Tillman Franks

Last updated
Tillman Franks
Born(1920-09-29)September 29, 1920
DiedOctober 26, 2006(2006-10-26) (aged 86)
Resting placeForest Park West Cemetery in Shreveport
Alma mater C. E. Byrd High School
Occupation Country music bassist/songwriter and manager
Spouse(s)Virginia Helen Suber Franks (married 1946-2006, his death)
ChildrenTillman Ben Franks, Jr.

The Reverend Watson Franks
Darlene Pearl Franks Pace Launius

Carolyn Rose Franks Browning


Tillman Ben Franks, Sr. (September 29, 1920 October 26, 2006), was an American bassist and songwriter and the manager for a number of country music artists including Johnny Horton, David Houston, Webb Pierce, Claude King, and the Carlisles.


Franks was born in Stamps in Lafayette County in southwestern Arkansas, to George Watson Franks (1890-1967) and the former Pearl Galloway (1896-1983). [1] When he was two years of age, Franks' family relocated to Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana, where they assumed residence in the Cedar Grove neighborhood. In his later years he lived in southwestern Shreveport near his long-term friend Claude King, known for the 1962 hit songs "Wolverton Mountain" and "The Burning of Atlanta", a ballad about the 1864 battle of Atlanta in the American Civil War.

Franks served in the United States Army during World War II, after which he married the former Virginia Helen Suber (1927-2016), a native of Carthage, Texas, and a daughter of Earl Clark Suber (1900-1954), who served with the military police in World War II, and the former Rose Lee Rich (1907-1937). [2] Virginia was subsequently reared in two Shreveport orphanages and like her husband graduated from C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport. She became an artist with speciality in oil paintings, a seamstress, and sang with her husband of sixty years and their son, Tillman Franks, Jr. [3] The Franks had two sons and two daughters.

Music career

After the war, Franks and Claude King formed the Rainbow Boys while working at an assortment of other jobs, mostly in automobile sales. On April 3, 1948, Franks played bass with the Bailes Brothers on the first night of the Louisiana Hayride , broadcast on Shreveport radio station KWKH. [4]

In 1955, as Johnny Horton's manager, he switched the budding singer from Mercury Records to Columbia. He was the sole writer of Horton's first No. 1 single, 1959's "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)". He and Horton were co-composers of "Honky Tonk Man", Horton's 1956 hit record, that Dwight Yoakam also recorded as his first single. During 1960, Franks co-wrote with Horton the successful singles "Sink the Bismark" and "North to Alaska". [5] Franks was injured in the head and internally as well in the automobile accident on November 5, 1960, in Milano in Milam County in East Texas, which resulted in the death of Johnny Horton [4] and the eventual loss of a leg by a third musician, Tommy Tomlinson.

Franks' contribution to rock and roll music has been recognized by his induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Hall of Fame, and his induction in 2003 into the Northwest Louisiana Walk of Stars where his feet and hand impressions are in concrete beside other talents, such as Elvis Presley, Terry Bradshaw, Kix Brooks, David Toms, and Franks' longtime friend Claude King. The "Walk of Stars" is located under the Shreveport side of Texas Street Bridge, officially known as the Long–Allen Bridge (Shreveport) that spans the Red River to Bossier City. [4]

Tillman Franks helped to coin the phrase "The Magic Circle," which he describes in his autobiography as: "an area 50-miles in radius from downtown Shreveport from which many kinds of music evolved. I was lucky to have lived my life in The Magic Circle." [4]


On July 11, 1996, Shreveport observed "Tillman Franks Day", sponsored by KWKH. [4]

Franks died in the fall of 2006 at the age of eighty-six. His son, the Reverend Watson Franks, preached the funeral. The family is interred at Forest Park West Cemetery in Shreveport.

In 2019, KEEL Radio recalled Franks as "a legend that should be remembered [for] all the contributions not only to Shreveport's musical history but to rock and country." [6]

Franks' out-of-print autobiography entitled Tillman Franks: I Was There When It Happened is still in demand by his remaining fans. [6]


  1. "George Watson Franks". Findagrave.com. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  2. "Earl Clark Suber". Findagrave.com. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  3. "Virginia Franks". The Shreveport Times . September 15, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Tillman Franks obituary". nucountry.com. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  5. The Legendary Tillman Franks Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 Matt Parker (February 21, 2019). "The Forgotten Legacy of Tllman Franks". KEEL Radio.

Related Research Articles

Shreveport, Louisiana City in Louisiana, United States

Shreveport is a city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is the third most populous city in Louisiana after New Orleans and Baton Rouge, respectively. The Shreveport–Bossier City metropolitan area, with a population of 393,406 in 2020, is the fourth largest in Louisiana, though 2020 census estimates placed its population at 397,590. The bulk of Shreveport is in Caddo Parish, of which it is the parish seat. It extends along the west bank of the Red River into neighboring Bossier Parish. The United States Census Bureau's 2020 census tabulation for the city's population was 187,593, though the American Community Survey's census estimates determined 189,890 residents.

James Burton American guitarist

James Edward Burton is an American guitarist. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2001, Burton has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. Critic Mark Deming writes that "Burton has a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest guitar pickers in either country or rock ... Burton is one of the best guitar players to ever touch a fretboard." He is ranked number 19 in Rolling Stone list of 100 Greatest Guitarists.

