September 29, 1920|
Stamps, Lafayette County
|Died||October 26, 2006
Shreveport, Caddo Parish
|Resting place||Forest Park West Cemetery in Shreveport|
|Alma mater||C. E. Byrd High School|
|Occupation||Country music bassist/songwriter and manager|
|Religion||Church of God|
|Spouse(s)||Virginia Hellen Suber Franks (married 1946-2006, his death)|
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, but when he was two years of age, his 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 Hellen Suber; the couple had two sons and two daughters. After the war, he and 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 radio broadcast.
During 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 single "Sink the Bismark". 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 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 Shreveport "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 that spans the Red River to Bossier City.
Tillman Franks helped 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."
In 2000, Franks was inducted into the C. E. Byrd High School Hall of Fame, along with Sheriff Don Hathaway and B. L. "Buddy" Shaw, a former Byrd principal and a member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature. Franks graduated from Byrd High School in 1940.
Franks died on October 26, 2006 in Shreveport. His younger brother, William D. "Billy" Franks, is the retired founding pastor of the Oakmont Church of Good in the Cedar Grove neighborhood. Billy Franks preached the funeral of Johnny Horton in 1960; Franks' son, Watson Franks, preached his father's funeral in 2006.