Sam Frazier, Jr.
513 22nd Street S
Birmingham, AL, 35233
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
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Sam Frazier, Jr.
Sam Frazier, Jr. is a rare bluesman. He can play the harp like Sony Boy Williamson, sing the blues like slim Harpo, sing a country like Charley Pride, or sing his own original soul music. His band is just as versatile.
You are never sure what Sam and the band might play, but you can be sure it will be good. And YOU will
Singer and harmonica player Sam Frazier Jr. recalled the time in the 1960s when he went to audition for a talent show held at Sonny Duke’s country music club in Birmingham, Alabama. Frazier was one of the few African-Americans who were playing country music, and this particular night he was the only black person in Duke’s. “All eyes were on me,” Frazier said.
On harmonica, he played a solo on “Orange Blossom Special,” and later also played Jimmy Reed’s tune “Big Boss Man.” When he got home, the club owners called him and asked him to play again. They told him the audience wanted him to come back to perform. Frazier became a regular performer at the club, and toured some with the house band.
The story illustrates how Frazier has comfortably moved between the worlds of country music and the blues during a music career of more than 50 years. Frazier, who has recordings in both country music and the blues, and who learned harmonica from Sonny Boy Williamson and Slim Harpo, recently became part of Music Maker Relief Foundation’s group of artists.
Frazier was born in the mining town of Edgewater, Alabama, near Birmingham. His mother would hold backyard barbecues where the liquor would flow, and musicians often would come and play. Among them were Williamson and Harpo, who both gave Frazier harmonicas and encouraged him to play. Both musicians “told me if I wanted to play it, just to stay with it,” Frazier said in a phone interview from his home in Alabama. “I picked up a lot on my own looking at them,” he said.
Frazier started a one-man band (also playing guitar and drums), and taught his sister to play bass. They began to get work around Birmingham, and their music came to the attention of local DJ Maurice King, who put them in touch with a talent agent in New York City. He and his sister auditioned, and “They told us they’d like to take us to New York. We didn’t have but one day to prepare” to leave, he said. They talked to their father, pastor and others about the offer, and decided it was a good opportunity.
In New York, they recorded several tunes, including “I Got to Tell Somebody” and “I Don’t Want Another Love” (in the rhythm and blues style) for the Goodie Train label. He recorded and played in venues in New York and New Jersey for about two years during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he said.
When he returned to Birmingham and Sonny Duke’s venue, he came to the attention of Gordon Edward Burns, also called Country Boy Eddie, who had a country music show on Birmingham television.
For about 13 years, Frazier was a musician on that show, playing harmonica and singing. Burns “just loved my harmonica, the way it worked with his fiddle,” Frazier said. “I was one of the first black entertainers to make it on the show,” he said. Frazier recorded an extensive number of songs in the country genre, among them “Mr. Wrong,” “There You Go, Running Down My Cheek Again,” and “She Knows I’m Crazy.”
Frazier also played harmonica and sang lead vocals for a time in California with Johnny Otis’ rhythm and blues revue.