This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 188 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
There are so many Blues artists who have left a legacy which we can still enjoy today. Many are almost household names and some are lesser known.
There are even some whose names are rarely mentioned yet, we find are a delight to listen to today.
Such an artist is Frank Frost and this is a CD album is titled – Jelly Roll King.
It was released on the Charly Blues R&B label in 1993 as part of their program to continue to document blues artists with few releases, under their “Masterworks” label.
This one is Masterworks Vol. 36. It has the identifying code of CD BM 36 and it is an eighteen track album, which was never released on vinyl.
There are not many original releases by Frank Frost and there are only two known vinyl releases by him.
The first being the 1962 Hey Boss Man on the Phillips International label, the second is Midnight Prowler, released on vinyl and CD in 1989 on the Earwig label.
In 1992 Appaloosa released Frank Frost With Freddie & The Screamers – Deep Blues on CD. In fact there are two releases of the one album, the first was a CD released on the Evidence label in 1996, and the other released on the HMG label in 1999.
Then there is a CD titled Live in Lucerne, released in 2004 by R.O.A.D Records.
Finally there is the album we are looking at, Jelly Roll King. All other releases feature rehashes of material from these albums.
Frank Frost was born on April 15th 1936 in Jackson County, Arkansas.
Like many young black artists that would find a career in music, the young Frost started playing piano in his local church. While there seems to be no record of when he started playing guitar, what is known is that at the age of 15 years, the family moved to St Louis in Missouri.
It appears that around this time then the teenage Frank was playing guitar. A particular influence during this period was Houston Stackhouse, from whom he learned to play slide guitar and with whom he performed on the radio in Jackson, Mississippi.
By 1954, some three years later, he was touring and playing with drummer Sam Carr whose father was Robert Nighthawk.
Not long after he spent several years touring with Sonny Boy Williamson, who helped teach him to play harmonica, and let’s face it, there was no one better to learn from!
After a hand injury, Frost turned his attention to the harmonica and went back to playing piano.
Around 1960, Frost moved with Carr to the Mississippi Delta. After he played a show with the guitarist Big Jack Johnson, they added him to their group.
Together they attracted the interest of the record producer Sam Phillips of Sun Record fame.
History shows us that Phillips had moved away from the blues idiom in the mid to late 1950’s to focus on the emerging rock and to further cement the style of rockabilly.
However, as successful as he was, by 1962 Phillips had the urge to return to recording the “blues”, and Frank Frost seemed to be just the refreshing talent he needed.
In fact a significant number of the tracks on this album – Jelly Roll King, come from those Sun Sessions in 1962. In fact all the material he recorded with both Sun Records and Jewel Records was put onto this CD.
For the bulk of his recordings, Frost played with Jack Johnson on guitar, although he also recorded with Roland James and Chip Young (bass).
At one stage he even had Scotty Moore, Elvis’ guitarist, producing him in Nashville in 1966 for Jewel Records. It was also here that session bassist Chip Young worked with him and the trio’s tight down home ensemble work was once again seamless.
My Back Scratcher (track 14), is Frost’s takeoff on Slim Harpo‘s “Baby Scratch My Back,” and the track even dented the R&B chart for three weeks.
In the late 1970s, Frost was re-discovered by a blues enthusiast, Michael Frank, who began releasing albums on his Earwig Music Company label by the trio, now called the Jelly Roll Kings, named after a song from the album, Hey Boss Man.
Over the years, cigarettes and alcohol wore Frost down but he continued to record, tour and diversify his repertory.
He also appeared in two films – Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads and Crossroads.
Frank Frost died from a cardiac arrest in Helena, Arkansas in 1999.
