Travels with Frank

Recently I have been expanding the Wikipedia entry for Frank, and he agreed to answer some of my questions by email. I thought others might be interested in his responses, and also in what I learned from his wife’s obituary:

Some things about my childhood . . . I am an only child, and was born in California. My father, Frank Strawn-Hamilton, was a hobo-philosopher, labor union organizer, and mentor and friend to author Jack London. He died before I was born.(from Jean: this is for real! Every London biography mentions Frank’s dad!)

When he died, Phil Street offered to take over the care of my mother and myself in marriage. My stepfather sat me down at the piano when I was seven or eight and we wrote my first song together. Phil worked at odd jobs during the Depression. He was formerly a merchant mariner, and had lived with my father a third man on a barge in Staten Island, N.Y.

My mother and Phil divorced when I was 12 years old. I never saw him after that.

More about my mother: she was a musician, piano teacher and dance accompanist. After seeing
the actress Judith Anderson perform, she changed her name from Gladys Antoinette Bley to Judith Bley.

My own family . . . Evan, my son by my first marriage, is a talented jazz guitarist who works mainly as an electrician in Atlanta.  He is married and lives in Douglasville. I also have three step-grandchildren in the area.

Mary Susan Doyle Smith and I were married January 15, 1984 in Marblehead Massachusetts at the Mugford Street Unitarian Church. She named her sail boat there “Egret.” Since its seaworthiness was questionable, she said she could always add an “R” and call it the “Regret” if it sank. It didn’t . . . . and neither did she.

Mary retired from the Delta Airlines Reservation office in Atlanta, but began her career with the yellowbird, Northeast Airlines, in Boston in 1968, before they merged with Delta.

She played many instruments, including guitar, banjo, ukulele, and autoharp. We worked together – she accompanied me, and also sang.  We were a duo, with harmonized vocals, and worked for Young Audiences of Atlanta, Senior facilities and occasional concerts. Her favorite song in her last years was “The Music of Healing” written by Tommy Sands, a songwriter and activist from County Down, Northern Ireland.

She died suddenly on December 15, 2014. She had been learning to play one more instrument to accompany me – the electric bass guitar.

From Jean Wynn
Photo by Eli Hershkovits