Some Texas Blues : Frankie Lee Sims and Mercy Baby©2007JCMarion


Frankie Lee Sims was born in April of 1917 near New Orleans, Louisiana, and was one of thirteen children. Both his father and mother were guitar players, as was Frankie Lee's cousin Sam "Lighnin' Hopkins. At the age of twelve his family moved to Marshall, Texas, and soon Frankie ran away from home. He somehow got his life together, finished schooling, attended college in Texas and even became a school teacher for a while. In 1942 Sims entered the military with the U. S. Marines. After the end of World War II he returned to music in the Dallas area frequently playing with Aaron "T-Bone" Walker in the late nineteen forties.

Frankie Lee Sims made his first recordings in Dallas, Texas in the late nineteen forties for the local Blue Bonnet label owned by Herb Rippa. His first two recordings were "Cross Country Blues" and "Home Again Blues" on Blue Bonnet # 147. This was followed with Blue Bonnet # 148 and the songs "Don't Forget Me Baby" and "Single Man Blues". Sims also appeared on some early 40s sides by Hopkins. It would be five years later, again in Dallas, that Frankie Lee would return to the recording studio. This time he recorded for one of the top West Coast independent labels, Art Rupe's Specialty Records. Johnny Vincent head of the label's Southern branch in Jackson, Mississippi signed Sims to Specialty in late March of 1953. "Lucy Mae Blues" and "Don't Take It Out On Me" on Specialty # 459 gets some good sales in New Orleans and is pushed by the label in the trade press. Sims had two more releases for Specialty during the year - "Yeah Baby" and "I'm Long Gone" on # 478, and in April of 1954 "I'll Get Along Somehow" and "Rhumba My Boogie" on # 487. On the road Sims played many Texas area gigs with blues man Smokey Hogg.

In 1957 Sims recorded again in Dallas this time for Jackson, Mississippi based Ace Records as he was reunited with Johnny Vincent now the head man at the Ace label. With Willie Taylor on piano and Hubert Washington on bass "Misery Blues" and "What Will Lucy Do?" was released by Ace on # 524. On a later session during that year Sims fronted a combo with Jack White on tenor sax, Ralph Morgan on bass, and Jimmy Mullins on drums joining Willie Taylor on piano. Ace # 527 featured the songs "Hey Little Girl" and "Walkin With Frankie" which was a regional hit in the New Orleans area. That side was followed by "My Talk Didn't Do Any Good" and "I Warned You Baby" on # 539. In October of 1957 Frankie Lee appears at a big R & B show presented by Al Benson, Chicago radio deejay at that city's Regal Theater. One last record out of Dallas in 1957 was released on the Vin label (a subsidiary of Ace Records and Johnny Vincent) with "She Likes To Boogie Real Low" and "Well Goodbye Baby" on # 1006. Sims toured extensively in the mid fifties, often with Menphis Slim and later with Jimmy McCracklin. In the late fifties and into the sixties, he still played in the Dallas area with occasional appearances on the West Coast. In 1960 sax player King Curtis brought Sims to New York and he recorded for the Enjoy label. Sims has also claimed to tour and record with King Curtis & The Noble Knights in the early sixties but many have doubted that he was on record with the group. Frankie Lee did some more gigs in the East and returned to Texas. In 1969 Sims contracted pneumonia which led to his death in May of 1970.

One of the session players on Frankie Lee Sims recordings for Ace was Jimmy Mullins. With Sims and the rest of the combo he took the lead vocals and recorded under the name Mercy Baby. In Dallas in 1957 Ace # 528 was released with the tunes "Marked Deck" and "Rock And Roll Baby". A follow up recording was released on Ace # 535 in October of the year and included the songs "Silly Dilly Woman" and "Mercy's Blues". During early November Mercy appears with Frankie Lee Sims for Al Benson's big R & B show at Chicago's Regal Theater. Others on the bill are Big Maybelle, Screamin Jay Hawkins, The Dells, Mello-Kings, Joan Shaw, Priscilla Bowman, and Titus Turner. Late in 1957 Mercy recorded for the Ric label based in New Orleans and the tunes "Don't Lie To Me" and "Pleadin" which was issued on # 955. The next year still located in Dallas, Texas, Mercy recorded for his own label Mercy Baby Records and released two sides. The first on # 501 issued in November was "You Ran Away" and "Love's Voodoo". The second release in June of 1959 was on Mercy Baby # 502 featured "The Rock And Stomp" and "So Lonesome".

There are two available cds featuring the music of Frankie Lee Sims. "Lucy Mae Blues" for Specialty has 20 trax including five that were never released by the label. Newly released (in 2006) from Australia is "Walkin' With Frankie Lee" on the Aim label. This was originally recorded for Enjoy in 1960 and has 14 trax. Mercy Baby however, is more difficult to document. Information and further recording history is hard to find and the only known appearances on modern cd recording may be on compilation albums concerning Texas blues of the nineteen fifties.

Frankie Lee Sims and Mercy Baby - two exponents of the style of blues from Texas in the 50s. Remember them for their place in history.

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