Frost approached the microphone Friday, October 8th, 1999 on the
Main Stage of the King Biscuit Blues Festival in obvious discomfort.
The 63 year old Blues musician had been suffering for many years with
a number of illnesses. Though in poor health then, he went on with
the set, perhaps with a premonition that this may be his farewell
performance. His longtime friend and partner of 45 years, drummer Sam
Carr, could see that Frost was having trouble. But, the determination
of his friend was too strong to yield to and the drummer openly wept
for him as he continued to play along.
days later, Frank Frost succumbed to heart failure at his home on
the street that had been named for him in a dedication at the
Festival one year earlier.
by Michele Lotta from Clickin
was born on April 15, 1936, as Frank Ottis Frost, in Auvergne,
Arkansas. His first exposure to music came as a young child when he
learned to play the piano for the choirs in his family's church. At
the age of 15, he moved to St. Louis, where he teamed with harmonica
player, Little Willie Foster and began to learn both the harp and the
guitar. While with Foster, Frost met Sam Carr, the son of the
legendary Delta guitarist, Robert Nighthawk. The two became fast
friends and decided to put their own band together in 1954, a venture
that was short-lived at the time as they soon took on the role of
backing harmonica great, Sonny Boy Williamson. In 1959, the two left
Williamson and headed to Mississippi, once again to form their own
band. Three years later, they hooked up with guitarist, Big Jack
Johnson and began to call themselves Frank Frost and The Nighthawks.
trio caught the attention of Sun Records owner Sam Phillips. He
brought them to Memphis in 1962 and they put together their first
recording "Big Boss Man!" for his newly created Phillips
International label. Three years later, they were in Nashville,
working with Elvis Presley's guitarist, Scotty Moore for yet another
LP on the Jewel label that saw a minor hit single for them with
"My Back Scratcher" (a take-off on the Slim Harpo song,
"Baby Scratch My Back").
group disbanded in 1975, but reunited again in 1979 with the new
name The Jelly Roll Kings. Under this name, they became the first
artists to record for the newly founded Earwig Records, releasing
"Rockin' The Juke Joint Down" that same year. The band
thrived over the next two decades as the preeminent example of modern
Delta Blues. Big Jack Johnson eventually left to pursue a solo
career, but Frost and Carr continued under the name, adding guitarist
Fred James to the mix.
would also have a successful solo career. He released several albums
under his own name including the acclaimed, "Deep Blues" in
1992. He could also be seen in a commercial for presidential
candidate Bill Clinton, as well as a short performance in the film,
"Crossroads". The Jelly Roll Kings were also featured on
the soundtrack for the Blues documentary "Deep Blues".
many of the past few years, Frank Frost's health had been failing. A
staunch supporter of the Sonny Boy Blues Society of Helena, Arkansas,
Frost was a recipient of the medical support that their Blues Aid
relief program had been designed for.
funeral was held on Sunday, October 17th, 1999 at the Malco Theater
in Helena, followed by a Blues jam in tribute of his memory.
1999 Cascade Blues Association - by Greg Johnson