Joe Frank Meets Ancient Rome Refocused

Classic blog post 

On the Ancient Rome Refocused Facebook page Steve Casey had a comment:

While listening to the latest show that dropped yesterday (“Nothing New Under the Sun. Get Over it.”) – it hit me, it’s like a history podcast meets Joe Frank. Very coool.

This struck a chord in me.  Why is that name familiar?  It was then a memory overtook me.  I remember sitting in my parent’s basement listening to this weird story teller weave a strange tale.  It had to be around the early 80s.  It was about the time that National Public Radio came out with their own version of Star Wars.  

In those days, so long ago, in the afternoons, I would head for my parents basement to escape the afternoon heat of the Chicago summer.   We did not have air conditioning at the time, and all the cool air was trapped below stairs in the basement.  I would sit on a green cloth covered chair that would swivel 380 degrees (loved that chair – played with it all through childhood).  To pass the time I would listen to this incredibly weird NPR show that would broadcast dramatic narratives of a very cool nature on strange and surreal subjects.   If I had to describe Joe Franks voice, it seemed to me like a  beat-poet in a New York coffee house (at least that’s how I imagined it).   At the time, I had no idea if I was listening to Joe Frank or not.  Its only after reading Steve Carrey’s email that I put two and two together. 

Conclusion:  “Yes, it had to be Joe Frank.”   

According to Wikipedia, Joe Frank was a French-born American writer, teacher, and radio performer known best for his often philosophical, humorous, surrealist, and sometimes absurd monologues and radio dramas he recorded often in collaboration with friends, actors, and family members.

It was storytelling on weed.  I say that as nicely as I can.  If I could have afford weed, and I knew how to get weed (I still don’t know), I would have sat in that green chair and smoked weed while Frank’s voice transported me to places I had yet to go. 

One episode dealt with a guy traveling to Bermuda.  I think he got hired by the hotel and stays on after his vacation ends.  The voice was magnetic.  It was a combination of narration, with music providing atmosphere. 

I searched the internet to find something on him.

Check out this link to soundcloud.  It is pure Joe Frank.  The narrator has a nightmare of waking up to a dinner party with a variety of dictators and political and private mass murderers.  It’s freakish, strange and weird, but that is Joe Frank.  His last line is sums up his fears…”with all these heavy weights, what did I do?”  It’s his voice that makes the segment while speaking over , and the music in the background that makes the piece.   

This is what I could find on Joe Frank on Wikipedia.

Frank received several awards, including a Peabody Award and two Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards, one for his acclaimed three-part series “Rent-a-Family.” Frank was also a Guggenheim Fellow.

End of Excerpt –

I make no secret that I love the sound of his voice, playing out a dramatic narrative.  Maybe I was born in the wrong decade.  The Golden Age of Radio may have been my era.  Joe Frank found his niche in an age where rock and roll radio and the afternoon drive news format was the thing.  Public Radio was probably the only remaining place for his weird narrations.  Podcasting he would of loved.  Unfortunately he is no longer with us, but his narrations can be heard on Soundcloud.      

I don’ t claim to have the style and magic of Joe Frank.  I admit I am humbled by the comparison.  I am just getting really, really nostalgic.  I still remember those hot – really hot – summer days sitting in the cool basement and being transported by his voice.

Funny how you can be influenced by something that you have forgotten. 

Mors est A.P. Style dux

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