For The Sake Of The Song: Bob Frank “Red Neck, Blue Collar”

Memphis legend Jim Dickinson called Bob Frank “The greatest songwriter you never heard”, having known him from the early ‘60s Memphis music scene. While Bob Frank styled himself as a folk musician he wrote his own songs that fit perfectly with the folk songs of old even though they looked at contemporary issues. While Dylan was clearly an influence in the early days, Bob Frank’s songs were simpler in their language, looking back to the roots of folk songs, rather than forward to the emerging psychedelia, much like Johnny Cash and Ian Tyson. His songs got him a contract with Vanguard Records and he recorded one eponymous album in 1972 in Nashville before moving to San Francisco and leaving the music industry after refusing to play any songs at his debut album launch arranged by Vanguard. Though he never stopped writing songs, it wasn’t until 2001 that he started releasing albums again. From 2001 until his death in 2019 he released various albums, including collaborations with Jim Dickinson and John Murry.

His 2004 album, ‘Pledge Of Allegiance’, was recorded at home with just his acoustic guitar and harmonica which put the songs front and centre. ‘Red Neck, Blue Collar’ is the lead track and shows his support for working people. The language and imagery are simple but never condescending, and Frank shows true empathy for a class of people who are often misunderstood and misrepresented, particularly in the current political climate in a divided America. Bob Frank is still the troubadour on ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and while you can imagine him playing ‘Red Neck, Blue Collar’ in some ‘60s coffee house, a young Bob Frank wouldn’t have been able to bring the real-life experience and insight that is at the heart of the song, When Bob Frank left the music business in the ‘70s to live in California and raise a family it is rumoured he became a ditch digger, and it this personal experience that so clearly informed his songwriting for ‘Red Neck, Blue Collar’.

Bob Frank’s original comeback albums can be difficult to find and expensive to buy, but Memphis International Records released a compilation album in 2008 covering his 21st Century releases which is readily available, and appropriately titled ‘Red Neck, Blue Collar’.

“Red neck, blue collar, paycheck a few dollars                                                                                                                                       

You wave old glory but it’s the same old story

The rock on which this nation stands

From sea to shiny sea, they build it with their hands”.

About Martin Johnson 401 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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