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Frankie Smith

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  • Born: Philadelphia, PA
  • Years Active: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Philadelphia, PA, native Frankie Smith was going to college in Tennessee, majoring in elementary education, and went for a minor in music. A nephew of comedian Pigmeat Markham ("Here Comes The Judge"), Smith taught himself to play piano. Returning to Philly, he became a staff songwriter for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records in the late 70s, having his songs recorded by Archie Bell and the Drells, the O'Jays, Billy Paul, and others. While there, he began to co-write songs with Bill Bloom.

When Philadelphia International ceased operations, the songwriting duo began working for Philly label WMOT Records. Under the pseudonym Franklin Franklin, Smith recorded a 1971 Paramount single, Double Dutch, based on the children's jump-rope game. With session time left over from a recording session for Fat Larry's Band, Smith had Fat Larry record a drum track. Bloom took a copy of the track home and came up with a keyboard part. Two weeks later, a bass part was added to the drum and keyboard tracks.

Earlier, to make ends meet, Smith had applied for a bus driving job with the city, but was never hired. Still smarting from the experience, Smith recorded an expletive-laced improvised rap about a "double dutch bus." The engineers laughed and told Smith that they couldn't use that and Smith re-recorded a cuss-free version of the rap. He kept in mind the huge crossover success of Kurtis Blow, who had a million-selling single with The Breaks, and pig Latin, which had become a current rage with the kids. Smith recorded the rap at about two o'clock in the morning, giving the vocal a groggy, froggy flavor. To complete the track, Smith went to a bus terminal and recorded a horn, and invited neighborhood kids to the recording studio to add some hip pig Latin.

The track became extremely long, with co-writers/co-producers Smith and Bloom having singer Beverly Johnson add some vocals. The two decided to split up the track, with "Double Dutch" featuring Johnson being the A-side of the single and Smith's version, titled "Double Dutch Bus," becoming the B-side. WMOT favored Smith's track more and instead made it the A-side. Selling over two-million copies and included on the Children of Tomorrow album, "Double Dutch Bus" parked at number one R&B for four weeks, going to number 30 pop in the summer of 1981. Dick Clark asked Smith to rap the rules for the 1982 American Music Awards, which aired on ABC. Smith toured with Rick James, Slave, Zapp, Sugarhill Gang, Gap Band, the Commodores, Kool and the Gang, and Smokey Robinson. "Double Dutch Bus" appears on Old School, Vol. 1, The Best of WMOT Records, and Star Funk, Vol. 1. Smith's other WMOT singles includes The Auction and Teeny Bopper Lady b/w Slang Thang. The entertainer began appearing in movies such as Beloved, Snake Eyes, and horror B-movies. Smith re-recorded his biggest hit for the 1999 CD Double Dutch Bus (Planet Entertainment) and released another album, The Frogman.

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