One Track Mind: Frank Frost, "My Back Scratcher" (1965)

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NICK DERISO: One of the first R&B hits for Shreveport-based Jewel-Paula Records founder Stan Lewis was by that juke-jointy legend Frank Frost.

A take-off the Slim Harpo song “Baby Scratch My Back,” it was finally collected on CD as part of the rollicking “Jelly Roll Blues” in 1991 — and man, I’m starting to think I like “My Back Scratcher” better than Harpo’s original.

This is swampy, rot-gut blues, with a first-blush vibe that crosses the decades.

“We were just settin’ in the studio and the song came ’round,” the harp player and keyboardist once said. “It’s short — yes, Lord — ’cause I was out of wind.”

Yeah, “My Back Scratcher” has a one-off feel. But that (deeply appreciated) in-studio looseness, you realize, makes this tune pure genius.

As produced by Scotty Moore — sound familiar? He was Elvis’ guitarist when Presley mattered — this record hits a groove and that’s that. From there on out, it’s a can’t-sit-still barrage of high-flying harmonica antics, go-ahead-and-holler vocals and seriously shaking rhythms.

(If the Presley association seems strange, remember that Frost, earlier in the 1960s, had recorded one of only eight albums issued by Sam Phillips’ Phillips International record label — an imprint he launched in 1957 as an outlet for blues when Sun Records became so closely associated with the then-new rock ‘n’ roll trend.)

Frost was often asked how he got his earthy, immediately recognizable sound: “You gotta play from your stomach, not from up here,” he’d say — pointing to his chest. He was always down-home and simple, living at one point in the 1990s at the Helena, Ark., blues hangout Eddie Mae’s Cafe — actually living there. The sign said “Home of Legendary Bluesman Frank Frost.” And it wasn’t hyperbole.

He never stopped recording, in a life built around early hits like this one. That was Frost on “Deep Blues” in 1992, in a commercial for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton, in the film, “Crossroads.”

One minor gripe: Unlike most other Stan Lewis re-releases, the liner notes are awfully thin on “Jelly Roll Blues.” For instance, we don’t know who’s playing on the date, or when it was recorded.

However, the disc itself, with its even sound quality and hot-dog playing, is nothing if not extraordinary.

For what it’s worth, Frost’s band probably included guitarist Big Jack Johnson and drummer Sam Carr, Robert Nighthawk’s son — both of whom where recording with Frost at the time. Carr, of course, became a life-long friend and touring partner.

Delta hipster tip: All three appeared on several albums; a good place to start would be the great compilation “Clarksdale, Miss.: Coahoma the Blues,” from the Rooster Blues label.

“One Track Mind” is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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