Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon|
(1895 - 1944) U.S.A.
Frankie, was born in Montgomery, Alabama. A leader in the Harlem Renaissance, was an eccentric singer and a mysterious figure, a vaudeville star and famous female impersonator from the 'teens, 'twenties, and 'thirties. Frankie's recordings were funny, wild and suggestive, often studded with little bits of Frankie's vaudeville comedy routines.
Called "Half Pint" due to being 5' 2", Jaxon (who was an orphan) grew up in Kansas City. At 15 he began singing in variety shows and at clubs. He toured with a theatrical troupe in Texas and Oklahoma, forming with Miss Gallie De Gaston a song and dance team that did well in vaudeville during 1912-24.
When he was 21, Jaxon began working regularly in Atlantic City (usually the Paradise Café) in the summer and the Sunset Café in Chicago in the winter. An expert at staging shows, Half Pint helped Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters (among others) put on their productions. Jaxon, who also worked as a female impersonator, a pianist-singer and a saxophonist, was mostly in Chicago during 1927-41, a period when he made many recordings.
Occasionally, Frankie would start out a song by saying something like, "I'm going to sing you a song entitled, "Roses are red, coal is black; if your pants are too loose, just pull in the slack!'" Then he would proceed to sing something that had nothing to do with the "title" he had given it. Frankie is known to have appeared in a film short called Black and Tan Fantasy with Duke Ellington, in which he played a piano mover.
Jaxon's music is still a lot of fun to listen to. The almost always bawdy comedy is still fresh and filled with sexual double entendre. Jaxon often plays the role of a woman in the songs and one can imagine him being a very funny drag queen. His song Operation Blues is a good example of his kind of risqué hokum.
In 1930 he formed the Quarts of Joy and he often appeared on the radio in the 1930s. Jaxon used his best-known composition Fan It (which would later be recorded by Woody Herman) as a trademark song. Although still popular, Jaxon dropped out of music altogether in 1941, and worked at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. He was transferred to Los Angeles in 1944 where he died in the veterans hospital.