Frank Carlier: Songs From A West Virginia Childhood, Part I

 

Local music “legend” Frank Carlier is not a particularly tough act to follow. The stars that he reaches for are little more than low-hanging fruit. He keeps telling everyone within earshot about what a big deal he is in the European market and, domestically, in what he refers to as the “roots” music movement. I guess by roots he means his connection to the coal mining area around Morgantown, West Virginia. I could be wrong, however, so I refer my readers to the link below where Frank is interviewed by a small-scale local internet media source about his recently released song “Christmas Eve In Afghanistan.”

The name on the YouTube account that posted the Carlier interview is one David Farrow. I guess Mr. Farrow is above this sort of thing because he sent a lady friend to do the job. Check out her platform shoes. They look like something a cross-dressing schizo in a tattered Wonder Woman costume would wear to Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter.Frank Carlier shoes

I did some checking on this account and noticed that he has 90 videos listed under the Farrow name with a total of around 6,300 views. That works out to about 70 some odd views per upload. One would think that, after 30 or so postings, Mr. Farrow would have figured out that nobody is interested. For some reason, however, he keeps plugging away like some sort of keyboard bound Sisyphus.keyboard sysiphus

Mr. Farrow also ran for mayor of Charleston a few years ago and predicted a “tsunami” in his race against incumbent Joe Riley. Yup, you heard it here…a tsunami. I don’t recall my socks getting wet during that epic political contest but I understand that poor old David was swept away. Unfortunately for the citizens of Charleston, a few days after the election he was found bobbing in the current near Murrells Inlet. He wound up hitching a ride back home with some legless dude who owned a bicycle built for two.

David Farrow duels Joe Riley 3

He also operates a blog called the Farrowfiles which he proclaims, in a banner headline, to be the place where “political correctness comes to die.” Judging by the level of writing and the lack of upkeep, I think a different banner might be in order…something like this: “Where solid commentary and original perspective will never see the light of day” or “Move on…Nothing to See Here!”

“Dadgummit! Life Just Ain’t Fair!”

I especially enjoyed Mr. Farrow’s “About” section where he proclaims the following:  “In March 1980, David Farrow began as a cub reporter at the News and Courier. It here that he realized the fix was in. He uncovered a story that would have brought down the entire power structure. He worked on it for six months on his off time. The story was spiked. He was demoted.”*

How the heck does someone get “demoted” from cub reporter? Did they make him stand out by the dumpster beating the chalk out of blackboard erasers? I can relate to that onerous task as my second-grade teacher assigned it to me exclusively. While the other kids were doing the 2 plus 2 equals whatever thing, I was outside…practically invisible in a cloud of chalk dust with only a tell tale hacking cough to indicate that a kid was present. I would return to a giggling classroom covered from head to toe in a fine layer of white dust.

I just love the way he refers to himself in the third person in this statement. Thank God that wiser minds at my local paper stepped in to save the evil power structure from this Don Quixote figure tilting at printing presses and douchebag editors. I wonder if, out of sheer frustration, he pulled a Martin Luther and tried to nail his rejected article to the doors at the entrance of the News and Courier. That probably would have had a considerable impact as they are glass.

At any rate, here is the Carlier interview:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWO8mijGIIM

Frank Carlier midget One thing that puzzles me about this interview is that Frank feels compelled to hold the guitar throughout the entire process. He doesn’t so much as finger a chord. He just holds it. I don’t know about you but I feel uncomfortable watching someone hold a guitar for 14 minutes without, at the very least, breaking into a chorus of Oh Suzannah! To be honest, this guy makes so much money teaching that he could hire a midget to hold his guitar while he flaps his gums.

