From Atlanta to Mobile....and Frankie Ford RIP
We've reached Mobile on our U.S. road trip and for the first time the sun has made an appearance. On our second day in Atlanta we went out to Athens, a university town where a number of groups come from, including the B52s, REM and Widespread Panic. We enjoyed a drink at the Globe Bar, once voted 3rd best bar in the States, and had a look at 'the tree that owns itself', a strange local tale created when a tree was granted ownership of the land within eight feet of its trunk. Back in Atlanta, we went to Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint, an upmarket place frequented by urban blacks, where a singer called Ray Howard sang some sweet seventies soul and the soul food was expensive but tasty. From there we went on to the rather more basic Northside Tavern where a blues band called Uncle Sugar were playing who were entertaining and chose some interesting numbers to cover.
Next day we drove to Macon, stopping on the way at Gray to see a newly unveiled marker commemorating Otis Redding who was born there. Macon is associated not only with Otis (there's an Otis Redding Heritage centre there) but Little Richard and the Allman Brothers as well. The former Greyhound bus station where Richard once worked is now an impressive visitors centre and a road was named after him recently. It's a sleepy place where motorists stop if you so much as look as though you might be about to cross the road. From there we went Columbus, another quiet, attractive town where we stayed the night. Sadly there was no music to be had but we went to a bar where there was a quiz taking place, a rather easy one we thought.
Next morning it was still raining as we headed south but eventually it cleared up, after I'd spent more than I should have at Mobile Records.
As we sat in a bar in Mobile news came through that Frankie Ford had died, the fourth former star of the Ponderosa Stomp to have died in the last few weeks. Best known of course for Sea Cruise, Frankie was a regular at Jazzfest having performed every time I went. Wearing his trademark black and white piano key scarf he was always entertaining and amusing, even though he drifted into MOR territory at times. That wasn't the case when I saw him at the Archway Tavern in 1992 when he sang New Orleans R and B from beginning to end. The last time I saw him, at Jazzfest two years ago, he looked frail but put on a good show. As well as his big hit, where his voice was overdubbed on Huey Piano Smith's great backing track, he recorded many New Orleans styled numbers and was one of the last of the true New Orleans legends. He will be missed. RIP Frankie.