1. Everything’s Alright 2:35
2. Lucky to Be Living 3:33
3. Jelly Roll King 2:24
4. Baby You’re So Kind 2:46
5. Gonna Make You Mine 2:24
6. Now Twist 1:48
7. Big Boss Man 2:37
8. Jack’s Jump 2:08
9. So Tired of Living by Myself 2:55
10. Now What You Gonna Do 2:40
11. Pocket Full of Shells 1:58
12. Just Come on Home 1:54
13. Crawlback 1:58
14. My Back Scratcher 2:42
15. Things You Do 2:32
16. Ride With Your Daddy Tonight 2:39
17. Pocket Full of Money 2:24
18. Didn’t Mean No Harm 4:04
Track 1 – Everything’s Alright kicks off with quite a rockin’ tempo.
This was one of the tracks recorded at the Sun Studios, with Frank playing harp (harmonica), guitar and doing vocals. he was accompanied by Jack Johnson on guitar and Sam Carr on drums.
The track was recorded on April 7, 1962 and the group, consisting of Johnson & Carr, became known as the Night Hawks, probably in tribute to Carr’s father – Robert Nighthawk.
There is so much to like about this track, and absolutely nothing to dislike.
I just love the way Frost introduces what is almost a Howling Wolf cry of “Ohhhh, ohhh” while demonstrating from moment one his mastery of the harmonica.
This track is just superb and what an ass-kicker to start the CD with.
It would be unforgivable not to play track 3 – Jelly Roll King.
As indicated earlier, this is the track that gave the album it’s name. The lineup is the same as for track 1.
What is noticeable is the reoccurring musical theme through the track. We seem to obsessed these days with court action when artists believe that another artist (or group) has taken some, part or even all of a riff or theme and reworked it.
It seems as though “we” have become totally precious to the point of insanity, as we recently saw when Jimmy Page from Led Zepplin recently had to face court action bought on by the estate of Randy Craig Wolfe, from Spirit.
In this case it was contended that the famous song “Stairway to Heaven” derived from a 2-minute, 37-second instrumental titled “Taurus” from Spirit’s 1968 album.
Now back to this track. The running chord progression and indeed the feel of the track, is almost identical in parts to Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man – and what’s more than that, Reed interpreted it from a traditional blues song, and since then it reoccurs in a number of blues songs.
Blues is and always will be evolutionary!
It grows, it mutates, it folds back on itself, and it picks and choses from a variety of styles, nationalities and even genre’s. So as we listen to this track Jelly Roll, we might make a passing comment about, “hey, that sounds like Big Boss Man“ and we leave it at that!
We do revel in the vocal delivery, harp playing and look upon the shenanigans over who wrote what that has been taking place since the early 60’s with a mixture of distain and amusement.
Really the track is smoooth as silk and damn fine blues!
Now the lyrics did not seem to be printed anywhere, so I have done my best to try and write them out, apologies ahead of time for any mistakes.
Ohhh Brother Joe, he was the Jelly Roll King
Ohhh Brother Joe, he was the Jelly Roll King
An that boy ring-a-ding-a-linga
Do most anything
He had a girl, Pam-Sue was her name
He had a girl, Pam-Sue was her name
She didn’t mind telling anybody that
Her man was a Jelly Roll King
Yes her Joe, he was my best friend
Yes her Joe, he was my best friend
Yes he been gone away so long
I’d love to see him again
So, what is a Jelly Roll King?
A fine question and like many phrases in blues songs, it can have multiple meanings.
Jelly Roll is certainly mentioned in a number of songs, specifically referring to female genitals. Bessie Smith bragged that “Nobody in Town Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine.” Jelly was also a term given to flashy and highly crafted piano players, such as Jelly Roll Morton. Mind you, before Morton became “Jelly Roll Morton,” he tried out the nickname “Mr. Jelly Lord.”
Both names were rumoured to indicate Morton’s predilection for cunnilingus.
Jelly Roll King
I jump now to track 7, but really I could have stopped at any of the intermediate tracks, they are all so damn fine.
However I couldn’t go past Big Boss Man.
Anyone who has listened to any blues, even “white” groups interpretation of blues, would be familiar with Big Boss Man, made so popular by Jimmy Reed.
