Andrew Frank

I got to know Andrew in 1974 through a mutual friend, the singer Emma Kirkby. She said he had a lovely voice, a quirky repertoire and a sparky stage presence – all true then and still true four plus decades on. Our first gigs were in the mid 1970s. Music agents Jean Oglesby and Jane Winder took us onto their books and persuaded folk club secretaries to give us a try. We were Islington Folk Club regulars in the golden years (not that IFC isn’t still wonderful) upstairs at the Empress of Russia, with Bob Davenport at the helm and Flowers and Frolics as the house band. Between times Andrew has been by turns an actor, dancer, stage manager, telephonist, groundsman, cricket umpire, garden designer and above all a singer in many combinations, most famously with Dave Sealey of Bakelite Boys 2000Cosmotheka and George Hinchcliffe – founder of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain – in their fabulous show for the year 2000,  Pop Goes the Century – 100 songs from 100 years in 100 minutes. It had all been planned as a foursome with Dave’s brother Al Sealey, the other half of Cosmotheka. Al died suddenly of pneumonia just before Christmas 1999. But the show went on.

Andrew in Melody MakerIn September 1979 Melody Maker carried a profile of Andrew’s earlier duo with Mike Mann : Mike saturnine, punkish, ‘a direct descendant from the Ian Dury School of Second Hand Car Dealers and Card Sharps’, Andrew ‘an angelic-faced curly-haired overgrown choirboy’, emerging from behind the audience, hands nonchalantly tucked into baggy trouser pockets, with a trained tenor voice and a flair for acrobatics. Mike was the Dark One, Andrew was The Voice, and together they were The Odd Couple, winning over doubtful audiences in Derby and Glasgow.

Looking back through our playlists Andrew has always strung songs and music into ingenious attention-holding sequences: I’m a Waitress in a Small Hotel linking into Bird in a Gilded Cage and (instrumental) They Wanted a Songbird in Heaven so God Took Caruso Away, followed by the patter £1 Song, and Pennies from Heaven; or Rogers and Hart’s My Romance and Sigmund Romberg’s Lover Come Back to Me followed by Boiled Beef and Carrots; or Dibdin’s Tom Bowling, A.A.Milne’s There Was an Old Sailor My Grandfather Knew, and Dave Sealey’s Never Do Today What You Can Do Tomorrow; or Seeds of Love, The Biggest Aspidistra in the World, Petit Fleur, and If It Wasn’t For the Houses In Between; or Noël Coward’s Kingston By-pass, Flanders & Swann’s Slow Train, Beth Carvalho’s Peguie Um Ita No Norte (instr.) and A Signalman Was Ginger Jim. Followed, with luck, by the Stukas’ 1977 punk classic Sport.

There’s a nice video online of Andrew singing another Andrew chimney sweeperSealey special, I’ve Given Up the Chimney Sweeping Now. We’re still on the road from time to time, with appearances over the past twelve months at the Musical Traditions Club, Islington Folk Club and Sheila Miller’s Cellar Upstairs. Catch us if you can.

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