Folksinger Frenchy Burrito went delving into his past looking for one of his old schoolmates from his Central YMCA High School days in Chicago. He was trying to solve a mystery about a recording session he was at. This would be going way back to the mid 60's.The person Frenchy was looking for was a fella by the name of Rick Mann onetime guitar player for the Chicago band THE FLOCK. They became fast friends at school. As the story goes -- Rick spotted Frenchy in the school cafeteria one day as Frenchy was strumming on an old beat up F-hole acoustic guitar he had just bought at a pawn shop on State Street. Rick approached Frenchy and helped him out with some guitar chords he was trying to figure out. It was a meeting sort of like Lennon and McCartney. (well, not exactly) Frenchy was soon to learn that Rick was the rhythm guitar player for an up and coming Chicago band called The Flock and that they were doing some recordings for a local label called Destination Records. As a matter of fact they had a session coming up in a few days and Rick asked Frenchy if he would like to go and of course FB was delighted and jumped at the opportunity. Burrito was a late bloomer of sorts in the music game and Rick was well on his way in the business. Frenchy wanted to get all the experience he could and here was a chance. Now herein lies the mystery. When the day came for them to go to the studio Rick explained that this studio had a really cool history and it was within walking distance of the Y which was located at 19 S. LaSalle. This was 39 years ago and although Frenchy never forgot the experience he was never quite sure of the name of the studio. Could it have been Chess Records? Didn't Rick tell him the name? Chess was within walking distance of the Y. The Y was at 19 S. LaSalle, Chess was at 2120 S. Michigan. How could a person forget such a thing? Or was it Universal Studios? It was located downtown too. One thing he remembers clearly was that the control room was behind glass up above the the actual studio so he was looking down at the musicians while they were recording. A recent trip back to Chicago in 2004 included stopping by the renovated Chess Records. The building had recently been declared an historic landmark by Mayor Daley. Frenchy took the tour and it jogged his memory when the tour guide, A.J. pointed out that the configuration of the control room being above the studio was a Chess first. The Chess brothers, always the innovators.
Okay back to 2005. With a little detective work Frenchy found an original member of the Flock, Fred Glickstien who was still living in Chicago. With the first call he made he connected to Fred the rhythm guitar player from THE FLOCK. Fred was a real nice guy and after Frenchy explained that he was trying to find Rick Mann (actually Frenchy wasn't sure if Rick was his name it had been so long) Fred explained that sadly Rick had left the band before they signed with Columbia Records for their debut Album (They had to make room for Jerry Goodman the charismatic electric violinist) But that he was still in contact with Rick. He also said after hearing Frenchy's story that it must have been Chess Records that Rick took Frenchy to! At the time Rick was going to the Y they were recording a series of 4 singles for Destination and one of the sessions, the last session was at Chess. Also, as providence would have it Fred explained to Frenchy that he had been on a search for those very masters and just located them at a label called Fuel 2000 based in L.A. and was in negotiations with Fuel to release them as a new CD called THE FLOCK THEN & NOW. So, to bring this story to a close Fred put Frenchy in touch with Rick who was living in an undisclosed location and was married to a rocket scientist. He plays the lap steel guitar now and has a studio in his house. Frenchy and Rick had a great telephone reunion and reminisced about the Central Y days. Rick confirmed that it had to have been Chess Records that day 39 years ago. Mr. Burrito was thrilled to know that he was at Chess Records in its heyday (if only as an observer). What a lucky twist of fate to have been in the same studio where Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Etta James and countless others made those historic recordings! And Leonard and Phil Chess still owned it at that time! In a recent interview Frenchy Burrito said, "I can't help but think that some of that Chess magic rubbed off on me." He added, "And to think it all started with that beat up old guitar in the Y cafeteria - Thanks again Rick!"
Frenchy's Strange Paint CD is on its way to Rick Mann. He will finally see what his mini guitar lesson in the Central "Y" cafeteria wrought 39 years later!
Franky Lamp would like to thank Fred Glickstein for his time and info in preparing this article -- Frenchy's sending you a CD too.
(Franky Lamp is a lo-if freelance writer who occasionally contributes to frenchyburrito.com)
Editors note: For those wishing to learn more about the history of Chess Records an excellent book to read is: SPINNING BLUES INTO GOLD by Nadine Cohodas. Published by St. Martins.