Blues Blast Magazine – 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award
It is a familiar story – the British invasion of the 1960’s lead many listeners to discover the roots of that music, which was primarily the original American art form known as Blues music. For some fans, the introduction to the music developed into a life-long devotion to the Blues. This year’s Blues Blast Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Michael Frank, is one of those few dedicated Blues warriors who remains steadfast in his commitment to share Blues music and its practitioners with listeners around the world.
Spurred on by seeing Muddy Waters live in 1965, Michael devoured all of the literature and blues recordings he could get his hands on. When he finally got the opportunity in 1970 to visit Chicago, Michael reveled in the glorious music being played nightly in the network of Southside blues clubs. He also met Bob Koester of Delmark Records, who would soon be a mentor for the eager fan. The lure of Chicago finally won out and Michael moved to the city in 1972, taking a part-time job at the Jazz Record Mart, ground zero in those days for training employees like Michael and Bruce Iglauer on how to run a record label.
Michael soon met and became friends with the late David “Honeyboy” Edwards, the last link to the early days of the Delta blues when celebrated musicians like Robert Johnson taught Honeyboy about the music. Michael began playing harmonica with Edwards and helped out in the role of manager. Their relationship grew over three decades with Michael serving as booking agent, harp player, tour manager, promoter and, most importantly, great friend for the aging Edwards. Through Michael’s efforts, Honeyboy received well-deserved acclaim around the world including several Blues Music awards and a Grammy award for Lifetime Achievement.
In addition to being a musician and manager, Michael also started his own record label back in 1978. Earwig Records has a lengthy catalog of over fifty titles, with Honeyboy featured on four titles. The label’s first release, Rockin’ The Joint Down, introduced the Jelly Roll Kings, comprised of veterans Sam Carr on drums and Frank Frost on harp with guitarist Big Jack Johnson making his recording debut. Their down-home sound made it clear that the label had an ear for authentic blues music.
Michael featured legendary artists like Sunnyland Slim and Jimmy Dawkins as well as more obscure Chicago musicians like Big Leon Brooks and Jim Brewer. Just like he did with Honeyboy, Michael used Earwig releases to refocus attention on forgotten performers like H-Bomb Ferguson, Louisiana Red and Homesick James Williamson. Many of the Earwig releases listed Michael in yet another role, that of producer.
Few people have made so many contributions to the heritage of Blues music. It is with great honor and deep appreciation that we recognize Michael Frank for his lifelong commitment to Blues music with Blues Blast Magazine’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement award.
Written by Mark Thompson