Frank Frost


frank frost portrait

Frank Frost was born on April 15, 1936 in Auvergne, Arkansas.  Like a lot of people, it was his family that inspired him to get into music.  His Father played the saxophone and it wasn’t long before Frank moved to the piano.  He could also play the guitar, but the harmonica is what he specialized in.

Along with Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Foster, he played around St. Louis.  It was during that time that he began to build a name for himself.

In 1960, Frank moved back down south and started playing with Robert Knighthawk and his son Sam Carr.  Even played in a band called the Knighthawks after they teamed up with Jack Johnson.  After injuring his hand, he started playing mainly the harmonica, but was still ok with a guitar.  Sam Carr, Jack Johnson, and Frank Frost were all living in Lula.  Jack was driving a truck and Sam. was working on a farm.  Frank was never really much of worker, but he made due.

Around 1962, the three of them rode to Memphis with Lee Horace Bass, their manager and Wilbur Hanks.  They rode in a 1961 yellow Ford Galaxy with chrome finder skirts and a continental kit that was owned by Buddy Dean, a young man who worked in a grocery store at Lula.

They put their instruments in the back and away they went up Highway 61. The men recorded their first album at Sun Studios for Sam Phillips.  The band played all night, and Frank kept sending Buddy down the street to buy liquor.  It was a night.

The trio would actually made two Memphis trips to record their first album.  The other one was first, and  this is what I was told by Bill Mosley:

“Lee Horace got the group a chance to record, but it wasn’t on the Sun Label. At that time, Sam Phillips had two labels.  They didn’t have transportation but my friend William Quon, the owner of the old Joe Bing store, had just purchased a station wagon and agreed to let Lee Horace use it if I drove them.  I did and the first time Phillips heard them he recorded an album.”

With these two days of music making done, the record was called Frank Frost and the Knighthawks with the title being Hey Boss Man!  There was another hit on the record too called the Jelly Roll Kings.  They started calling themselves the Jelly Roll Kings and began to play in clubs around Lula, Helena, and Clarksdale.


jelly roll kings album

All through the 60s and 70s, the Jelly Roll Kings played just about everywhere.  They made a few more albums and the men established themselves as the longest working band in the blues business.  According to Frank Frost in an interview, “what keeps us going is I know we have good talent and we need to be doing something with it.  We all play at Eddie Mae’s on occasion, and the festivals.  But having a band full-time is a job and a half.”

In 1986, he got introduced to Hollywood when a movie called “Crossroads” featured him as a harmonica player.  It was about a blues singer named Willie Johnson coming back to Mississippi.  Johnson had known Robert Johnson and made a deal with he Devil.  Frost played the harmonica for the lead character and actually appeared in one scene in the movie.

Frank Frost continued playing at the King Biscuit Blues Festival and became known as the Grand Old Man of the Helena Blues scene.  They even renamed a street he lived on Frank Frost Street and in the home of Eddie Mae’s Cafe, hung a sign saying: ” Home of the legendary bluesman Frank Frost.”


Playing the blues could be hard on people. He drank and smoked too much.  Frank actually said one time, “Frank that bottle goin’ to lay you down.”  He performed in his last King Biscuit Blues Festival in 1999 and died four days later on October 12th.  His burial was at Magnolia Cemetery in Helena, Arkansas.






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