Johnny Horton American singer (1925–1960)

John LaGale Horton was an American country music, honky tonk and rockabilly singer and musician, during the 1950s, best known for his saga songs that became international hits beginning with the 1959 single "The Battle of New Orleans", which was awarded the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award and in 2001 ranked No. 333 of the Recording Industry Association of America's "Songs of the Century". His first No. 1 country song was in 1959, "When It's Springtime in Alaska ".

<i>Louisiana Hayride</i> Country music show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana

Louisiana Hayride was a radio and later television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, that during its heyday from 1948 to 1960 helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American country and western music. It was created by KWKH station manager Henry Clay. Hank Williams began performing on the Hayride in 1948 after his initial rejection from the Grand Ole Opry. After being fired from the Opry on August 11, 1952, Williams returned to the Hayride briefly before his death on New Years Day 1953. Elvis Presley performed on the radio version of the program in 1954 and made his first television appearance on the television version of Louisiana Hayride on March 3, 1955.

Claude King American singer-songwriter

Claude King was an American country music singer and songwriter, best known for his million selling 1962 hit, "Wolverton Mountain".

Wyatt Merle Kilgore was an American singer, songwriter, and manager. Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, he was raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was the personal manager of Hank Williams Jr. at the time of his death.

Larry Scott was an American country music disc jockey who hosted a number of country music shows in the U.S. First announcing on a radio station in Neosho, Missouri in 1955, Scott later moved to the West Coast where he worked at radio stations KBBQ and KLAC from 1967 to 1982.

John Dunbrack Ewing, Sr., was a Louisiana journalist who served as editor and publisher of both the Shreveport Times and the Monroe News-Star-World from 1931 until his death. He was also affiliated with radio station KWKH in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish in northwestern Louisiana. KWKH was founded in 1922 and named in 1925 for its founder, W. K. Henderson.

KEEL Radio station in Shreveport, Louisiana

KEEL is an American radio station broadcasting a News Talk Information format. Licensed to Shreveport, Louisiana, United States, the station serves the Shreveport area. The station is currently owned by Townsquare Media and features programming from Westwood One, Premiere Radio Networks, and airs Louisiana Tech games. Fox News updates are carried at the top of every hour. Its studios are shared with its other five sister stations in West Shreveport, and the transmitter is in Dixie.

KWKH Radio station in Shreveport, Louisiana

KWKH is a sports radio station serving Shreveport, Louisiana. The 50-kilowatt station broadcasts at 1130 kHz. Formerly owned by Clear Channel Communications and Gap Central Broadcasting, it is now owned by Townsquare Media. Its studios are shared with its other five sister stations on Westport Avenue in West Shreveport, and the transmitter is a three-tower array in Belcher, Louisiana.

Nathan Wright Stuckey was an American country singer. He recorded for various labels between 1966 and 1978, charting in the top 10 of Hot Country Songs with "Sweet Thang", "Plastic Saddle", "Sweet Thang and Cisco" and "Take Time to Love Her"

"Honky-Tonk Man" is a song co-written and recorded by American country music singer Johnny Horton. It was released in March 1956 as his debut single on Columbia Records, and the album of the same name reaching number 9 on the U.S. country singles charts. Horton re-released the song six years later, taking it to number 11 on the same chart.

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium Theater and meeting hall in Shreveport, Louisiana, United States

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium is a historic performance and meeting venue at 705 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is an Art Deco building constructed between 1926 and 1929 during the administration of Mayor Lee Emmett Thomas as a memorial to the servicemen of World War I. In 1991, the auditorium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on October 6, 2008, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

North to Alaska (song) 1960 single by Johnny Horton

"North to Alaska" is a 1960 hit song recorded by Johnny Horton that was featured in the movie of the same name. The song was written by Horton, along with Tillman Franks. Though Horton had sung several popular movie tie-in songs, this was the first one that was sung over the opening titles. Horton died in an automobile accident 5 November 1960 shortly after the song was released. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

Abbott Records was an American record label operated by music promoter and producer Fabor Robison from 1951 to about 1958. Abbott Records released mainly country and western music, rockabilly and — towards the end of its existence — mainstream pop vocal selections, enjoying considerable chart success for a label of its modest means.

The Bossier Strip is the name for an entertainment district in Bossier City, Louisiana, that is widely known for its nightclubs, bars, strip joints, restaurants, gambling, prostitution, and live music.

C. L. Bryant Baptist minister

Cleon Lewis Bryant is an American Baptist minister and former radio and television host based in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Frank Page (broadcaster) American radio broadcaster

Raymond Franklin Page, known as Frank Page, was a broadcaster from radio station KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, who on October 16, 1954, introduced Elvis Presley to the Louisiana Hayride Country music program. The Hayride was presented weekly from 1948 until 1960 at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium; it was akin to Shreveport's temporary alternative to the permanent Grand Ole Opry of Nashville, Tennessee.

Horace Lee Logan, Jr., known as Hoss Logan, was the program director for the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, which showcased country music singing stars in the 1950s. He originated the catch-phrase "Elvis has left the building."

Stanley Joseph Lewis was an American record label owner, in Shreveport, Louisiana.