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lundi 18 septembre 2017

THE FRANKIE & JOHNNY STORY

THE FRANKIE & JOHNNY STORY

        
           
Contrairement à ce que l'on croit souvent, les folk songs américains ne sont de loin pas tous issus de très vieilles traditions colportées à travers l'espace (d'Europe en Amérique) et les générations pour enfin être enregistrées au XXème siècle.
            Une très grande partie de ce qu'on appelle folk songs (et beaucoup de blues) provient en fait entièrement ou en partie des ateliers d'écriture (Thomas Harms, Whitmark & Sons), notamment ceux situés à New York au cœur de Manhattan sur la 28ème Rue, entre Broadway et la 6ème Avenue. Pour décrire la cacophonie qui règne dans ce quartier à cause de tous les musiciens, particulièrement les pianistes, qui jouent en même temps des airs différents au fur et à mesure qu'ils les composent, le journaliste Monroe Rosenfeld appellera ce quartier "Tin Pan Alley (l'artère des poêles à frire) à la fin du XIXème siècle.
            Des centaines de compositions sortent chaque mois de ces ateliers afin d'alimenter les innombrables théâtres de Vaudeville (en fait le Music Hall) qui prospèrent un peu partout sur le territoire des Etats Unis. Ces chansons sont diverses et multiples et relatent souvent des faits divers qui ont défrayé la chronique et dont les gens ont entendu parler. Paroles et musique serviront à souligner le sketch joué qui retrace l'accident, la catastrophe, l'exploit ou l'épisode sanglant que tout le monde connaît mais que personne n'a pu voir (pas de TV à l'époque!)
            Frankie and Johnny ou Frankie and Johnnie ou encore Frankie and Albert raconte un épisode véritable survenu le 15 octobre 1899 à Saint Louis (au 212 Target Street). Ce matin là, une afro-américaine Frankie Baker (1876-1952) abat son amant Allen (plus connu en tant qu'Albert) Britt, un jeune homme de 17 ans (!) de plusieurs balles dans l'abdomen parce que celui-ci l'avait ostensiblement trompée avec une reine de danse d'un soir, Nelly Bly. A son procès, Frankie Baker soutint qu'elle n'avait fait que se défendre, Albert Britt l'ayant attaquée avec un couteau à cran d'arrêt. Elle et son avocat plaidèrent si bien sa cause que, contre toute attente, et sous les applaudissements du tribunal y compris les jurés, Frankie fut acquittée!
            Quelques semaines après ce faits divers retentissant qui fait la une des journaux à travers tous les Etats Unis, le chanteur populaire de Saint Louis Bill Dooley compose un Frankie killed Allen qui, de fil en aiguille, et à travers de nouveaux enjolivements des textes et de la mélodie devient Frankie and Johnny, une composition copyrightée en 1904 par Hughie Cannon, un professionnel de Tin Pan Alley qui avait déjà signé plusieurs standards dont Bill Bailey et qui contient le désormais célèbre refrain "He done her wrong"...
            Le succès de ce thème est tel que plusieurs variantes surgissent les années suivantes tel Bill, you done me wrong (1908) par deux compositeurs professionnels Frank & Bert Leighton qui en 1912 la modifieront substantiellement pour en faire le Frankie and Johnny avec les versets et l'allusion à Nelly Bly que nous connaissons jusqu'à aujourd'hui.
            En 1925, Frankie and Johnny figurent dans le célèbre recueil de Dorothy Scarborough On the trail of Negro Folksongs ainsi qu'en 1927 dans The American Songbag de Carl Sandburg. Ce dernier trace l'origine de ce morceau bien avant le milieu du XIXème siècle, sans qu'on en ait la moindre preuve tangible.
            Quoi qu'il en soit, le morceau a un tel succès qu'après plusieurs éditions en livret pour chant et piano, Frankie and Johnny parait sur disque dès 1919 par Al Bernard et sera ensuite enregistré par plus de 300 artistes, Blancs et Noirs, dans les domaines de la pop, du jazz, du blues, de la Country Music, du Rock... de Frank Crumit et Lead Belly à Elvis Presley, Yvonne De Carlo et Stevie Wonder, en passant par Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmie Rodgers, Dinah Shore, Burl Ives, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Big Bill Broonzy, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, Charlie Patton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Lonnie Donegan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Van Morrisson....
            Frankie and Johnny a aussi inspiré de nombreux films depuis Her Man (1930), Frankie and Johnny (1936 avec Helen Morgan), Frankie and Johnny (1966 avec Elvis Presley) jusqu'à Frankie and Johnny de 1991 avec Al Pacino et Michelle Pfeiffer. La chanson, elle, a été interprétée dans quantité de films, des westerns aux comédies musicales!
            Enfin, le célèbre metteur en scène John Huston a écrit en 1930 un spectacle de marionnettes Frankie and Johnny, entièrement basé sur les interviews qu'il avait conduites à Saint Louis avec Ms Frankie Baker et le voisin et ami d'enfance de Albert Britt, Richard Clay!
            Quant à Ms Frankie Baker, après son acquittement triomphal, elle a continué de longues années à vivre dans le quartier de Saint Louis où elle avait aimé Albert Britt, assistant longtemps incrédule à l'immense retentissement de son meurtre. Elle essayera plusieurs fois et toujours en vain de recevoir une part des juteux droits d'auteur de la chanson, des disques et des films, fera plusieurs fois l'objet de reportages dans la presse locale et nationale, sera sollicitée par la ville de Saint Louis pour codiriger des visites touristiques sur les lieux du drame. Plus âgée, elle quittera Saint Louis pour Portland où elle décède en 1952.
Mrs Frankie Baker showing where she shot her unfaithfull lover. 1936, Saint Louis, Mo
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