Once again using the Night Hawks to back him, Frank really does a most excellent job of emulating the Reed version. This is an uptempo twelve-bar blues shuffle that features “one of the most influential Reed grooves of all time.
Checking out the track as discussed on Wikipedia and it’s quite amazing that while they list the “other” versions, Frank Frost and the Night Hawks do not get a mention.
It really is for all intents and purposes just about as good as Reed’s, although i concede Reed has a slightly better drawl in his voice than Frost.
Big Boss Man
Track 13 is Crawlback.
This is interesting as it is the only instrumental on this fine album. Joining Frost, Johnson & Carr on this track is, Roland James on guitar.
During the 50’s he was part of the historical SUN records house band playing on hundreds of recordings. He can be heard on most of Jerry Lee Lewis’s early recordings including Whole lot of shakin’ going on.
James was later known as a master recording engineer and producer.
As you will hear it’s a fine laid back blues piece with a simple guitar line, a nicely placed bass line, the drums are just pushing along nicely.
It certainly features the harp playing of Frost, who occasionally interjects with lines like, “I feel good“. It is easy to assume that it eventuated out of a jam session, and, someone had the good sense to hit the record button.
The following track, track 14, is My Back Scratcher.
This is the first track from the Nashville sessions of 1966. It features Frank on vocals and harp, it also has Oscar Williams playing on harmonica, Jack Johnson on guitar, Chip Young on bass and Sam Carr on drums.
It’s almost an instrumental, in fact a blues shuffle but it features Frost talking his lyrics instead of singing them.
It was released on a single on the Jewel label.
This was a Scotty Moore produced track and it was a take-off on the Slim Harpo song, “Baby Scratch My Back” and it hovered in the lower rungs of the R&B chart in 1966 for three weeks.
Look a-here baby
Stay away from my door
Go ahead on woman
You better get all away from my door
‘Cause I’ve found me a back scratcher
I don’t need you around no more
Ah, scratch it baby
I know you was fine
Fine as you can be
I said, I know you was fine
Fine as you can be
But I’ve found myself a back scratcher
That little girl sure could take care of me
Ah, this feels good…
My Back Scratcher
The final track to share with you is track 18 – Pocket Full Of Money which is the final track.
This is about as “traditional” in terms of blues styles as Frank gets, and it is beautiful.
Frost’s voice is beautifully supported by Oscar Williams on harp, although both play during the track, and, Jack Johnson reminds us one final time, what a fine fine blues guitarist he is.
Pocket Full Of Money
Look, there are a great many blues fans in Australia with more knowledge than myself.
I have since the early to mid 1960’s immersed myself in the blues be it electric, Delta, Chicago – the lot! I can say with little hesitation that I wish I had discovered Frank Frost’s work back in the 1960’s…. hell, even the ’70’s!
Frank Frost is a ripper – his voice, his harmonica playing and his vocal delivery is faultless.
I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this album to anyone’s collection. It has some of Frost’s best work, and remember, all the tracks that count from the Sun sessions, as well as tracks from the later Nashville sessions.
Sadly the Charly CD version of Jelly Roll King seems to be very hard to source. There were no copies of this version on Discogs website, bit two on a later Brazilian release – the quality I can’t vouch for.
There were none on Ebay but, Amazon (Australia) had three new copies at the expensive price of Au$67.00.
There are three live performances of Frank Frost, sadly non showing him in his early years, but these three later days clips are fantastic.
Frank Frost and Sam Carr at King Biscuit I
Frank Frost at Torrita Blues 1992
Frank Frost at the Chicago Blues Festival 1997
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.
#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier
#159. The Band – Stage Fright
#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One
#170. Chain – Two Of A Kind
#171. Bob Marley – Legend
#176. B.B. King – The Best Of
#180. Flowers – Icehouse
#181. Joe Tex – The Best Of
#187 – Ricky Nelson – All My Best