It all started in February of 1983.Church had just ended and my aunt, Evelina Palmer was still playing on the church piano. She made it look so easy so I asked her to teach me to play, but I wasn’t expecting to start THAT DAY. She scheduled my lessons for 1 hour every Sunday after church but mysteriously they ended after the 3rd week, so if you really do the math I had 3 hours of piano training. The seed was planted deep inside me, it just took for God to use someone to water it so the flower could begin to grow. By the summer of 1985 I was playing in clubs around Cleveland, Ohio embraced by all the veteran musicians. I couldn’t seem to get any favor from the school of the performing arts I was attending at the time, but instead found favor with club owners. In 1988, I started a trio and we gigged all throughout Ohio and Erie, Pa. By this time, I was attending Glenville High School and was finding favor with the principle, who allowed me to leave early everyday as long as I stayed on top of my school work and reported to my homeroom class every morning by 7:30am. I also found favor with the Cleveland Teacher’s Union who hired us for many of their functions.
I was the youngest musician on the scene at the time so other band members supplied my transportation until I saved up enough loot to buy my own hoopty. Of course, my mother had no idea I owned a car. The DMV didn’t either, given the fact that I hadn’t owned a driver’s license yet. I was ALWAYS working. Some days I would leave school by 12 noon to work on cars with a man named Jesse Ramsey (he was my mentor at the time), take a nap for a few hours, tweak my Fender Rhodes, throw it in the trunk of my car then go play my gig. There were many nights after gigging I wouldn’t get home until 4:00am, because I would drive down E.72nd street (and St. Clair) to Lake Erie to write songs, study music or just simply enjoy the quiet.
After graduating from Glenville High I was asked to be in the band for The Rude Boys, a male R&B vocal group signed to Atlantic Records thanks to Gerald LeVert, which lead to my first touring gig. They eventually appointed me as their musical director and we toured throughout the summer of 1991. When the tour took us through Philadelphia I had the opportunity to meet D.J. Jazzy Jeff who, over time, talked me into moving there. The tour ended in September so I packed up the few things I owned and left Ohio to find my place in the world. Once I got settled in Philly I was introduced to one of the greatest songwriting duos in music history. I’m speaking of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who put me on payroll as a musician in their camp at Philadelphia International Records. I moved literally down the street from the hit-making headquarters so that I could walk to work every day.
Living in Philly left a lasting impression on me, one I’ll never forget. While working on a session with Gamble & Huff I met a gentleman by the name of Steve McKeever who was scouting talent for a new label he masterminded called MoJazz, a jazz -oriented label of Motown Records.
I performed live for him on the spot. Afterwards he listened to a recording of a song I had written and poorly recorded on a Tascam four track recorder entitled “Time and Time Again”. Papers were signed almost immediately and a trip to Los Angeles to visit the company followed shortly after. Before I knew it LA had quickly become my home. A lot of business changes took place during the few years I was at MoJazz and after being at the label with 2 albums worth of unreleased material, I decided it was time to let it go.
It was nothing personal…just politics and money which caused me to get lost in the shuffle.
While waiting on my letter of release from MoJazz I toured as a musician for Teena Marie and Philip Bailey until I got a call from an employee at the company saying that Branford Marsalis was looking for a male vocalist for a band he was putting together called Buckshot LeFonque. I looked at it as another disappointment in the making, but I took the chance anyway. I recorded the song “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” as the demo he requested and ended up getting the gig. Before I knew it I was in the band. It just goes to show that leaving Motown/MoJazz wasn’t personal because it was Steve McKeever, who at the time was president of MoJazz, that recommended me for the job because he felt I was capable of getting the job done….THANKS, STEVE!
With Buckshot LeFonque I recorded two albums (Buckshot LeFonque & Music Evolution) and toured all over the globe which led to my 2nd recording contract with Columbia Records. In the summer of 1999 I recorded what turned out to be my debut album. “Love Stories” was born on March 14, 2000. Great record, no support. Once again I found myself lost in the shuffle because of the issues of politics and money. After a couple of years of sitting on the Columbia shelf, I asked to be released and without hesitation they released me from my contract. They, as well as Motown could easily have tied me up, but God’s favor on my life didn’t allow them to.
After my past experiences with two major record companies (one being black, the other white) I felt that maybe I needed to be with an independent company, a smaller company that would be able to give more time and dedication to their artist(s). That opportunity came in 2002 when I signed to Malibu Sessions. I ended up being the only artist on their roster. It was then that I would go on to record my second album “The Truth” which was desperately sought after by America but so easy to find in Europe and Japan. The company only licensed the album to “Expansion Music” (England) and “Toy’s Factory” (Japan) instead of partnering with a major distributor which caused America and other countries to have to pay as much as $35.00 for the CD. As if THAT wasn’t enough, I began hearing from fans of my work that the music I recorded for MoJazz was selling on the black market for as much as $50.00 per cd…unmixed, never mastered, no artwork and obviously as a CDR. It was then that I decided to clean house and take the chance to do things on my own. After all, what did I have to lose? Over a period of 4 years I had recorded a large number of songs at home with no special purpose for them. I was led to do it. I placed them in what I call my “vault” and left them there until the right time came for me to use them.
Reviewing my history and remembering all my dark experiences I decided it was time to open my vault and pull out some of those tracks to share with the world. Since it was so hard for people to get the music I released with record companies (and never OFFICIALLY released-when they DID find it they had to pay a ridiculous price for it) why not record, package and sell my own music directly to the buying public? I believe this will cut out all the detours, layovers, traffic lights, stop signs and anything else causing delays for people who want my music. This lead to the release of my 3rd album “Straight from the Vault” through my own production company Boobeescoot Music. With this machine, I pray that I can continue to record and release the kind of music I grew up listening to years ago when real chord changes existed, songs had a subject and the most important…there was integrity.
Copyright © 2011 Frank McComb. All Rights Reserved.