Frankie Jaxon
By: Brian Berger | Categories: HiLo Heroes

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FRANKIE “HALF-PINT” JAXON (Frank D. Jackson, 1895–1953): singer, bandleader and showman; eternal marvel and — until now, thanks to the author’s recent research — a long-time mystery. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama; by 1915, he’d joined black vaudevillian Alexander Tolliver’s “Big Show” as a dancer. Frankie’s 1917 Draft Registration card places him at 2049 Flora Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, occupation “actor”; after eleven months in the Army, Sergeant Frankie was honorably discharged in March 1919. Though he first records in Saint Louis in 1926, Frankie’s star rises in Chicago, where he’ll cut many brilliant, often ribald, sides in a variety of hokum, blues and jazz styles. Though sometimes employing a falsetto female voice, there is no evidence Frankie performed in drag — and cameos in two 1929 films, Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy and King Vidor’s Hallelujah, affirm his manly appeal. In the 1930 Census, Frankie and his wife Evelyn live at 5149 Calumet Avenue and in 1933, the year of his lubricious “Wet It,” they have a child. After a few years in New York, including Brill Building A&R duties and, in April 1940, his final record date, Frankie returned to Chicago, where his 1942 Draft Registration card finds him at 435 E. 48th Street (no mention of Evelyn). Soon he’d depart for Washington D.C. and, legend says, Pentagon work. In 1946, by pluck or by patronage, Frankie, a registered Democrat, is living at 1113 E. 119th Street in South Central Los Angeles. His California days puzzle unto their last: May 15, 1953. The dirt holds no “Half-Pint”; Frank Devera Jackson, Christian soldier, is buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery. Requiscat Frankie.

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Tampa Red with Frankie Jaxon, “My Daddy Rocks Me With A Steady Roll”

Frankie in “Black And Tan Fantasy”

Frankie in “Hallelujah”

Frankie Jaxon “Wet It”

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: EP Thompson, Simone Weil, Kenneth Anger, and Gertrude Stein.

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).

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Historian, journalist, and poet Brian Berger is coeditor of New York Calling. He has written for many publications, a few of which even still exist.