Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Frank L. Goldwasser
Formerly known in blues circles as “Paris Slim”, Franck L. Goldwasser was born and raised in Paris, France in the 1960’s and studied fine arts before moving to Oakland, California in 1983. A self-taught guitarist and vocalist, Goldwasser began studying the recordings of Elmore James, B.B. King and T- Bone Walker at age 16. In 1978, Goldwasser’s first public appearance finds him jamming with the renowned harmonica player Sugar Blue (of Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” fame), then a Paris resident. Gaining experience while sitting-in with with visiting American bluesmen such as Luther Allison, George Smith, Jimmy Dawkins and Phillip Walker, Goldwasser lands his first professional gigs as backup guitarist for his idol Texas-bred California bluesman Sonny Rhodes in Paris and Reims. Following Rhodes’ invitation to come to California, the Frenchman spends three months in Oakland and Los Angeles in 1981, meeting and jamming with Big Mama Thornton, Smokey Wilson, Lowell Fulson, Frankie Lee, Mark Naftalin, Buddy Ace, Troyce Key and J.J. Malone, Cool Papa and Mark Hummel, while documenting the West Coast blues scene for the French music magazine Soul Bag. Having moved permanently to the San Francisco Bay Area in June 1983 , Franck Goldwasser immerses himself in the then-vibrant East Bay blues scene, quickly landing a job in singer-guitarist Troyce Key’s band. While gigging every weekend at the famed Eli Mile High club, he hones his skills working alongside West Coast blues titans Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson and Jimmy McCracklin, as well as Bay Area blues luminaries Omar “The Magnificient” Shariff (formerly Dave Alexander), Johnny Heartsman, Ron Thompson and Elvin Bishop.
Mentored by Eli Mile Hi Club proprietor Troyce Key, Goldwasser forms his own group and is handed the houseband position when Key takes a one-year hiatus from performing. Paris Slim (Key gave him the moniker) releases his first record on San Francisco’s Backtrack label in 1985, a 45rpm featuring a driving rendition of Lowell Fulson’s “Guitar Shuffle” — which quicky becomes a staple in many a local bar’s jukebox — and appears at the San Francisco Blues festival that same year. Write-ups in the local music press follow, including feature stories in the East Bay Express, the Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Chronicle. Writing in the East Bay Express, music journalist and historian Lee Hildebrand said: “With extreme sensitiviy and a profound knowledge of his subject, Paris Slim is one of the most impressive blues artists to have emerged on the Bay Area blues scene in some time”. At a show at San Francisco’s Victoria theater, Goldwasser’s band backs up California blues architect Pee Wee Crayton for his very last performance in the City. During 1986-89 Goldwasser occupies the chair of guitarist in Jimmy McCracklin’s band. Paris Slim’s first album is released in 1989 on the Belgian Blue Sting record label. Featuring a stellar cast of some of the Bay Area’s top sidemen, including Robert Cray band members Jim Pugh, Karl Sevareid and Tim Kaihatsu, Etta James keyboardist Dave Matthews and guitarist Bobby Murray, Little Charlie and the Nightcats’ Rick Estrin, Commander Cody’s drummer Lance Dickerson and alto sax legend Earl “Good Rockin’” Brown, “Blues For Esther” is nominated for a W.C. Handy award in the “Best Album of the Year” category in 1989. A European tour follows, culminating at the Albi Blues Festival where the Paris Slim band backs up Philip Walker and Joe Houston. When guitarist Kaihatsu leaves his regular gig hosting the Blue Monday Party at Berkeley’s favorite nightspot Larry Blake’s to join the Robert Cray Band, he calls on Goldwasser to take over the guitar chair alongside harmonica player Mark Hummel. As part of the Blake’s houseband, Goldwasser works with a who’s who of the Bay Area’s most prestigious residents, including Linda Tillery, Luther Tucker, Tracy Nelson, Norton Buffalo, Nick Gravenites and Charlie Musselwhite. Stints with Musselwhite as well as Northern California favorites Gary Smith, Nick Gravenites, Bobby Reed, Johnny Nitro, Mitch Woods and Terry Hank follow. A sought-after sideman for visiting artists, Paris Slim provides guitar work for A.C. Reed, Jerry McCain, James Harman, Mojo Buford, Sunnyland Slim, Philip Walker and Big Jack Johnson. Goldwasser is invited to fill-in for the late Mike Bloomfield as lead guitarist in an historical September 1989 reunion of the The Electric Flag. Including original members Nick Gravenites, Barry Goldberg, Harvey Brooks and Blues Project drummer Roy Blumenfeld, the band headlines a Woodstock 20th anniversary show at Lancaster, California.
