A product of the Memphis coffeehouse scene of the '60s that also helped mold such local music fixtures as Jim Dickinson and Sid Selvidge, Bob Frank made his debut with an eponymous 1972 collection for venerable folk/roots label Vanguard. But when the album didn't take off the way he or the label had hoped, Frank abandoned the music business for Oakland, California, where he went to work for the city (on irrigation systems) and started a family. Frank stopped recording music for nearly 30 years. He still wrote songs and sometimes played them around his Bay Area home, at open mic nights or union rallies. But he'd set aside any notion of a professional music career. And then something unexpected happened: That one missed opportunity from 1972 sprouted a minor Internet-era cult. Bob Frank became a collector's item of sorts, fetching as much as $100 in online auctions, and far-flung Frank fans began finding each other and, soon, searching for Frank himself.
Inspired to hit the recording studio again, Frank called upon his old friend Dickinson, who had recorded a Frank song ("Wild Bill Jones") on his own obscure 1972 debut, Dixie Fried. The result was Keep On Burning in 2002, the first Bob Frank album since 1972. It was followed by a few other self-released collections and then an unlikely spurt of higher-profile activity: a second label-released solo album, Red Neck, Blue Collar, for the Memphis International label, and a pair of collaborations with younger, California-based Memphis ex-pat John Murry, most prominently the well-regarded murder-ballad collection World Without End.
Still California-based, Bob Frank returns to his old hometown this week for a series of shows: Frank will play at Otherlands Coffee Bar on Saturday, June 9th, at 10 p.m. And he will play two early sets at the Hi-Tone Café on Sunday, June 10th, starting at 4 p.m. and running until 7 p.m.