Frank Biner, blues & soul singer, guitar player and songwriter - who was a vital part of (not only) the Oakland music scene - died of a heart attack May 30, 2001. Far too early for a man at the age of 50.
Frank, who was born in Milwaukie, Winsconsin, started his career in Chicago with the band The Little Boy Blues in the middle of the 60s. With this band he recorded one single "Great Train Robbery/Season Of The Witch" (Ronko 6996) in 1967. He sang lead vocals and played guitar. This is also true for "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" another song by The Little Boy Blues, which was released on the compilation "Early Chicago" (Happy Tiger HT 107) in 1971. All of these tracks can be found on the The Little Boy Blues' re-released 1968 album "In The Woodland Of Weir" (Acid Symposium, 2001), featuring all their early singles. Frank Biner left The Little Boy Blues sometime before they recorded their first and only album.
|In the late 60s Frank migrated to San Francisco and became a member of the growing East Bay Funk Scene - sharing many bookings with bands like Tower Of Power or even Clover. In the middle of the 70s Frank was not only singing background vocals on Tower of Power's albums "In The Slot" and "Ain't Nothin' Stoppin' Us Now" - he also co-wrote five songs featured on these albums with Steve 'Doc' Kupka and Emillio Castillo. One being "You're So Wonderful, So Marvelous". Another song written at that time was "Simple As That" which - although recorded several times - never made it on one of Tower Of Power's albums during the 70s. The song was later released on Tower Of Power's best of compilation "What Is Hip?", though. It was also recorded by Huey Lewis and the News for their 1986 hit album "Fore!" and released as a single in 1987.|
During his Chicago days Frank became close friends with Mike Bloomfield and in 1981 he sang lead vocals on the song "Maudie" on Bloomfield's "Life In The Fast Lane" album. Mike Bloomfield strongly believed in Frank's outstanding talent. Ten years earlier in 1971, Bloomfield even wrote a letter of recommendation to help Frank find a recording label (the letter can be found on Frank Biner's web site - link underneath).
Concert with Frank Biner, 1967
Frank continued to play the local club circuit with his band the Nightshift (or the Soul Patrol) when he finally got 'discovered' by Christian Rannenberg a member of Germany's First Class Blues Band - leading straight to a record deal with the German Acoustic Music label. The liner notes of his first album "Mr. Frank Biner" give more detail:
The vocals of white blues artists are mostly not up to the standard of their playing. Muddy Waters has often been quoted as saying that a lot of whites can play the blues on their instruments real well, but will never be good blues singers. Well, for the most part, Muddy was right, but there are notable exceptions, especially on today's white blues scene. I am thinking of very capable blues vocalists such as Lou-Ann Barton, Curtis Salgado, Darrel Nulish or Kim Wilson. Or Frank Biner, who is not as well known as the others, but has an exceptional blues voice, in addition to his excellent guitar playing. He was spotted by Christian Rannenberg, the renowned German blues pianist, in a blues club in Oakland, and Chris immediately knew that this artist just had to be featured with his band.Frank Biner managed to record four solo albums before he died and all of them are showing his true talent. Three of them were recorded in Germany with the help of the First Class Blues Band and friends like Angela Brown. Only his third album was recorded in his hometown San Francisco, featuring many known Bay Area musicians. In addition to his solo albums Frank sang lead vocals on Steve 'Doc' Kupka's Stokeland Superband album "Kick It Up A Step!" (1999) and on Francis Rocco Prestia's solo album "Everybody On The Bus" (1999).
Frank Biner's success in the Californian music clubs is the result of long years of scuffling and "paying dues." He started out singing and playing in the late 60's, performing a variety of soul and r&b styles. In 1971 Michael Bloomfield described him in a letter of recommendation as "REAL GOOD; funky voice, real presence, charisma, call it what you may, but he's got it, no jive." (Biner later sang lead on Bloomfield's "Living In The Fast Lane" album.) During the 70's, the name Frank Biner frequently appeared among the composer credits of Tower Of Power's albums, for whom he also supplied backing vocals. The song "Simple As That", co-written with Tower Of Power's Steve Kupka and Emilio Castillo, was later succesfully covered by Huey Lewis & The News on their album "Fore" (1986).
