in Memphis with Bukka White in local juke joints. His health began to fail and he died of a stroke in Memphis, in September 1955, aged 67.


    Beale Street Sheiks (Stokes & Sane)  - It's A Good Thing