I don’t know how to account for Frank’s strange behavior at the beginning of the interview. For about 30 seconds he is chewing his cud. Maybe it was just gum. If that’s the case it looks like he swallowed it.Frank cow cud

frank carlierI think it would have been far more interesting if Frank was fondling a human skull…throwing it up in the air…bouncing it through a garbage can basketball hoop…flitting his tongue in and out of the eye sockets…That kind of thing would encourage me to suffer through at least five minutes of self-congratulatory gibberish slobbering out of just about anybody’s pie hole.

At about 5 minutes and 30 seconds into this exercise in futility, Frank blurts out something about how he and Johnny Mac (John McKelvey) had a long association in the recording studio. He says something about working in a studio operated by “one whose name is not spoken” and relates how it was an experience which neither he nor Johnny Mac is “particularly proud.”**

I happen to be the one “whose name is not spoken” and I can categorically tell Frank to go screw himself. He worked with me for about three years on an album project and, in return, got hundreds of free hours of studio time to do his own stuff. I wonder if Frank is also “not particularly proud” of the fact that the only national radio air time he has ever gotten was as a sideman on one of my tunes which was featured on The Doctor Demento show produced by Westwood One Network. The song, “Potato Head,” played in nearly every FM market in the country and on armed forces radio overseas.

Ungrateful bastard! I even paid for his “Assistant Studio Czar” T-shirt!

Frank sans chrome dome
Frank sans chrome dome

Below is a link to my YouTube upload of “Potato Head.”  The video footage isn’t that great. It was the second video I uploaded. My friend Riley Hart helped with the camera work. We were hampered by cheap equipment but the original audio from 20 some odd years earlier was in fine shape. Frank did all of the guitar work and some background vocals. Even with the less than professional video work this one song has garnered over twenty thousand hits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggYe2bF0248

I have to give credit where credit is due, however, and state that Frank’s work on this piece was outstanding. He laid down about six different guitar tracks and even played a glockenspiel solo. He put a lot of effort into this song and for that, I am very grateful. Stevie Kent played drums and Art Benton did the keyboard parts.

Doctor Demento also aired two more of my original tunes (with Frank as a sideman) on his regional show on KLSX in Los Angeles. He wanted to run them on his national show but couldn’t get them past the network censors. At any rate, KLSX is a damned big station with a long reach and a huge audience.

WV Welcome

Late in 1988, Frank invited me to visit his old haunts in his home state. We had been working on an album project for a couple of years and it was mostly completed. Time to take a break. It was dead of winter and damned cold. He picked me up in a rental car at my house in Hollywood, South Carolina, just south of Charleston. Nice car. It was a new model Lincoln Continental and was just perfect for our excursion up north. Frank did all of the driving so I could sit back and get even drunker than he was.

We stopped at a restaurant to get some chow. They had a really nice looking breakfast bar. I returned to the table with my meal and Frank immediately started to loudly berate me about the grits on my plate. “Grits are disgusting!” he hollered as he assailed my taste in food for most of the meal. Restaurants are a very special place for Frank’s big mouth…  a great opportunity to gather up a captive audience with his homespun wisdom. Too bad they don’t allow megaphones.

I had been through this with him once before. On that occasion we had six people sitting at a table listening to him howl for a solid 30 minutes about what a shit hole Charleston, South Carolina is and how he was only here to make money and, by God, if he had his way he’d move back to West Virginia in a stinky minute!

Frank Carlier dining out

pecker tunnelAs we got closer to his home we came upon the first tunnel. Frank immediately whipped out his penis. He told me that this was a tradition that he picked up from his cousins and that I should not feel obligated to touch it. I was left to speculate on how his cousins responded but had to remind myself that we had just crossed the Virginia state line and were now in West Virginia. I needed to respect their customs…I had heard the stories.

We spent about four days in various places including one night at his parent’s house. It was a clean, brick split-level on a small lot in a middle-class neighborhood. I met his parents and was surprised to find that they were normal friendly folks. Frank invited me downstairs to find some beer. We sat down and he told me the story about how, when he was a kid, his Dad told him he had to mow the grass. Frank said no and an argument ensued. He finally relented and took the lawnmower out of the garage, started it, and proceeded to mow over his parent’s flower beds. “Dad never asked me to mow after that,” bragged Frank as he swigged down yet another Rolling Rock.

