The Jelly Roll Kings--Robert Nighthawk's son drummer Sam Carr (left) and Frank Frost (who seems to play just about everything)--recently performed in Tokyo. In the dressing room after the show, they had an opportunity to hear some of the And This Is Free tapes for the first time. Both men, played extensively with Robert Nighthawk. While listening to the tapes, the usually very quiet Frank Frost broke into a broad smile and said "Man, they was working even back then."
SC = Sam Carr
FF = Frank Frost
FJ = Fred James
AM = Allan Murphy
AM - When I heard [your recent CD] "Off Yonder Wall", I was reminded of Booba Barnes, and he passed not so long ago ...
SC - Yeah.
AM - And I wondered if you knew him?
SC - Oh, yeah.
FF - I played with him.
AM - What kind of man was he?
SC - Booba Barnes was fun. He had this club in Greenville [Mississippi], and he used to invite me to come by sometimes.
AM - The Playboy Club.
SC - Yeah. Frank was living down there. [aside to FF] He played with you, didn't he?
FF - Yeah.
AM - The other thing that struck me about "Off Yonder Wall" was that it definitely sounded like an album that was made by veteran musicians. You can't hide that quality.
FJ - Oh, yeah, they've been together for a long time.
AM - And where is Big Jack Johnson?
SC - He lives in Clarksdale, that his home.
FJ - He does all the singing [on Off Yonder Wall]. He's out on the road all the time now. He's doing solo records and really kicking into high gear trying to become a bigger star and a solo artist. You two have been playing together for 30, 35 years, more, about 40 years.
SC - Jack played with us that long almost.
FF - Thirty, about thirty years.
SC - Thirty years
FJ - The Yonder Wall record was like a reunion record, wasn't it? Ya'll hadn't played together for a while.
SC - Naw.
FJ - And he'd been doing those solo records.
SC - Yeah. That's the one we made at Fat Possum? [Off Yonder Wall]
FJ - Yeah.
SC - I really didn't know how it was ever gonna come out. [laughter]
AM - It sure sounded like you had a real good time recording that, you know, like when some of the tracks fade out there's lots of laughter and ...
SC - Yeah.
FJ - It was like a reunion record. It was the first time that you all had played together for quite some time.
SC - Yeah.
FJ - The group that's here [at the Park Tower Festival] is the one that we do the Helena Festival every year, and we work together fairly regular.
SC - Right.
AM - Can I assume that you guys enjoy fishing? [laughter]
SC - Oh, yeah!
AM - Cos that's a great song. ["Fishin' Musician"]
SC - Jack made that song cos we fish all the time. And we always kid one another when we're fishing. I always come up with something different. Frank on the front, Jack in the middle, and I'm on the end. I don't know why I'm on the back seat.
AM - The last song on the album, "I'm a Big Boy Now", you remember that one?
FF - Yeah, Jack sang "Big Boy".
AM - It's tremendous. It's only half as long as it should be. [laughter] What's your set like for this show [at the Park Tower Blues Festival]?
FJ - Same as it always is: Frank starts off and we follow where ever he goes. There's no telling!
SC - We wait for Frank to hit it. [laughter]
AM - How are they treating you here? Is it your first time in Japan?
FF - No, my second.
SC - My first.
AM - Do you like it over here?
SC - Yeah, it's nice.
AM - Did you get a good house? Last night was the first show.
FJ - The weekend is sold out....They know the stuff. They were screaming at the Jelly Roll Kings;. They know the songs.
SC - Oh, yeah, they know.
AM - What do you do when you're not on the road?
SC - Work like the devil.
FF - I go fishing and hunting.
FJ - He's not joking. He farms cotton.
SC - I works hard. I mow yards, cut iron, scrap iron. I stays on it from sun up to sun down.
AM - I heard that Jack Johnson is a truck driver.
SC - He was.
FJ - Since he started doing these solo records, he's really full-time out there on the road now.
FF - He's always on the road. I think he's got another six years or something like that, contracted.
AM - He's booked that far ahead?
FJ - Well, he's a bit younger than ya'll, isn't he?
FF - Yeah, Jack, he's younger.
SC - Well, he ain't too much younger than Frank. Jack about 58.
FJ - He was awful young when ya'all did the Phillips' record ["Hey Boss Man" by Frank Frost and the Nighthawks, 1962], wasn't he?
FF - Right.
SC - I don't know what year me and Frank hired Jack.
AM - That was 1962, according to my notes....