Frankie Jaxon

By: Brian Berger
February 3, 2013


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.

Frankie-headstone copy

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”


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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What do you think?

  1. Not only is Jaxon quite remarkable on his own as an entertainer, he holds this distinction: pianist Cassino Simpson spent the last portion of his life in an Illinois mental institution for trying to kill Jaxon. There’s an unwritten novel, no? Thank you, Allen Lowe, for pointing me to this site! And thank you, Brian, for the amazing esoterica / research.

  2. Hi,

    For our recent book, “Blues : A Regional Experience”, we obtained the his death certificate. I’ve attached the entry. According to the Census data, he was born in 1896, Kansas City, MO. For his immediate cause
    of death, the certificate reads “information not available to the public”. Sidney Cohen, M. D., was the physician attending. His wife was Sirnader Jackson.

    Eric LeBlanc

    “Blues : A Regional Experience” p.517

    Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon (Frank Devera Jackson) (Kansas City, Missouri, March 3, 1896 123 — Veterans Administration Hospital, West Los Angeles, California, May 15, 1953). Son of Charlie and Sally Jackson.
    Burial at Veterans Administration Cemetery, Los Angeles. Recorded for Vocalion, Brunswick.

    123. Death Certificate reads 1897, Alabama as place of birth, possibly Montgomery and February 3, 1895 is given as his date of birth, whereas gravesite has March 3, 1897 (Frank Derva Jackson).

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