By James Calemine
The quiet droning sound of Frank Edwards’ Chicken Raid resembles a blues mantra from a man who dedicated his 90-year old life to music. Edwards actively played the blues for nearly 80 years, from 1923 until 2002. Frank Edwards ranks as one of Atlanta’s greatest bluesmen.
Born on March 20, 1909, in Washington, Georgia, Edwards left home at age 14 for Saint Augustine, Florida, where he learned guitar from blues great Tampa Red. In time, Edwards became a formidable harp player. Traveling by bus and train in the late 30’s, Edwards’ first recording session was 1941 for Regal in Atlanta. He recorded a full-length LP on the TRIX label in 1973.
In 1995, Music Maker president Tim Duffy discovered Frank Edwards. Edwards once said of Duffy, “Tim Duffy is a pretty fair fellow, bout the straightest one I met yet. Don’t none of the record companies believe in paying much. Most of them are deadbeats, cheaters, and swindlers. They don’t pay nothing, but they make good money.”
Since then, Edwards recorded with Duffy and various other Music Maker artists such as Cootie Stark, John Ferguson, and Daniel “Mudcat” Dudeck. Five of these songs were recorded in 1996 with the aforementioned Music maker musicians.
These songs on Chicken Raid were culled from different eras of his career. The composition selection offers a balance between his oldest and latest recording augmented by a clear, coherent sound quality. In 1939, Edwards recorded “Three Women blues”. “Sweet Man Blues” was recorded in 1941. It remains unknown when “Terraplane Blues” and the last song on the CD, “We got To Get together”, were recorded, adding a bit more mystery to this classic collection. During those years his friends in Atlanta were Blind Willie McTell, Curly Weaver, and buddy Moss. Edwards played Atlanta juke joints, fish fries, and roadhouses until he faded into obscurity for thirty years.
On the day Edwards died, March 22, 2002, he recorded the final song for his last session in South Carolina, and suffered heart failure in the backseat of the car that drove him home to Atlanta. Chicken Raid represents a classic American album by another great Georgia bluesman.