            Unlike what is widely acknowledged, American Folk Songs are not always coming from folk traditions which would have been carried through space (from Europe to America) and generations. A lot of folk songs (and many many blues songs as well) come in fact directly from nineteenth century writing workshops like Thomas Harms' or Whitmark & Sons, situated in Manhattan, New York on the 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, an area that reporter Monroe Rosenfeld will call "Tin Pan Alley" because of the ceaseless noise generated by dozens of pianist composers who were working there. Thousands of songs poured over the years from those workshops to supply fresh songs to innumerable Vaudeville Theatres and their constant new shows. Very often, those songs had to deal with news items (crashes, murders, great performances, disasters...) that were widely known across the country but that no one had actually seen (no TV or smartphones at that time!)
           
Frankie and Johnny or Frankie and Johnnie or Frankie and Albert tells a true drama that occurred on 15 October 1899 at Saint Louis, 212 Target Street. This early evening, a young African-American woman Frankie Baker (1876-1952) took her gun and shot to death her very young (17!) lover Allen (better known as Albert) Britt because he had conspicuously cheated her with a one night dance queen Nelly Bly! During her trial, Frankie Baker and her very wise lawyer demonstrated that Frankie was in fact in self defence because Albert who had anyway a very bad reputation first tried to assault her with a knife! Against all odds, Frankie Baker was acquitted under the applauses of the audience and even of the jury!
            A few weeks after the trial, a local Vaudeville singer Bill Dooley composed a song, Frankie killed Allen which evolved quickly to become Frankie and Johnny, a song first copyrighted in 1904 by Tin Pan Alley's pro Hughie Cannon who added the famous chorus line He done her wrong...
            The enormous success of the song can be witnessed by the many versions copyrighted the following years, particularly Frank and Bert Leighton's Frankie and Johnny from 1912 with the usual now well known lines and the appearance of Nelly Bly on the song. In 1925, Frankie and Johnny is listed in Dorothy Scarborough's On the trail of Negro Folksongs and in 1927 in The American Songbook by Carl Sandburg who searched also previous possible versions of this theme.
            Whatever, Frankie and Johnny was/is a huge hit everywhere, becoming a standard recorded by several hundreds of performers, Blacks and Whites, in pop, jazz, blues, Country Music, Rock from the first recorded version Frankie and Johnny in 1919 by Al Bernard to Elvis Presley and Van Morrisson through Frank Crumit, Lead Belly, Yvonne De Carlo, Stevie Wonder, Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmie Rodgers, Dinah Shore, Burl Ives, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Big Bill Broonzy, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, Charlie Patton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Lonnie Donegan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and dozens others!
            Frankie and Johnny has also generated several plays, novels, films like Her Man (1930), Frankie and Johnny (1936 with Helen Morgan), Frankie and Johnny (1966 with Elvis Presley) until Frankie and Johnny from 1991 with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. While the song itself was featured in dozens of movies, musicals, westerns or whatsoever!
            In 1930, the young and upcoming filmmaker John Huston created a puppet play Frankie and Johnny based upon the interviews he made in Saint Louis with the real Frankie, Mrs Baker as well as Albert's childhood friend, Richard Clay!
            As for Mrs Frankie Baker, after her trial, she stayed in the Saint Louis area where the murder had occurred. She witnessed unbelievingly for a long time the huge backwash of her story. She will try several times but with no results to get some parts of the enormous copyrights the songs, the films, the plays had generated. She will anyway be interviewed several times by local and national newspapers and radio stations and will even be part of a regular tour of Saint Louis where she was showing and explaining to visitors where, why and how the famous incident had occurred! As she was getting older, she left Saint Louis for Portland where she died in 1952.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT


