Joe Franks is ‘radio noir’

History Podcast Meets Joe Frank

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 NPR came out with their own version of Star Wars.  

In the afternoons, I would go to the 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. We still had a fan down there though.  I would sit on a green cloth covered chair that would swivel 380 degrees while this incredibly weird NPR show would broadcast dramatic narratives 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 have no idea if I was listening to Joe Frank.  Its only after reading Steve Carrey’s email that I put two and two together.  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.  The man 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…”with all these heavy weights, what did I do?”  It’s his voice, 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 a 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 news format was the thing.  He wrote odd stories with his voice.    

I don’ t claim to have the style and magic of Joe Frank.  I admit I am humbled by the comparison.  I just 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 a voice coming out of the dark.  I was too young, and too stupid to see a future, but Joe Frank painted possibilities.  

A.P. Styleguide Delenda

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