Through the 1990’s, Paris Slim appears at festivals such as The Rose City Blues Festival (Portland, Oregon), the Oakland Arts Explosion, the Mount Baker Blues Festival (Washington), the Sacramento Blues Festival and the Monterrey Jazz and Blues Festival. A cassette-only album, “An Oakland Blues Band”, is released in 1993, followed by “Bleedin’ Heart” in 1996 on the San Francisco-based Globe record label, produced by Joe Louis Walker and featuring guest appearances by Walker as well as Sonny Rhodes. For the Mountain Top label, Franck Goldwasser produces and plays on several albums with Fillmore Slim, R.J. Mischo and Gary Smith, while appearing in various instructional videos. After a one-year stint with San Francisco soul-rock group the Dynatones, Franck Goldwasser relocates to Southern California in 1998. He appears regularly with the likes of Kim Wilson, Roy Gaines, Mitch Kashmar and Arthur Adams. Hired by Fresno-based drummer-producer Chris Millar, Franck appears on numerous Fedora Records releases, including albums by Hosea Leavey, Harmonica Slim, Fillmore Slim, Jessie Thomas, Iceman Robinson, Tommy Bankhead, Byther Smith and Jimmy Dawkins.
Goldwasser tours Europe during the early 2000’s with Jimmy Dawkins, Clay Hammond, John Weston, Homesick James, J.J. Malone, Iceman Robinson, Little Arthur Duncan and Big Jack Johnson while working at the Mount Baker Blues Festival (Washington) with Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Rusty Zinn and Willie “Big Eye” Smith. Back in California, he forms the group Blisterstring with Chris Millar and records the album “The Highway Is Like A Woman”. At the “Bowlful of Blues” festival in Ojai, California Franck backs-up the legendary Chicago singer-harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold and singer Finis Tasby. Los Angeles music and film entrepreneur Rand Chortkoff, who is in attendance, takes notice and offers to record Goldwasser. The album “Bluju” ensues as the first release of the extensive and celebrated Delta Groove Records catalog, followed in 2002 by its European reissue on Germany’s prestigious Crosscut label. Consisting of mostly original material and featuring cameo appearances by Phillip Walker, J.J. Malone and star Lebanese percussionist Souhail Kaspar (Sting, Kronos Quartet), the album earns praise from the press for keeping a firm footing in the blues tradition while exploring uncharted territories. The association of Chortkoff and Goldwasser leads to tours with Billy Boy Arnold and Chicago blues guitar legend Jody Williams, as well as a performance at Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival for a crowd of 30,000 on July 4th 2004, while ultimately being the catalyst for the formation of The Mannish Boys. With the initial lineup of singer Finis Tasby and harmonica player-singer Johnnie Dyer, guitarists Kirk Fletcher, Kid Ramos and
Franck Goldwasser, pianist Leon Blue, drummer Richard Innes and bassist Ronnie James, the Mannish Boys make an immediate impact on the international blues scene, appearing at festivals and concerts in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Lebanon, Mexico and Brazil.
With long-time associates harmonica maestro R.J. Mischo and Chicago blues veteran Steve Freund on guitar, the group Down Home Super Trio is assembled for an exclusive appearance at the Spring Blues Festival at Ecaussinnes, Belgium, promptly followed by a headlining spot at the Lucerne Blues festival in November 2004. The set, which features guest guitarists Billy Flynn and Alex Schultz, is recorded and released by the Crosscut label both as an album and a DVD. Back in California, Goldwasser joins forces with Santa Barbara blues rock guitarist Alastair Greene for an independently- released CD, “Franck Goldwasser with the Alastair Greene Band” (a.k.a. “North”).