Framk's birthday gift

After a short while, Frank got fidgety and told me to hop in the car so he could show me his hometown. There wasn’t really much to see. He took me to the spot where he proclaimed he got his first blow job. Fascinating…

Next stop on the Grand Tour…Frank drove over to a friend’s house. This guy and his wife were as drunk as we were and Frank reminded his friend about their mutual friend who passed out at a party and they yanked his pants down and stuck an empty Molson bottle up his butt. “You shoulda seen him when he woke up!” Frank howled as little droplets of beer squirted from his nose. “Ha! Ha!” his friend said.

I just nodded and said “Good times!”

His friend got up to go to the bathroom and Frank leaned over and whispered, “As soon as he passes out his wife will give us a blowjob,” Frank sputtered. “Great!” I echoed. Well, the dude never did pass out but we drank a lot more beer and watched closely for signs that he may be nodding off. No such luck…

Frank likes to remind people that he has collaborated with the Charleston Symphony. I attended that performance and have to admit that this was one of his better musical efforts. The audience seemed to enjoy his original work, a piece dedicated to all of the good-natured, lovable TV Nuns that our generation grew up with. The only down side was the chintzy wire controlled painted plywood cutouts that flittered all around the venue. Conductor David Stahl had to call for a brief intermission when the Sally Field cutout did a loop de loop and knocked Frank unconscious. He came to after the first violinist repeatedly poked him in the buttocks with his bow.***

Frank Fields 4

George Was A Mama's Boy
Georgie Porgie, Pudnin’ Pie!

Frank’s collaboration with the symphony turned out a lot better than that of our mutual friend George Pearce. George was the best mandolin player in Charleston at the time and the symphony was planning on doing an Italian piece which required that instrument for a short passage. George rehearsed with the orchestra but the conductor was unsure as to whether his mandolin player could pull it off. He wisely placed a violinist next to George to cover for him. Well, George froze up, lost his place, and missed his cue. I don’t know if he got paid but I sort of doubt it. So much for that tuxedo rental.

In fairness to George, he really is an excellent mandolin player. He was just out of his element that night. I owned a music store in Charleston from 1979 to 1996. George worked for me for about two years. He was one both honest and dependable.

George lives in Nashville now. For some reason, he is pissed off at me and won’t communicate. Too bad. He really was a nice fellow and a real talent. Why he uses the promo picture above is a mystery. I would rather flub it in front of a hundred symphony orchestras than to be seen wearing that particular ensemble. The little hat and the cute scarf are probably a-okay with the blue haired ladies who stumble up to him during a gig to ask him if he knows “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree.” He shouldn’t wear that costume within twenty miles of a biker bar as the word might get out before he can escape.

Here is a link to his website:  http://www.musicbygeorge.net/

Stay tuned for part two of this series when I review the pending release of Frank’s new kid’s album. I will also be reporting on his recent hometown concert…Frank Carlier kid's album

Talk is heavy on the Charleston music scene about a single from this upcoming kid’s album which may be hit material.

Frank Carlier Penis Veggies

Frank Carlier in concert

*One would think that an experienced journalist like Mr. Farrow would have noticed, after all this time, that the word “was” should have been inserted beteeen the “It” and the “here.” (Note: I purposefully misspelled “between” so David can have an a-ha moment.)

**Frank claimed in an email that he wasn’t referring to me. I don’t believe him for a sticky minute. His mouth, once again, painted him in a corner and he backpedaled with an invented story. Truth, in Frank’s world, is a flexible concept.

***This paragraph is complete and total bullshit. It never happened…not in this dimension at least. I just thought it was funny as heck and threw it in there.Frank Carlier as Curly 2

Deep Thinker
Deep Thinker

Better World Frank Carlier 3

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