The spirit of Woodstock must have pierced through my veins as of late, as I recently invited other know-it-alls to share some space on my blogarama, and offer up a glimpse into an overlooked or under appreciated record. Stepping up to the plate is Matthew Turner:
BLUES RUN THE GAME – Jackson C. Frank (Sanctuary Records, 1965)
I first found Jackson C. Frank’s one-and-only album Blues Run the Game on a whim. Like that perfect book you just happen to pull off the old library bookshelf, this is how it happened with Jackson and me. During my undergrad years, I took a roadtrip to a NYC record store and randomly pulled this CD from the stacks. There was a little white note that simply read: a must listen for Nick Drake fans. After some small talk with the friendly shopkeep, I bought the CD not having even heard one song, but merely on a gut feeling, something that I sadly never do nowadays. Weeks later I realized that Drake had actually covered several of Jackson’s songs on one of his albums, but Jackson had never been listed in the credits. I would soon come to find that this was the story of Jackson’s sad life. According to Dirty Linen mag’s T.J. McGrath: "He’s the most famous folksinger of the 1960’s that no one has ever heard of."
When I first threw on the CD in my empty Federal Hill, Providence, RI, apartment, I was shocked by the pure honesty of the songs. I listened to it over and over that day trying to figure out the strange spell it had cast upon me. Weeks later, I would still be listening, but now I was just as much interested in his story, which was one of the saddest story’s I had ever heard, and to this day am still trying to figure out.
It’s hard to pick a favorite track from this album, but, for many, it’s "Blues Run the Game," which would be covered by many more famous musicians besides Drake, such as; Simon and Garfunkel, Sandy Denny, John Renbourne, and Al Stewart, among others. I would discover that Paul Simon had produced his album and that the two of them, along with Art Garfunkel, had been London flatmates. I would also discover that he had survived a horrific elementary school fire, been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot in the eye by a NYC thug, and ended up homeless on the streets of NY, where he would later die tragically of pneumonia. And that there was even a picture of a young Jackson with Elvis whom his mother had brought him to meet to help cheer him up after the fire!
The songs "Kimbie" and "Just Like Anything” were two more of my favorites, but it’s hard to pin down just one, as the entire album, to me, still sounds timeless.Whatever happened to Jackson C. Frank? I guess the world will never know, but his lone album will forever live on.