ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: “FRANKO WASHBOARD JACKSON
By Josette Rhodes
South Walton, where the beautiful blessings of nature draw you in and the eclectic, funky, artsy, musical vibe makes you fall in love.
Yet, as more and more people discover our little slice of paradise, here along the emerald coast, it sadly is becoming harder and harder to find the very things that once cast their magical spell. All but gone are the days of open beaches, sprinkled with cottages adorned with handmade local art. Yet, if you listen closely, if you stop at the weathered, oddly painted buildings, you will find that the magic of 30A is alive and well. And if you are lucky, you will discover some of the original magic makers still practicing their art. May I introduce to you to a local legend doing just that… Mr. Franko Washboard Jackson.
Born in Oklahoma in 1950, Frank Jackson grew up listening to his Mama play her hot pink upright piano and her homemade wind instrument, a comb and a piece of cellophane. Frank and his three siblings grew up dancing and playing music on a multitude of homemade instruments. This love of music runs deep in the soul of Mr. Jackson and in 1975 after a move to a commune in Lick Creek, Missouri he found out he was not alone.
Frank was introduced to the music of “Jug Juke and the Washboard Band,” real people making real music on handmade instruments. He loved the sound. He loved the message. If you wanted to play music bad enough you could, just like his Mama. It was then that “Franko Washboard Jackson” was christened.
Soon after, Franko’s sister Cindy, who lived in New Orleans, was about to give birth, so Franko left the commune to be with her. In his own words, “ There was no keeping me on the farm once I saw New Orleans.” A few months later Franko answered an ad in the local paper, “Washboard Player Wanted Non-Professional Only.” Washboard Jackson joined “The Bad Oyster Band” and a music career was launched. Their album, “Jugband Music and Blues” is a New Orleans Classic.
In 1984 Jackson had his own band and “Franko and the Hot Damn Jug Band” played the World’s Fair in New Orleans six days a week until the fair organizers money ran out. In 1985 he moved to Florida where he met a woman with an art all her own, Eileen West, and their shared history began. Soon Franko met a local named Bill Garrett who had an amazing musical talent all his own and “Willie and the Wahoos” were born. Bill Garrett soon discovered that the one and only Duke Bardwell (legendary bassist for Elvis Presley) was in town and persuaded him to come out of retirement.
In 1990 Franko had the band “Hubba Hubba” a local favorite with a plethora of talent. In 2000 Franko Washboard Jackson tried his hand at painting and a new passion was born. With influences from Woodie Long and Billie Gaffrey Jackson’s art is a reflection of life with a simple yet bold story. You can not look at Washboard’s work and not feel the soul of this town.
Franko’s bandmates are a literal “who’s who” of the original South Walton music scene, often billed as Franko and Friends. (Hopefully you will be lucky enough to catch a performance with The Steenos.) Presently you can find Franko Washboard Jackson performing in the band “Duck Phat” at Stinky’s on 30A. Franko’s art is displayed in the newly redone “Elmores Landing” as well as 30A Songwriter Radio’s Music & Coffee.
This was just an outline of Mr. Jackson’s story and a taste of only one of the many amazing talents that have created the magical vibe along 30A. I hope that it gives you an idea of the history that is woven within the culture of our little town. So next time someone mentions Grayton Beach or any of the other original communities that line 30A remember that our history runs deep and the art of the community is in our blood.
Thank you Franko Washboard Jackson and Eileen West for your time and your stories. Please stay tuned as 30A Songwriter Radio continues to bring you the best talents on the Emerald Coast.