Joe L. Frank

(April 15, 1900-May 4, 1952)
1989 Inductee Alabama Music Hall of Fame (John Herbert Orr Pioneer Award)

Limestone County native Joseph L. “J.L.” Frank was the first major promoter and manager on the country music scene in Nashville, Tennessee.

Born in Mount Rozell, Frank grew up in Giles County, Tennessee, near the Alabama border.  He worked in the steel mills of Birmingham as a young man before moving to the coal mines of Illinois.  At the age of twenty-three, Frank headed for Chicago, where he eventually became a booking agent for radio stars Fibber McGee and Molly, Gene Autry and other popular entertainers of the day.

During the mid-1930s, Frank relocated his base of operation to Louisville, Kentucky, briefly promoting Autry before the singing cowboy’s move to Hollywood.  He also booked such acts as fiddler Clayton McMichen and Frankie More and His Log Cabin Boys, a country act that included Frank’s son-in-law, future Grand Ole Opry star and “Tennessee Waltz” songwriter Pee Wee King.  When King went out on his own, Frank continued promoting him around Knoxville, Tennessee, and the surrounding region.

In 1937, Frank helped secure King and his band, the Golden West Cowboys, a coveted spot on the Opry.  By this time, Frank had already met country singer Roy Acuff while working in the Knoxville area.  In addition to helping Acuff follow King’s example on the Opry in 1938, Frank suggested that Acuff change his band’s name from the Crazy Tennesseans to the nobler-sounding Smoky Mountain Boys.

Frank’s talents as a promoter included determination as well as a professional sense of showmanship.  The so-called “Flo Ziegfeld of Country Music” was instrumental in elevating Opry acts from small-town theaters and schools to the larger big-city auditoriums, and he promoted the early careers of such future country music superstars as Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl.  His detailed and thorough behind-the-scenes work was every bit as significant to their success as the sold-out package shows he organized.

Grand Ole Opry veteran and fellow Alabama native Alton Delmore of the legendary Delmore Brothers once described Frank as “a clean-cut, neat fellow, handsome fellow, with a little mustache and a big Texas hat. … He always had his heart in his work, and he always had a good word for the down-and-out musicians.  … He was an excellent promoter, and he knew just what he wanted and he always got it.”

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 

Joseph Lee “J. L.” Frank was the first major promoter and manager on the Nashville country music scene. He grew up in Giles County, Tennessee, near the Alabama border, and worked in Birmingham steel mills as a young man before moving to the coal mines of Illinois. At twenty-three, Frank headed for Chicago, where he eventually became a booking agent for radio stars Fibber McGee & Molly, Gene Autry, and other entertainers.

During the mid-1930s, Frank centered his operations in Louisville, Kentucky, for a time, promoting Autry briefly before Autry’s move to Hollywood. Other acts then under Frank’s wing were fiddler Clayton McMichen and Frankie More & His Log Cabin Boys, then including Frank’s son-in-law and future Grand Ole Opry star Pee Wee King. In mid-decade, King struck out on his own, and Frank helped promote him around the Knoxville area. In 1937 Frank helped land King & His Golden West Cowboys a berth on the Opry. By this time Frank had met Roy Acuff around Knoxville and helped him follow King’s example in 1938. It was Frank who suggested that Acuff change his band’s name from Crazy Tennesseans to the nobler-sounding Smoky Mountain Boys.

Determined in his efforts, with a professional sense of show business flair, Frank was instrumental in boosting Opry acts from small-town theaters and schools to big-city auditoriums. Frank’s behind-the-scenes activities were just as significant as the sellout package shows he organized. He helped promote the early careers of both Eddy Arnold and Minnie Pearl. Generous to a fault, he lent a helping hand to many young musicians, not only in business matters but also in personal ones. Opry veteran Alton Delmore of the Delmore Brothers described Frank as “a clean-cut, neat fellow, handsome, with a little mustache and a big Texas hat. . . . He always had his heart in his work, and he always had a good word for the down-and-out musician. . . . He was an excellent promoter and he knew just what he wanted and he always got it.” Thus, Frank’s death, at the peak of his career, was widely regarded as a great loss to the industry. Frank was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967. - John Rumble

- Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.

Source: http://countrymusichalloffame.org/full-list-of-inductees/view/joseph-lee-frank

 

J.L. (JOE) FRANK

 

Apr. 15, 1900-May 4, 1952

Pioneer country promoter

His method of combining broadcasting and personal appearances moved country entertainers from rural schoolhouses into city auditoriums and coliseums. He inspired and developed the careers of Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Eddy Arnold, Pee Wee King, Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb and many more. This unselfish, compassionate man was one of the industry’s most loved members.

Source: http://www.cobbusa.com/cmhfame.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a songwriter, Frank wrote the country music standard “Chapel on the Hill” as well as “Sundown and Sorrow” and “My Main Trail is Yet to Come.”

At the peak of his career, Frank grew ill during a business trip to Chicago in 1952 and died at the age of 52.  He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967.

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