FRANK-BEY

FRANK BEY

With a long list of legendary performances at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, we are pleased to welcome Frank Bey back to Cape May.

Frank Bey was born on January 17, 1946, in Millen, Georgia, located 42 miles south of Augusta. He was the seventh of gospel singer Maggie Jordan’s 12 children. He began singing in church at age 4 with the Rising Son Gospel Singers, a group that included his older brother Robert and two female cousins. They soon had radio programs of their own on two stations in the Augusta area. He also sang with his mother, often at local concerts with such gospel stars as the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Harmonizing Four, Soul Stirrers, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. At 14, Frank began singing with Robert Sharpe and the Untouchables, a local R&B band. He had to sneak out of the house to do it because his mother didn’t approve of secular music.

At 17, he moved to Philadelphia to work as a driver for his friend Gene Lawson, Otis Redding’s advance publicity man. Redding often rode in the backseat, and on occasion, when one of Redding’s opening acts didn’t show up on time, Frank was asked to open.

Later in the ’60s, Bey led a racially integrated band called Modern Mixes that performed throughout the eastern regions of Canada and the United States. From 1973 to ’77, he was a featured vocalist with Moorish Vanguard, a large soul band that recorded one single for Polydor but broke up due to dissention within the group over a dispute with the label and James Brown, who claimed producer’s credit. Bey’s band mates stranded him in Florida and left him so devastated that he stopped singing for 17 years. He returned to Philadelphia, where he became a building contractor and opened a seafood restaurant and bar. He eventually resumed performing at the restaurant and later at Warm Daddy’s, the Philadelphia club at which Noel Hayes first encountered him in 1999. Bey had recorded his first CD, Steppin’ Out on his own Magg label, in 1996, but ill health prevented him from properly promoting it. The singer spent over four years on kidney dialysis before receiving a transplant. Though weakened, Bey never stopped performing throughout the ordeal. He recorded his second CD, Blues in the Pocket for Jeffhouse Records in Philadelphia. A year later KPOO radio host, Noel Hayes first brought him to San Francisco to work with Anthony Paule and his band. He’s now working on the east coast with his “East Coast Band.”

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