Frank Bey, dubbed “master of the art of the blues”, is currently in the wake of a successful international tour and has decided to bring his talents back to our County. Frank first captivated local crowds over 17 years ago in Cape May at the current location of Cabanas Beach Bar & Grill. A few years later, he played a series of gigs at The Grand Hotel. Next, came the Congress Hall Ballroom April through December, every weekend. Frank has only the fondest memories of his Congress Hall performance, stating that he truly “never had a bad night” in this venue. But his blues career first got its start decades before in his hometown of Millen, Georgia.
Bey’s God-given talent and incredibly smooth vocals were first discovered when he was at the tender age of 4. He began singing with his mother, a gospel singer, while growing up in Millen, and in a short time had acquired the lead vocalist role in a small gospel quartet called the Rising Sons.
In the ‘60s, Frank continued to sing throughout the Southeast U.S. during his teenage years and took advantage of an opportunity to tour with the Otis Redding Review. Frank later joined Archie Jenkins and the Incredible Saxtons, touring throughout the U.S., Spain and Canada. In the ’70s, Frank was finally within reach of a major record deal after James Brown discovered the band Frank had recently constructed titled Moorish Vanguard. Brown was to take the band’s single to the label to secure the deal, but through a series of miscommunications, the single was simultaneously released to major radio stations throughout the region. When Bey’s band members heard the single being played on the radio while on the road to a show, they feared that Bey had kept them in the dark on his plans. “At that point, the band was almost like a family group,” he recalls. “One of them hatched this idea and all of them went for it. They immediately thought I had made a deal with Brown without them. They left me down south, taking the motor home and everything,” recounts Frank. He made his way back to Philadelphia, but was disillusioned by his experience and ready to leave the business. “I had put all my heart into that band…All was lost at that point.”
Frank left the industry in 1977 and “wiped my hands of the music business for 17 years,” he explains. In ’94, Bey invested in a Philadelphia bar and restaurant that he titled Smith’s Bar & Lounge. He hired a number of jazz musicians to fill the lounge’s lineup, but Frank found that these “smooth jazz” sounds weren’t always what his patrons wanted to hear. “When people work all week, they want to hear something more lively that they can kick up their heels to,” he explains. Frank stepped in and provided his patrons with just that. This marked his re-entrance into the biz and his splash onto the Philadlephia jazz scene. Frank’s performances were immediately embraced, and he “decided to come back to performing.”
Bey’s debut album, which premiered in 1998, was entitled “Steppin’ Out.” In 2000, he released a single, “I Wanna See You Soon.” Shortly after its release, Frank suffered kidney failure and was forced to take another break from music. However, after receiving a transplant in 2004, Frank returned, collaborating with San Franciscan guitarist Anthony Paule.
In 2013, the duo released their their second album titled “Soul for Your Blues”. The album was met with rave reviews and the two were quickly booked for a number of international jazz festivals throughout the 2014 year in Canada, Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium. But before departing on this tour, Frank performed at last year’s Cape May Jazz Festival where he was met with a standing ovation and played an encore for adoring fans.
Today, Frank is enjoying a short lived period of rest prior to his next international tour. He’ll be doing “three times as much travel” this upcoming year, but is offering Cape May County fans one last chance to catch him live before summer’s end. Accompanied by Don Shough, Thomas Jefferson on drums, Tony Jones on bass, and Sark on the harmonica, Bey will appear at Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grill every Thursday throughout the month of August. The setlist includes a variety of old favorites from his early days in Cape May as well as some highlights from Bey’s latest album. Frank believes the show features a harmonious mélange of soul, blues, and ballads. Catch one of Bey’s exclusive Beach Creek performances before the month’s end for a moving experience of this world-class jazz vocalist’s incredible talent. It’s so exiting to be doing what you love and to have people really, really loving every moment of it. They can’t get enough of me, and I can’t get enough of it,” Frank finishes.
By Meg Kummer