Author's Note: A trifle to fill my idle time.
Various versions of the song "Frankie and Johnny" evolved from times past, and include: Frankie and Johnny, Frankie and Albert, Frankie's Blues, and numerous other versions. One form or another was already popular among railroaders of the west and along the Mississippi River by 1888.
Too much time has passed to have any agreement as to the origin, but one wide held possibility concerns a woman named Frankie Silvers. She became the heroine of a ballad, though probably not the direct ancestor of the various women of song named Frankie, after chopping up her no good husband - with an axe, yet - on the Toe River in North Carolina, in 1831. There were claims that this version was sung by Federal troops before Vicksburg in 1863.
Note that there is little agreement on the antecedents of Frankie and Johnny but lots of speculation.
This stanza will give you a sense of what a current version of song is like:
"Frankie reached down in her pocketbook,
And up with a long .44.
She shot once, twice, three times,
And Johnny fell on the hardwood floor.
Oh, he was a man all right,
But she shot him because he was doing her wrong."
Now this isn't a song just from the ancient past; even Lindsay Lohan has done a version, along with: Brook Benton, Elvis, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Van Morrison, Cisco Houston, Bluegrass Messengers and probably dozens of others, possibly including my sainted grandmother, Dottie Agnes Rivers.
Of them all though, the one I like the best is from Johnnie Cash, "Frankie's Man, Johnny." He has a different slant to the story.
"Then in the front door walked a redhead.
Johnny saw her right away.
She came down by the bandstand to watch him while he played.
He was Frankie's man but she was far away.
He sang every song to the redhead; she smiled back at him."
There were no two ways about it: Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts. They had been neighbors: Johnny was the handsome, devil-may-care teenager, always getting into trouble. Frankie was the cute girl next door and looked adorable in the first-in-town wearing of her pageboy hairstyle.
Frankie was sweet, all right, but she had steel in her. Johnny did have the roving eye and whenever he looked too long he paid the price: kissing Frankie became like kissing a frozen pumpkin.
Things might have gone that way for a while, love drifting along, but for the Chinese crossing the Yalu into Korea and the kind request of Johnny's friends and neighbors for him to go to Korea and kill those hordes of Chinese Communists.
For Frankie, this meant that the more yonder Johnny became the fonder of him she became. Love became desire and Frankie ached for her lover's return. Nights became a recurring flood of tears on Frankie's pillowcases.
Johnny, though, took yonder to mean wander ... and wander he did. Frankie was far away and there were all these girls: Korean beauties, nurses, USO staff ... and several times the sexy entertainers.
Johnny surprised himself ... and a hell of a lot of other people, Frankie included, when he showed an unexpected flair for killing the evil Chicoms. An unfortunately aimed – from Johnny's perspective, not from the Chicom sniper's who got a great communist attaboy for the six-hundred yard shot – left Johnny with a forever kind of limp and his heroics earned him a Silver Star.
The combination of the limp and the medal, not to mention his All America Boy good looks, earned him a war bond tour. Frankie was proud to see her lover boy in the headlines of the papers for killing all of those "Godless Commies." The papers didn't print pictures of the hanger's on, the groupies before there were called groupies; she didn't know that her man had a wicked wandering eye. He was her man ... nearly all the time – mostly.
Released from the war, released from the rigors - and the de rigueur wanderings - of the War Bond tour, Johnny came home. Two days later Johnny's lust and Frankie's firm "No, not until we are married!" led them from Nashville to a neighboring state where any justice of the peace would marry them.
Blissfully wed, Frankie and Johnny looked forward to a happy life together. Johnny found that his new wife could satisfy all of his lust. He was her man and they were true as a blue, blue sky. There was only one fly in the ointment, so to speak, and that was that Johnny had only two skills: killing those nasty hordes of Chinese communists and picking at his Tennessee flat-top box. He in no manner wanted to go back to Korea – even with the nubile, willing USO girls – but he was damned good at his guitar picking.