Sunken Treasure: Frankie Lee Sims’ Masterly Texas Blues, 1953-1957

By the time Frankie Lee Sims got to make his first proper recordings in 1953 he had almost four decades of hard living under his belt

 

FOLDER_WEBBy the time Frankie Lee Sims got to make his first proper recordings in 1953 he had almost four decades of hard living under his belt. He was one of 13 children born into poverty in New Orleans to a mother and father who were both accomplished guitarists.

When the family moved to Marshall, Texas, in the early 1920s, Frankie’s own feeling for music was sparked by encounters with his cousin Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins whose guitar prowess had been nurtured by another cousin, Texas Alexander.

Sims saw the guitar as his one chance of a ticket out of penury. These restless dreams saw him leave home at 12 to pursue a life as an itinerant musician. He spent the 1930s drifting around the Lone Star State picking up gigs in local dances.

After four years in the US marines he returned to his music with renewed focus and by the late 1940s had established himself in the Dallas blues scene where T-Bone Walker was king. After a couple of false starts in 1948 and ’49 a recording career finally materialised in 1953 courtesy of Speciality records.

His first singles for the label are where this anthology begins. As starts go, it’s audacious. His deeply gutteral voice makes an immediate impression on Lucy Mae Blues. There’s a kind of urgency relatable to the fire in his belly after so many years on the sidelines.

His singles for Speciality met with mixed reaction, however, and if it weren’t for the intervention of the Ace label in 1957 the story could have ended there. Instead he got to expand his sound to include piano, bass, drums and two saxophones.

The Ace recordings are the sound of Sims on full power. The more raucous setting suits him. In the midst of this stormy weather he stays cool. The backing of a full band propels him into navigating the kind of deep grooves that demand attention from dancing feet.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.