Hey Y’all! Can you believe that April is here and so is Spring!?! That’s right folks. We have already sprung forward an hour, which gives us more daylight to cut grass, do yard work, and sneeze. I’m slightly partial to this month for several reasons. The weather starts warming up but not hot (thaws us out slowly), we usually celebrate Easter (an important time for us all), & this month is my birthday (just thought y‘all might like to know & for those wondering how old? FORGET IT!).
Okay now it’s time to get serious. This month we’re talking to another dear friend who is known for many different things. Bluegrass fans, also known as “grassers”, will likely recall him from musical contributions with greats such as Bill Monroe and Jim & Jesse while fans of southern gospel will most likely remember him from time spent with Jeff and Sheri Easter or us, The Watkins Family. But most people from all sides will most likely recognize him for his many years spent as one of the actors on the popular television show “In The Heat Of The Night”. No matter where you recognize from Randall Franks is a man known for quality work and giving his absolute best to everything that he does.
Randy’s earliest musical influences came from his family. He recalls his Great Uncle Tom playing fiddle at family get-togethers. Although piano wasn’t to be one of his talents, Randy grew up loving and wanting to play like Hovie Lister. But things changed for him when Dr. Donald Grisier, a violin teacher, came into his elementary school room and played “Orange Blossom Special”. Randy says that he’s not been worth shooting since. I asked if that is when he decided that music is what he wanted to do for a living. But that decision came about after he saw Flatt and Scruggs on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and The Dillards appear as The Darlings on “The Andy Griffith Show”. He told his late mother Pearl that he wanted to do what they were doing. God began to bless and open doors for Randy and he’s been faithful to walk/run through them.
The Peachtree Pickers – his own childhood bluegrass band is where Randy’s career began. Not a lot of people get to start there career off with there own band. They appeared as churches, festivals, fairs, and became regulars on the “Country Kids TV Series”. Randy took the group with him when he began a 13 year association with the Grand Ole Opry in 1984. Being kind of unique in his position as a traveling fiddler, Randy has had many opportunities to contribute to other great southern gospel and bluegrass performers including Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys, Jeff and Sheri Easter, The Marksmen Quartet, The Watkins Family (us), and many others. The list for memorable people that he has worked with is a diverse group due to his dual career as both actor and entertainer. In television, Randy chose Carroll O’Connor with Ken Curtis “Festus” from “Gunsmoke” and the Sons of the Pioneers as close seconds. Academy Award winner William Hurt is one of Randy’s favorite co-stars in film. And he is also one of few actors who have worked with both Dolly and Stella Parton in different projects. From the world of music Randy has been blessed to work with many of his heroes such as The Lewis Family, Primitive Quartet, Dottie Rambo, Earl Scruggs, Doug Dillard, Pee Wee King, and Jimmy Dickens. Some of his awards include and ACM Male Vocalist of the Year Award (1993), Fiddlin’ John Carson Award (1994), and the Cotton Carrier Award (1995). He received his own exhibit in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1996 at the opening of the museum: was honored for his contributions to the music of Bill Monroe by the state of Kentucky in 2002: named the Appalachian Ambassador of the Fiddle in 2004: and inducted in the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame. He has won 21 state and national press awards (yes, he writes too!). Little Jimmy Dempsey Musician Award (2006): his own exhibit in the Rhea County Scopes Trial Museum 2007): Legends Award from the Carolina Country-Bluegrass-Gospel Hall of Fame in 2010 and also named that organizations Appalachian Ambassador of the Fiddle. And y’all these are just a few of them.
When talking about music styles Randy has always been equally drawn to both bluegrass and southern gospel. I put Randy on the same spot as I have everyone else and asked for his favorite singers. He struggled as most of us do because of the amount of incredible talent out there, but narrowed it down to his favorite in bluegrass is Dale Ann Bradley and David Davis while I was very honored to be listed as his favorite in southern gospel along with Archie Watkins. (I promise these are his choices.) Being an accomplished musician himself playing fiddle, guitar, mountain dulcimer, and mandolin, Randy lists as his favorite musician Jeff Tolbert.
Randy thought carefully of his words for these last two questions, philosophy and future of music. He believes that music inspires, uplifts, and provides each performer with and opportunity to change the lives of all we encounter with the gifts that God has shared. He states for the future: “Music for many is an opportunity to leave the troubles of life behind for the length of a concert, a CD or a song. We are discretionary in the list of priorities in the lives of our listeners. They can live without us. Like many other discretionary areas that people may choose from, we may be marked off the list. We must work to make the opportunities we offer to worship God as we present the music He gave to us worth the time, effort, and money that these gracious and caring people share with us. I think that if we as an industry do that our future is bright. The future of the music itself always has been and always will be bright because it is illuminated by God’s love.”
At the end of this article I’m going to list Randy’s most used gear for all of you musicians out there who are curious. I hope that you have enjoyed getting to know a little more about Randall Franks. I’ve sure enjoyed our many conversations. You can keep up with Randy at his website http://randallfranks.com . Remember that this life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows but with the Lord guiding us we will make it through on the winning side.
Check in next month to see who’s gonna be next!