A Frank Wakefield Concert

Red Henry

Devoted mandolin fans and pickers (such as myself) were treated to a rare spectacle last Saturday night at the Garret Park Town Hall in Maryland, where superlative picker-and-showman Frank Wakefield presented an outstanding show along with the Patuxent Partners. Chris and I drove over for the concert. Neither of us had seen Frank since he'd come by the house back when Casey was 9 and Chris was 6, so we had a good time talking, reminiscing, and picking with Frank before the show.

Now, you need to understand about Frank. He doesn't always talk straight. He "talks backwards." This means that he'll call himself "him" and he'll call people names he makes up (he called Casey "Liza," and Chris was "Leroy."). He'll say "That's BAD!" when he means, "That's GOOD!" -- and vice-versa. So you need to stay on your toes when talking (or listening) to him.

When it was time for his set, Frank sprang into action with the fiery chestnut 'Bluegrass Breakdown' and went on for an hour without a pause, incessantly picking amazingly, talking backwards, balking tackwards, and tacking balkwards for the entire evening in his inimitable style. There is no one who plays mandolin quite like Frank, and his originality and brilliance shone at every opportunity. Notable contributions came from his cast of extremely capable sideman, including Monroe-veteran Tom Ewing's vocals on "When the Golden Leaves Begin to Fall" and Jack Leiderman's high-speed fiddle break on 'Rawhide', which was note for note straight off Bill Monroe's classic 1951 recording, as far as my ears could hear.

The climax of the evening came as Frankfield hosted and bravely participated in, a five-piece mandolin ensemble. We played (all at the same time) Frank's well-known mandolin original 'New Camptown Races'. Mandopickers Frank, Tom, Todd, "Leroy," and "White" all acquitted themselves well, and a good time was had by all.

Red Henry picking with Frank Wakefield

Red Henry picking with Frank Wakefield

Frank Wakefield and Chris Henry

Frank Wakefield and Chris Henry

. . . . .

Other news: Our bass-playing friend Marshall Wilburn spent this last week helping Frank record a new CD. Look for it on the Patuxent label. It's gonna be BAD!


Posted in By Red, pictures, shows and tagged on by .

About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.

7 thoughts on “A Frank Wakefield Concert

  1. Susan

    This is hysterical, Red! Great writing on your end, and one fabulous performance by Frank, “Leroy,” “White,” and others I am sure.

  2. Martin Bacon

    I was waiting for the story of “Liza”.
    I wish I could have heard someone that David Grisman said “split the bluegrass mandolin atom”.
    Thanks for the great story Red.

  3. Steve (in Japan)

    Red, this morning on our local Saturday morning FM radio “Bluegrass Hour” the DJs ended their programing with two songs Frank Wakefield & band, The Good Old Boys, put on CD. The two songs were Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) & Ashes of Love and they’re songs that Frank played and sang here, years ago, in Hiratsuka, Japan. You should have heard the excitement in their voices just before they introduced the songs with praises and remembering Frank Wakefield’s visit here. The one DJ, Gen-san, a good friend of ours and a dedicated bluegrass mandolin picker, really spoke from the heart. I just wanted to let you know that Frank Wakefield has been here too!

  4. Ed Chytil

    Where can I find a listing of Frank Wakefield’s upcoming appearances? I can’t find anything on the internet.



  5. admin

    That is a good question. If he doesn’t have a website then there might not be one place to go and get that kind of info. His record label website is http://www.pxrec.com/ They might have up to date info if you emailed them.


  6. Red Henry

    I don’t believe that Frank plays many personal appearances now, so take any chance there is to see him!

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