Catch a boat to England, baby, maybe to Spain
Wherever I have gone, wherever I've been and gone,
Wherever I have gone, the blues are all the same...


Jackson Carey Frank was a folk musician whose life was wrought with depression and medical problems. Although he only released one album, his music has influenced a large number of contemporary folk musicians. He was born in Buffalo, New York in 1943. When he was eleven, his school’s furnace exploded during music lesson. It killed eighteen of his classmates and left him severely injured. Fellow classmates had to use snow to put the fire out on his back. He spent the next seven months recuperating from burns in the hospital and, during his convalescence, learned to play the guitar. By sixteen, Jackson was performing rock ’n’ roll with a drummer and cultivating an interest in folk music. He had been planning on majoring in Journalism at Gettysburg College, but his path was diverted when, at the age of 21, he received about $80,000 in insurance compensation due to the school fire. It wasn’t long before Jackson was on his way to London, England.

...Try another city, baby, another town
Wherever I have gone, wherever I've been and gone,
Wherever I have gone, the blues come following down...

By April of 1965, Jackson had written “Blues Run the Game,” his first song. He became increasingly involved in London’s Soho district and had little trouble fitting into the folk scene there. He frequented Les Cousins, a popular music venue located in the basement of a Greek restaurant. It was here that Jackson thrived, amongst Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and others. Local social worker Judith Piepe, a frequenter of Les Cousins, provided lodging for many a folk singer. Her entourage included the likes of Paul Simon, Al Stewart and, of course, Jackson C. Frank. It was through Piepe that Jackson met Simon and Garfunkel. After listening to his songs, Simon offered to produce Jackson’s first album, which Jackson immediately accepted. Jackson’s eponymous debut was recorded in less than three hours and featured Al Stewart on guitar for one of the tracks. The album was released in December of 1965. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the end already for Jackson. It wasn't long before the album stopped selling. As a result, Jackson's songwriting output ceased and he eventually moved to Woodstock, New York in 1967, returning to journalism as editor of the Woodstock Weekly. He also married a former fashion model.

...Living is a gamble baby, loving's much the same
Wherever I have played, whenever I throw them dice,
Wherever I have played, the blues have run the game...

It was in 1968 that Al Stewart, upon visiting Jackson, encouraged him to return to music. As a result, Jackson did some touring, mostly regurgitating his 1965 material. The tour did not last long however, and soon Jackson had returned to Woodstock, as “personal and private affairs forced [him] to break off in the middle of work and return to the States.”¹ Not long after the tour had ended, Jackson divorced his wife and his son died of cystic fibrosis. Subsequently, Jackson was committed to a mental hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. In the early eighties, Jackson moved back to Buffalo to live with his parents. But it wasn’t long before his mother was in the hospital with open heart surgery. In a spontaneous attempt to evade his troubles, Jackson headed to New York in 1984 in search of cohort Paul Simon. But he didn't find him, and thanks to several mental hospital incarcerations, featuring improper medication and unresolved medical problems, he spent many years confused and homeless in the streets of New York.

...Maybe tomorrow, honey, someplace down the line,
I'll wake up older, so much older, mama,
I'll wake up older, and I'll just stop all my tryin'...

Jim Abbott, a folk music fan living in Woodstock, had come across Jackson's name several times in various places. He mentioned Jackson to a teacher acquaintance, who had happened to receive a letter from Jackson, who was in search of salvation, very recently. At the time Jackson was residing in a Queens' home for adults, and Abbott went to visit him:

When I went down I hadn't seen a picture of him except for his album cover. Then he was thin and young. When I went to see him, there was this heavy guy hobbling down the street, and I thought that can't possibly be him... I just stopped and said, 'Jackson?' and it was him. My impression was, 'Oh my God,' It was almost like the Elephant Man or something. He was so unkempt, dishevelled. He had nothing. It was really sad. We went and had lunch and went back to his room. It almost made me cry, because here was a 50-year-old man and all he had to his name was a beat-up old suitcase and a broken pair of glasses. I guess his caseworker had given him a $10 guitar, but it wouldn't stay in tune. It was one of those hot summer days. He tried to play Blues Run The Game for me, but his voice was pretty much shot.²

Before leaving for Woodstock, where he would be accomodated for (thanks to the generosity of Jim Abbott), Jackson was shot point-blank in a drive-by shooting across the street from his Queens residence. As a result of this random act of violence, Jackson lost his left eye. Back in Woodstock, he was provided for and given a guitar with which he could record new songs. In 1995, his publicity was increased thanks to articles written about him in Folk Roots and Dirty Linen. In 1996, his album, renamed Blues Run the Game, was released by Mooncrest, and featured five previously unreleased 1975 studio recordings.

Jackson C. Frank died on March 3, 1999. Cover songs of Jackson’s material have been recorded by Nick Drake, Sandy Denny (Jackson’s girlfriend for a period of time), Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Simon and Garfunkel, Al Stewart, Counting Crows and others. In 2003, the Blues Run the Game album was re-released, including the material that Jackson had recorded since his recovery.

No one knows me in the morning
No one sees me go walking by
And if I listen, why no one answers
The wind can only echo
A goodbye



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¹ A 1978 letter to Folk News from Jackson C. Frank
² "Game, Set, Blues."

Sources:
Harper, Colin. Blues Run the Game linear notes. June 2003.
"Game, Set, Blues." Folk Roots. Issue #147/148. August/September 1995.
http://www.blueangel.demon.co.uk/jcfrank/froots.html.
McGrath, T.J. "Lost Singer Found." Dirty Linen. Issue #57. April/May 1995.
http://www.dirtynelson.com/linen/feature/57frank.html.
http://www.blueangel.demon.co.uk/jcfrank/index.html

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