01. AL BERNARD: Frankie & Johnny
Al Bernard, vcl; The Kansas City Jazz Boys, band. New York City, June 1919
02. FRANK CRUMIT: Frankie and Johnny
Frank Crumit, vcl; Paul Biese, t-sax & Trio. Chicago, Ill. 1921
03. MAMIE SMITH:  Frankie blues
Mamie Smith, vcl; Her Jazz Hounds, band. Johnny Dunn, cnt; tb; Buster Bailey, clt; Leroy Parker, vln; Phil Worde, pno; Harry Hull, bb; dms. New York City, 22 February 1921
04. HAZEL MEYERS: Frankie blues
Hazel Meyers, vcl; Bob Fuller, clt; Louis Hooper, pno. New York City, July 1924
05. BESSIE SMITH: Frankie blues
Bessie Smith, vcl; Robert Robbins, vln; Irving Johns, pno. New York City, 8 April 1924
06. HARVEY BROOKS: Frankie and Johnnie
Harvey Brooks, pno; Paul Howard, clt/a-sax; band. Hollywood, Ca. 1924
07. FRANK CRUMIT: Frankie and Johnnie
Frank Crumit, vcl; band. New York City, 1927
08. NICK NICHOLS: Frankie and Johnny I & II (The shooting scene/ The Courtroom Scene)
Nick Nichols, vcl; Alex Moore, pno; Blind Norris, g. Dallas, Tx. 5 December 1929
09. MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT: Frankie
John Hurt, vcl/g Memphis, Tn. 14 February 1928.
10. RILEY PUCKETT: Frankie and Johnny
Riley Puckett, vcl/g; Clayton McMichen, fdl; acc. Atlanta, Ga. 4 November 1929
11. CHARLIE PATTON: Frankie and Albert
Charlie Patton, vcl/g. Grafton, Wisc. October 1929
12. DARBY & TARLTON: Frankie Dean (1930)
Tom Darby, vcl/g; Jimmie Tarlton, vcl/st-g. Atlanta, Ga. 16 april 1930
13. MAE WEST: Frankie and Johnny
Mae West, vcl; Manny Klein, tpt; Tommy Dorsey, tb; Jimmy Dorsey, clt; Joe Venuti, vln; Joe Meresco, pno; Dick McDonough, g; Artie Bernstein, bs; Larry Gomar, dms. New York City, February 7, 1933.
14. LEAD BELLY: Frankie and Albert
Huddie Leadbetter, vcl/g. Wilton, Conn. February 1935
15. ALABAMA BOYS: Frankie & Johnny (1940)
ALABAMA BOYS: Jerry Byler, fdl; Jimmy Hall, fdl; Carl Rainwater, st-g; Zip Coffman, e-g; Chuck Adams, pno; Ebb Gray, bjo; ted Adams, bs. Tulsa, Ok. 1940
16. BIG BILL BROONZY: Frankie and Johnny
Big Bill Broonzy, vcl/g. New York City, c. 1955
17. RUSTY BRYANT: Frankie and Johnnie
Rusty Bryant, t-sax; Hank Marr, pno; Paul Weeden, g; Ike Isaacs, bs; Taylor Orr, dms. New York City, October 1955
18. CHARLIE FEATHERS: Frankie and Johnny
Charlie Feathers, vcl/g; Stan Kessler, st-g; Jerry Huffman, g; Johnny Black, bs; Jimmy Swords, dms. Memphis, Tn. 31 January 1956
19. PAUL CLAYTON: Frankie
Paul Clayton, vcl/g. New York City, 1956
20. RENE HALL: Frankie and Johnny
Rene Hall, g; band. Los Angeles, Ca. 1958
21. BOBBY STEWART: Frankie and Johnny
Bobby Stewart, t-sax; Gene Simmons, g; Carl Simmons, g; Joe Baugh, bs; Fred Below, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1960
22. FURRY LEWIS: Frankie and Johnny
Furry Lewis, vcl/g. Memphis, May 1961
23. MANCE LIPSCOMB: Frankie was a good woman
Mance Lipscomb, vcl/g. Los Angeles, Ca. 9 July 1961
24. SAM COOKE: Frankie and Johnny
Sam Cooke, vcl; Barney Kessel, g; Rene Hall, g; Billy Preston, og; Ray Johnson, pno; Cliff White, bs; Ed Hall, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. February 1963
25. DAVE VAN RONK: Frankie's blues
Dave Van Ronk, vcl/g. New York City, May 1963
26. JIMMY ANDERSON: Frankie & Johnnie
Jimmy Anderson, vcl/hca; Eugene Dozier, g; Andrew Taylor, g; Oscar Hogan, dms. Crowley, La. 1963
27. TURNER (Tom): Frankie, Johnnie and Albert
Tom Turner, vcl/g. Colombus, Ms. 1967
28. MERLE HAGGARD: Frankie and Johnny
Merle Haggard, vcl/g; Roy Nichols, g; Glen Campbell, g; Ralph Mooney, st-g; Jerry Ward, bs; Jim Gordon, dms. Hollywood, Ca. 22 January 1969

