Frankie Lee Sims (April 30, 1917, New Orleans, Louisiana – May 10, 1970, Dallas, Texas) was an American singer-songwriter and electric blues guitarist. He released nine singles during his career, one of which, "Lucy Mae Blues" (1953) was a regional hit. Two compilation albums of his work were released posthumously.
Sims was the cousin of another Texas blues musician, Lightnin' Hopkins, and he worked with several other prominent blues musicians, including Texas Alexander, T-Bone Walker, King Curtis and Albert Collins. Sims is regarded as one of the important figures in post-war Texas country blues.
Frankie Lee Sims was born on April 30, 1917 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Henry Sims and Virginia Summuel. He claimed he was born on February 29, 1906, but 1906 was not a leap year and April 30, 1917 is generally accepted as his birth date. He was the nephew of Texas blues singer Texas Alexander, and the cousin of Texan guitarist Lightnin' Hopkins. Both Sims's parents were "accomplished guitarists". His family moved to Marshall, Texas in the late 1920s, and at the age of 12 he learnt to play guitar from Texas blues musician Little Hat Jones and ran away from home to work as a musician. In the late 1930s Sims had a duel career of a teacher in Palestine, Texas on weekdays and a guitarist at local dances and parties on weekends. When the US entered the Second World War at the end of 1941, Sims enlisted, becoming a Marine for three years. After the war Sims made Dallas his home where he pursued a full-time career in music.
In Dallas Sims encountered, and performed with, Texas blues guitarists T-Bone Walker and Smokey Hogg in local clubs. In 1948 Sims recorded two singles for Blue Bonnet Records, but his first success came in 1953 when he recorded his song, "Lucy Mae Blues" for Art Rupe's Specialty Records, which went on to become a regional hit. The Encyclopedia of the Blues called "Lucy Mae Blues" a "masterpiece of rhythm and good humor". Sims continued recording songs for Specialty through the mid-1950s, many of them not released at the time. In 1957 he moved to Johnny Vincent's Ace Records and recorded several songs, including "Walking with Frankie" and "She Likes to Boogie Real Low", which Allmusic called "mighty rockers". Sims also recorded with other blues musicians, including his cousin Hopkins, and appears on several of their records. In the early 1960s Hopkins "cashed in" on the folk-blues revival, but Sims faded into obscurity.
In 1969 blues historian Chris Strachwitz tracked Sims down to record him on his Arhoolie label, but Sims died soon after on May 10, 1970 in Dallas at the age of 53. The cause of death was pneumonia brought on by his poor health. At the time of his death he was reported to have had a drinking problem and was under investigation regarding a "shooting incident". Soon after his death, Specialty Records released a compilation album of Sim's recordings with the label, Lucy Mae Blues. In 1985 Krazy Kat released Walkin' With Frankie, an album of unreleased songs he had recorded for the label in 1960.
Along with Lightnin' Hopkins and Lil' Son Jackson, Sims is regarded as "one of the great names in post-war Texas country blues". According to the Encyclopedia of the Blues, his was a "considerable" influence on other musicians in Dallas. T-Bone Walker acknowledged Sims's effect on his style of playing, and Hopkins got some of his ideas from him. Sims also guided several musicians at the start of their careers, including King Curtis and Albert Collins.
Sims's style of guitar playing was to produce rhythmical patterns over and over, but with a slight change in each repetition, giving his music an "irresistible dance beat". He produced a "twangy, ringing" sound on his electric guitar that was "irresistible on fast numbers and stung hard on the downbeat stuff".
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