Michael Frank’s fifty year journey on the “Blues Highway” led him on a path from devoted fan to harmonica player, artist manager, booking agent, biographer, record company founder and record producer.Moving to the blues Mecca of Chicago in 1972 Michael Frank befriended legendary blues-man Honeyboy Edwards to become his harmonica accompanist, manager, and booking agent. He booked Honeyboy and performed with him in a duo and four piece band in Chicago and at colleges, clubs, and festivals around the world. Michael also managed the careers of blues-men Jim Brewer and Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis.
Michael Frank founded Earwig Music in Chicago 1978 as a record label and artist management company. Michael Frank’s mission is introduce blues fans to the music of a wide range pioneering African American blues musicians like Honeyboy Edwards whose material was not previously recorded. Earwig Music has released 57 blues, jazz, gospel, and storytelling recordings by The Jelly Roll Kings, Honeyboy Edwards, Johnny Drummer, Big Jack Johnson, Jimmy Dawkins, Louisiana Red, Willie Kent, H-Bomb Ferguson, Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Jim Brewer, Homesick James, John Primer, Lil' Ed Williams, Lester Davenport, Johnny Ray, and Liz Mandville Greeson, Carl Arter. Tiny Irvin, Tim Wood, and the Gospel Trumpets . Michael Frank has also produced records for other labels. To promote its artists Earwig Music also produced and promoted many concert and club tours.
Michael Frank is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences (the Grammy Awards Sponsor) and the Blues Foundation Advisory Board. Michael produced the album “Ain't Gonna Worry” that won Johnny ″Yard Dog″ Jones the 1998 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist. The Blues Foundation honored Michael Frank with “the Keeping the Blues Alive Award in Artist Management” in January of 2008. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Blues Blast Awards in October 2011.
Finding the Blues Highway in Pittsburgh
Michael Frank was born in Pittsburgh on May 5, 1949. His father, Morton Frank, published the Family Weekly magazine and his mother was a historian who also sold real estate. Michael's first interest in blues was peaked as a teenager in the early 1960s by the British Invasion bands the Yardbirds, Animals and Rolling Stones. . Digging deeper into the blues he listened to the artists who inspired the British Invasion bands: Willie Dixon, Chester Burnett and McKinley Morganfield. Whilst in junior high school Michael began playing the blues harp and collecting blues records. In 1965 he saw Muddy Waters perform at a Pittsburgh Jazz Festival.
Studies along the Blues Highway
After graduating from Shadyside Academy in 1967 Michael studied Social Relations at Lehigh University. During his college years he collected hundreds of blues records buying entire catalogs wholesale. He made his maiden voyage to the blues clubs of Southside of Chicago in 1970 on a three day weekend. On his first night he saw Junior Wells, Sammy Lawhorn, Muddy Waters Jr. Lefty Dizz, James Cotton, and Buddy Guy at Theresa's tavern. He also visited the Jazz Record Mart store where he met owners Bob Koester and Bruce Iglauer (the founder of Alligator Records. Michael matriculated from Lehigh with a B.A in 1972.
The Fast Lane of the Blues Highway.
After his college graduation Michael Frank moved to Chicago taking a job as a social worker in child welfare at the Lawrence Hall School for Boys. In his free time he pursued his blues avocation hanging out in Chicago blues clubs and meeting blues musicians. After his college graduation Michael Frank moved to Chicago taking a job as a social worker in child welfare. He quickly met and became lifelong friends Delta bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Jim Brewer, Lester Davenport, Kansas City Red and Sunnyland Slim. Honeyboy" Edwards was the last of the Delta bluesmen who had actually played Robert Johnson with Johnson
Performing With and Managing HoneyBoy Edwards
In 1973 Michael Frank he began playing harmonica with David "Honeyboy" Edwards appearing with him as a duo. He also booked and managed Honeyboy. In 1976 they formed the four piece Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band that played in Chicago and at clubs, colleges, and festivals across North America. After the Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band disbanded in 1985 due to the illness of two members, Michael Frank and Honeyboy Edwards continued on as a duo playing in the USA, Canada, Europe, Japan and South America. Frank co-authored of Edwards' oral history "The World Don't Owe Me Nothing" that was published in 1997.
Michael Frank also booked and managed guitarist Jim Brewer until Jim died in May, 1989.
Stops on the Delta and at the Jazz Record Mart
Furthering his blues addiction he made trips to Mississippi and Louisiana to hear juke joint musicians such as Frank Frost and the Jelly Roll Kings
Starting in May of 1967 Michael Frank took a weekend day job selling blues and jazz records at the famed Jazz Record Mart store in Chicago. He worked at JRM until 1978 where he spent most of his pay on blues records. Bob Koester, owner of the Jazz Record Mart, encouraged Michael Frank to start his own record label as other JRM alumni had. Bruce Iglauer founded Alligator Records, .Bruce Kaplan started Flying Fish Records, and Jerry DelGiudice was co-owner of Blind Pig Records.
Building his own Road - Eearwig Music
Taking Bob Koester's advice, Frank founded the Earwig Music Company in 1978. His goal was to record and promote the music of little known blues artists. Michael's sister suggested the name "Earwig" to symbolize a bug that lays the "eggs" of the blues inside the ears of blues fans. Michael kept his full time day job in child welfare and began recording blues artists in his free time. The first band he produced was the Mississippi-based blues trio Jelly Roll Kings with harmonica/piano player Frank Frost, Sam Carr on drums, and guitarist Big Jack Johnson. He recorded them in a Memphis studio and released their album "The Juke Joint Down". His second release was "Old Friends" the Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band, Floyd Jones and Kansas City Red. Since 1978 Earwig has released over 57 albums.
Michael Frank continuing his social work career earning Masters in Social Work at George Williams College from 1980 to 1982. In the 1980s he was a child abuse investigator for the State of Illinois.
Michael Frank finally went into the music business full time in March of 2005 Michael left child welfare job to book and tour with Honeyboy Edwards in Germany. Michael and Honeyboy performed over 75 shows annually after that point until Honeyboy's retirement at age 96. "Honeyboy" Edwards received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2010.