Cet article engendre beaucoup d'intérêt. N'oubliez donc pas celui que j'avais écrit sur "House of the Rising Sun"
This article generates a lot of interest. So, don't forget to read the one I wrote about "House of the Rising Sun"


32 commentaires:

  1. The Frankie & Johnny Story

    http://www51.zippyshare.com/v/3AFp0CAn/file.html

    OK?

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  2. Double "Rooty-Toot-Toot" pour cette heureuse initiative !
    Merci Gérard !

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  3. Beautiful research work and nice songs. Love the pictures!

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  4. I love this, The evolution of a song. Thank you!

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  5. Great post! But I have an addition. In the U.S. a group called the Greenwood County Singers took a folk/bluegrass version called "The New Frankie and Johnny Song" to #75 in 1964:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mApC5xDuiBo

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    Réponses
    1. Thanks. But you know there are more than 300 different versions of this song as well as numerous films, so a choice was necessary. Look at this old fashioned but anyway rewarding picture from 1930 that gives you an insight of how those true events were "played" on the Vaudeville circuits.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxDnMjgdij4

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  6. This looks great! Thank you so much . . .

    Crab Devil

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  7. Thanks for this! And yes there are loads of versions of this out there. Wise up Broken Arrow!


    I too am anonymos.

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    Réponses
    1. Thanks but PLEASE no anonymous... I won't publish anonymous messages in the future

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    2. I'm aware of how many version, but chimed in because the one I mentioned made the American charts and did it as a folk/bluegress song. Hence my mention of its charting position.

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  8. Gerard, Very nice snap shot of history here. Well done!!

    Burney Redding

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  9. Very interesting and well put together Gerard. I especially like the way you have selected from a broad spectrum of musical styles. Just out of interest my own personal favorite recording of this song is Champion Jack Dupree's fine rollicking version from the "Blues From The Gutter" LP. However, as you point out there so many versions of this song floating around. Also note some interesting backing musicians here too. Most notably Barney Kessel, Rene Hall & Billy Preston playing with Sam Cooke. Plus Glen Campbell & Jim Gordon with Merle Haggard.

    As always many thanks Gerard.

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  10. Thank you very much Gerard. I like this format of publishing versions of a song by different artists. How about "Casey Jones"?

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  11. There was (is?) a restaurant in New Orleans called Frankie and Johnny's (off Tchoupitoulas near the river) that played a tape with nothing but variants of the Frankie and Johnny song in an endless loop as their house music.

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    1. Thanks but PLEASE no anonymous... I won't publish anonymous messages in the future

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  12. Merci Gerard,
    bonne idee de faire l'historique de themes familiers dont on ne connait pas toujours, voire rarement, l'origine et l'histoire. Et c'est interessant de montrer que de nombreux themes "cross-over" entre country, blues, jazz. On peut vraiment parler ici de Great American Music.

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  13. Great story and compilation. Thanks for this!

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  14. Thanks/Merci Gerard
    I love these historical musical narratives...great compilation and background details...More please
    Cheers/Santé

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  15. Looks like a great compilation. Can't wait to listen to it.

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  16. Awesome work...you've outdone yourself Señor which is saying a lot...Thanks Mucho!!!

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  17. Hi Gerard. I'd like to ask a question about one of your old issues from 2011 (American Folk Blues Festival 1963 -
    Unissued tracks. The Muddy Waters track (Got My Mojo Working) is it from the 13 October session in Bremen? If so, would it be possible to publish this again as I seem to have lost the whole of your publication?

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    1. No problem my friend. here is the link for 1963 AFBF (then!) unreleased
      https://www.mediafire.com/file/aczsrrpsyuwhrgz/1963Unreleased.zip
      Enjoy!

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    2. Brilliant Gerard! Thank you very much for your time.

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  18. This is an excellent piece of research and selection of tracks. Thank you for your high standard of work and for your generosity in sharing it.

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  19. Merci beaucoup Gérard pour ce travail (de collecte et d'écriture) fort intéressant et comme souvent remarquable.

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