Frank’s Coffee Shop and Music Hall

Published 11:23 pm Sunday, May 1, 2016



Give Me Some Old Time, Country Music

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Written by Linda List
Photographs by Mark Schmerling


“There’s a lot of pickers up in these hills,” says Scottie Smith, upright bass player with a band called Wires and Wood. “And a lot of them find there way here, to Frank’s Coffee and the Music Hall. It’s great to have a place like this to play,” he grins.


Frank’s Coffee is tucked into a deep-rooted, old brick building in the hamlet of Gramling, just down the road from Campobello. Frank and Amy Beeson have created a warm, inviting coffee shop, added a stage, some comfortable church pews discovered in a Habitat store for seating, and opened a music hall for area musicians to jam with each other. Amy and Frank had experience both with coffee and musicians several years ago while living in Saluda. Frank is an expert coffee brewer and a musician, playing a prized Martin Guitar. Amy offers friendly customer service, making sure everyone has coffee, tea, apple turnovers, and a smile.


Thursday and Friday evening anyone can come in and play. Frank describes the mix. “We get guitar players, bass, banjo, even a flute player who plays with the Spartanburg Community Band. Sometimes it’s bluegrass, then some gospel and Hank Williams, with an occasional Jimmy Buffet and Johnny Cash to mix it up.”


On a Thursday night, musicians slowly wander in and set up. Local music lovers find their seats. Jo Ann and Hugh Foster, regulars in the audience, have missed only two performances since Frank’s opened. JoAnn grew up in Gramling and this former country store was a second home.  “The school bus dropped me off right here and I’d come in and get penny candy,” she reminisces.


Farroll Campbell plays guitar. Gospel and country are his specialty. Farroll, like many others, is self-taught. He learned to play at age 12 when his brother joined the Navy and left his guitar behind. His mother bought him a songbook. Farroll grew up in Gowensville, a member of the large Campbell family. He was a plant superintendent at Homelite before retiring.


You might find Jeff Stone bringing in his mandolin. He’s been playing and singing for 22 years. Jeff is also self-taught, eventually taking lessons at Furman Voice and learning from mandolin picker, Wayne Benson, of famed bluegrass band, IIIrd Time Out.  Jeff grew up in Campobello, working as a commercial mechanic. He’s plays with Wires and Wood, along with Scottie Smith and Keasler Tanner.


Scottie Smith is a second-generation bridge builder and the upright bass player in Wires and Wood. He started playing around 13 years of age. His daddy had a guitar and he listened to the DJs on the radio to pick up tunes. Jeff needed a reliable bass player and discovered Scottie playing guitar and mandolin. He loaned him his upright bass and Scottie joined the band. “I live in Gramling or Campobello, depends on which side of the creek you’re on,” he laughs.


Ray Mosely often joins the open mic group playing banjo and singing old time songs that he learned from his Grandpa like “I only want a buddy, not a sweetheart. A buddy doesn’t make you weep.” Commenting on the crowd pleaser “Cabbage Head,” Ray wistfully says, “I wish I’d never learned it.” Ray is self taught and learned by listening to old 78 records. Ray plays with Hickory Creek band and Holston Creek Harmony, along with Ervin Williams.


Ervin is a self-taught guitar player. “My mom knew two chords and that’s what I started with. I was about 7 years old.” Along with Holston Harmony, Ervin plays guitar with Bob Hamilton and Southern Country, offering classical country music.


Lori Oliver and Sue Wilson from Polk County entertained one Friday evening. Lori and Sue’s repertoire ranged from James Taylor, Alison Krause and Carol King, to a fast paced rendition of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” the crowd responding with whistles and cheers. Everyone joined in singing the timely, “Everybody get together and love one another right now.”


A band from Brevard, Unpaid Bill (Bill Cogswell) and the Bad Czechs, were the line up one Saturday afternoon featuring a talented washboard player, Chris Asbill, and Josh Pinsly with a fusion of a banjo and mandolin called a banjolin or a manjo. Bill, playing on a replica of a 1920s resonator or metal guitar, loves the old timey music going back to the late 1800s with “The Cat Came Back” and 1870s depression era, “One Meatball 15 cents.” Rounding out the band were Clay Isham on standup bass and Doug Brandon playing harmonica. Another Saturday, Quentin Washburn and “Catfish Joe” Litell from Greenville entertained at the music hall.


When Campobello favorite, the Jay Mabry Band, shows up for a Saturday concert, the crowd is standing room only. A semi-driver for Roush Fenway, transporting the car for NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse around the country, Jay is another self-taught guitar player. “I had a guitar in the closet and finally one day decided to start playing it. The band’s been together only about a year and I write a lot of our music. I really never dreamed I’d be doing this,” he said. The first set begins with the song, “Somewhere South of Nowhere.”


“That’s home,” Jay tells the crowd.


Jay, Brady Caldwell on lead guitar, Barry Jackson playing bass, and Isaiah Maybry with the drums, all from Campobello, make up the band. Isaiah and Jay aren’t related though their last names are similar.


Isaiah started playing drums on his father’s old set of Rogers drums. He met Jay at a high school basketball game one Christmas. Jay mentioned that he received a Martin guitar for Christmas. “I told him I played the drums and we should get together some time,” Isaiah explains. “That was how we started playing together.” Like many young musicians, Isaiah prefers the 60s and 70s music, the James Taylor, Eagles, Bob Dylan, style ballads to the music today, especially when played on vinyl. Jay Mabry Band plans to have an album out in November. Tim Lawter, of the Marshall Tucker Band, is their recording studio engineer.


A description of the movie “The Winding Stream,” a documentary of the early days of the Carter and Cash forays into country music, reads, “There is a stream that courses through American roots music. Its source is in the Appalachian foothills.” Frank and Amy Beeson have created a venue for this stream of Appalachian, bluegrass, mountain music, pickers, and players to be heard. And if you’re lucky enough one night to catch Bill Phillips, an old time, portly banjo player, picking and singing in his gravelly voice, Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me make It Through The Night,” it’s pure magic at Frank’s Coffee.