Following a six-month hiatus spent in Paris, Franck Goldwasser moves to Portland, Oregon in 2005. Embraced by the Rose City’s devoted and supportive blues community, Franck is honored with a ten- page feature story in the Cascade Blues Association’s Blues Notes, written by president Greg Johnson. Stints with the Paul Delay Band, Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings, D.K. Stewart, Jim Wallace and Lloyd Jones follow. Appearing regularly at the Waterfront Blues festival, Goldwasser is invited for impromptu sessions with harmonica legend James Cotton and the Paladin’s Dave Gonzales. A collaboration with Oregon favorites Big Monti Amundson, Henry Cooper and drummer Boyd Small leads to the formation of the Sultans of Slide and the release of the album “Lightnin’ Strikes”. While touring the Netherlands in 2006, Franck records the album “Can’t Raise Me” for the Dutch record label Continental which features the late Blasters and Fabulous Thunderbirds pianist Gene Taylor. Session work finds Goldwasser appearing on albums by Bobby Jones, Sugar Ray Rayford and R.J. Mischo. While on the Legendary Blues Cruise with the Mannish Boys in 2010, Franck guests on Joe Louis Walker’s “Live On The Legendary Blues Cruise” album alongside Nick Moss and Jason Ricci. As a member of the Curtis Salgado band, Goldwasser tours extensively the U.S. and Canada during 2011-2012; featured as lead guitarist on the track “Strung Out”, Goldwasser is honored by the Blues Music Foundation as Salgado wins the “Album of the Year” award for his 2012 Alligator Records release “Soul Shot”. Simultaneously, the Mannish Boys are awarded as “Traditional Blues Band Of The Year”.
Having moved back to the Santa Barbara area in 2012, Franck returns to Portland and forms the T- Bone Walker tribute band The Bonepickers, which appears at the Waterfront Blues Festival and releases one CD, “Bone Pickin’” in 2015. 2018 takes Goldwasser back to Europe for a tour with Dutch harmonica player and fellow Delta Groove recording artist Big Pete which culminates with an appearance at Ospel’s Moulin Blues Festival in the Netherlands. Back in California, Franck plays locally and on the road with Hot Roux, the R&B Bombers and R.J. Mischo. 2020 sees the release of “Sweet Little Black Spider”, a two-disc album produced by Chris “Kid” Andersen that prominently features spoken word pieces as well as Goldwasser’s original musical compositions, including the politically-engaged “Tyranny Is Rising” which garners much praise in the U.S. and abroad. An album which consists of material recorded in 1998 and 1999, “Going Back To Paris”, is released in 2021 on the San Francisco-based Mountain Top record label.
Having relocated to his home city of Paris, Franck Goldwasser headlines the Lucerne Blues Festival in November 2021, fronting an all-star European band that includes Austrian Hammond B-3 maestro Raphael Wressnig and French harmonica player Vincent Bucher. In 2022 Goldwasser joins forces with legendary German pianist Christian Rannenberg and British harmonica player Roger Wade to form Goldwasser, Rannenberg and Wade; an album, “Crazed and Dangerous”, is released on the German Time Zone label. The same year, Crosscut Records releases “The Lockdown Sessions Vol II”, to which Goldwasser contributes two tracks. November 2022 finds Franck Goldwasser touring Finland and headlining the Blues Heaven festival in Denmark with RJ Mischo. In the spring of 2023 Franck tours with Alligator recording artist British harmonica player Giles Robson. Franck L. Goldwasser’s new album “Who Needs This Mess??!!”, of which the title track features musical cohorts Charlie Musselwhite, Sugaray Rayford and Kirk Fletcher is scheduled for release in June 2023 on the Crosscut record label.
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