Frank with old friend Buddy Guy, Hampton Casino Ballroom 8/27/04
On August 27 we drove Frank up to the Casino Ballroom in Hampton, NH once again, this time to see Buddy Guy. Buddy had befriended Frank back in the early years when Frank was driving B.B. When we got to the venue, I spoke to Buddy Guy's road manager and introduced Frank. The road manager went backstage, talked to Buddy Guy, and came back to tell us that we could go backstage before the show. As in right now. (The show was a double bill with Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy was on first).
Once again, my knees started to knock. We followed him and a security guy behind the little barricade, past a rack of Buddy's trademark polkadot Stratocaster guitars, and into a little tiny room. There was a purple velour chair, on which Buddy Guy was sitting. We walked in and there was barely room to maneuver the wheelchair. Buddy was stylin'. He was wearing a monochrome striped black suit, white and black wingtips, and a white hat. On one hand he had a large ring that spelled out "Blues" in diamonds. On the other hand was a ring with "BG" in diamonds.
"Frank! What you doing in that chair? Ain't you pimping no more? The last time I saw John Lee he was in a chair but on the stage he was dancing around. He said he couldn't be seen in a chair in front of them ladies." He asked Frank how he was, and Frank said fine. He said that he's living in a hospital, and we explained that it was a nursing home. Buddy asked if they treat him well there and he kinda shrugged. Buddy continued "Well, we ain't gotta talk about that."
They started talking about a lot of mutual friends who had passed away, and Buddy told Frank to be thankful that he's still around. I asked if I could get a picture and Buddy posed with an arm around Frank. Buddy seemed genuinely happy to see Frank. He introduced Frank to some of his entourage, saying that Frank used to drive around B. when B. was "like this" (holds his hands up to indicate skinny figure). I asked when he started driving B.B. because Frank couldn't remember. Buddy said it must have been around '56 or '57. .
Members of his entourage came in and said that we needed to leave so that Buddy could prepare for his set. But Buddy was very generous with his time, and continued talking to Frank, insisting that we could stay longer. Craig and I started to get a bit antsy, knowing that Buddy had to get on stage very soon. Buddy signed a CD for us, and we thanked him and said goodbye, wheeling Frank back out to our seats.
A few minutes later, Buddy came on stage and played an awesome set. Partway through the set, he stopped and said "Throughout my life, ladies and gentlemen I've met some very great people who helped me with my career. And the first time I ever met B.B. King" (the audience applauds) "he had a bus driver and his name is Frank and they brought him in in a wheelchair tonight and he said 'I had to come and see you Buddy'." He had the audience give Frank a hand. He asked where Frank was sitting. I stood up and pointed to him, and Frank waved. Everyone around us was waving and cheering. And then, as if that wasn't enough, Buddy Guy then asks for a hand for "the people that brought him here tonight". And there was another big round of applause. "They rolled him in and I said Frank, you know when I met you there was a lot of blues players living that's no longer with us and you still and you still here so let's be thankful, Frank, alright?" He asked for another hand for Frank, which the audience heartily provided. "And I'm gonna do this for Frank anyway." He launched into a great version of "Drivin' Wheel".
From that point on, people were coming up to Frank, shaking his hand, patting him on the shoulder. A man that used to live in the same building, some other acquaintances, a girl who worked in the gas station 30 years ago and whom he brought to see B.B.. a guy who "plays bass". (During Robert Cray's set he was onstage and turned out to be Robert Cray's bassist!) Frank was truly touched, and wanted to thank Buddy for such a nice tribute. I told the drummer to pass along his thanks. As we left and crossed the street to the car we heard someone say "There's Frank!" and pointed in our direction. Frank was a rock star that night, and he talked about it frequently for the rest of his life.