The 1980's found Frank pursuing a solo career as a soul singer. Besides numerous club gigs, one of his singles even found its way into Billboard's "Top Singles Picks" - in the category "Black Music"! But Frank Biner's love for the blues never faltered, and within the last couple of years he has again been able to earn a living by playing his favorite music. And Frank's blues are not soft or souly, as one might expect from his past career. No, he sings'em dynamic, down and dirty. He shouts his mostly self-written lyrics out with the fervor of a TV preacher, and when the lights turn low, his voice still has the raspiness of years of tears ...
... Michael Bloomfield's words are still true: "Frank is the Real Thang!"
Frank will be missed!
"You can take the boy out of Oakland,
as everybody knows,
but that's about as far as it goes!"
('Let's Do Funk')
Frank Biner's Discography:
|I'm A Midnight Mover/|
I Got To Be Frank
(Windsor Records 1982)
|Side A: I'm A Midnight Mover|
Side B: I Got To Be Frank
"I Got To Be Frank" was written by Stephen Kupka and Frank Biner - produced by Stephen Kupka, Emilio Castillo with Frank Biner.
|Out of print!|
|First Class Blues Band|
Mr. Frank Biner
(Acoustic Music Records 1994)
|You're A Tease Baby -- Pack My Suitcase -- Don't Let Me See You Cry -- (I'm Your Teddy Bear -- Groove Me -- Seven Years -- I Know She Didn't Want Me -- Ooh Wee -- Frankie's Shuffle -- I'm Blue -- Personal Manager -- You Don't Know Me That Well -- (Gonna Have A) Funky Good Time|
Musicians: Frank Biner, Christian Rannenberg, Jan Hirte, Thomas Feldmann, Tommy Schneller, Kevin Du Vernay-Shipman, Tommie Harris
|Time To Move On|
(Acoustic Music Records 1996)
|Time To Move On -- She's Evil (Bad News) -- Footloose And Fancyfree -- Booze Breath Woman -- Keepin' Bad Company -- E'Nuff Is E'Nuff -- Jump This Morning -- Cologne Blues -- Thangs Just Happen That Way -- Slenda Brenda -- It's Easy To Get The Blues -- 19 Years Old -- Call My Brother -- Let Tommy Blow|
Musicians: Frank Biner, Angela Brown, Christian Rannenberg, Jan Hirte, Ollie Gee, Tommie Harris, Achim Lahrmann, Joachim Luhrmann, Keith Dunn, Tommy Schneller, Volker Winck, Uwe Nolopp
|Frankie B. Is Back In Town|
(Acoustic Music Records 1998)
|Like A Kid In A Candystore -- Frankie B. Is Back In Town -- It's Nice To See You Again -- Barely Hangin' In -- I Plead Insanity -- Try A Little Tenderness -- 8 Miles From Oakland -- Diamond Billy's Uptown Bar-B-Que -- I'm Guilty (Of Loving You) -- Little Money -- Ain't None So Blind -- Let's Twist|
Musicians: Frank Biner, Dan Armstrong, Francois Binet, Chris Burns, Dezon Claibourne, Bobby Cochrane, Kelvin Dixon, Herman Eberitzsch, Steve Evans, Mic Gillette, Steve "Doc" Kupka, Mark Lee, Marvin McFadden, Mike Peloguin, Tom Poole, Jim Pugh, Paul Reveli, Willie Riser, Stevie "Keys" Roseman, Karl Severeid, Norbert Stachel, Dave Stone, Robin Sylvester, Jeff Tamelier, Larry Vann, Joe Louis Walker
|Fixin' To Jam|
(Acoustic Music Records 2000)
|Oil And Water -- Lonesome Highway -- Lousiana On My Mind -- Down On San Pablo Ave -- Rebel -- Born On Broadway -- Little Miss Behaver -- Don't Answer The Door -- Old Home Week -- You Ain't All That -- Fixin' To Jam -- Brandy|
Musicians: Frank Biner, Horst "Crow" Bergmeyer, Andreas "Helmet" Mueller, Jan Hirte, Jockel Doelker, Tommy Schneller, Uwe Nollopp, Juergen Wieching, Doug Jay
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