Early into my freshman year at Western Michigan University, my friend Ian lent me a cassette tape. Ian went to UofM and had discovered a local artist he thought I’d like. The tape was Hokey Smoke by Frank Allison and the Odd Sox. About four notes into the bass line for “Lou D’Lou’s Hamburger Man” I knew I had found a new band to follow. I started playing the tape loudly and it led to a knock on my door. It was Alex, who lived down the hall from me. I had noticed Alex before because he was hard to miss. He had large, curly blonde hair, rode around campus on a bike that looked like it was built for Mini-Me, and later that year I saw his band play in a cramped basement. The only thing I remember about his band is that it took me two minutes to recognize their cover of “Hurts So Good” and the drummer was naked. But I digress.
Alex was from Chelsea and he couldn’t believe someone on his floor was playing Frank Allison music. He complimented me on my good taste and was on his way. Later, I also found that Jeremy down the hall was also a Frank Allison fan. He was also from Chelsea and destined to form a band (Circus McGurkis) featuring a clothed drummer. But I digress again.
For the next year I saw Frank a handful of times both at clubs and coffee shops. He was a great performer known for telling stories in the middle of songs. His following was small but we all agreed his songs were among the best in existence. They were folk/pop/rock tunes that revolved around squabbles with girlfriends, not being able to pay bills, having a crush on your co-worker, and other things I strongly related to. He had a great ear for a hook and none of his songs felt phoney.
In short order, though, Frank disappeared. I kept listening to the albums but there was no news about live shows and his new CD seemed stuck in limbo. Later I heard that Frank had developed a throat problem that didn’t allow him to sing anymore and his career as a musician was over. I felt terrible hearing this because it was obvious that he loved what he did and really appreciated those who supported him. He once offerred to let me crash at his place when I drove out to see him in Ann Arbor on a whim (I wound up driving back to K’azoo instead).
Several years ago, I saw that Frank was on the web. He had started a family, his voice had returned, and he was writing and recording music at his house in Clinton. He has a new music workshop on the site where you can see him strum, hum, and blurb new melodies he’s come up with plus get news on what else he’s done.
Frank is a real talent who got sidetracked before he had a chance to reach a greater audience. Check him out sometime. You can check out his music at www.cdbaby.com. I suggest listening to samples of Hokey Smoke and Monkey Business, which in my opinion are his two best albums. His personal website is at http://www.frankallisonmusic.com/