Frank and Fran share music
The musical duo of Frank and Fran - or Fran and Frank - has delighted northern Minnesota audiences for a quarter century.
Frank Lamb and Fran Gack are such institutions throughout Hubbard, Cass and other counties, they've earned, like Cher, a one-name instant recognition from their thousands of fans.
"Oh, Frank and Fran are playing," one woman noted matter-of-factly at a recent event.
Cheery, upbeat and full of life, one wonders if either has a bad day.
Frank was born in Akeley, where he owned Frank's Grocery for 30 years.
He started picking out tunes on a piano around age 5, then spent a several years taking lessons.
"I had a band when I was in high school, when I was 17," Lamb said. "We played a few dances at what was then the VFW and is now the Brauhaus. And then off and on I'd play here and there and I organized bands from about... well I played with Virg Blanchard in the early 60s. Before that I played off and on."
When the Lambs purchased the grocery store in 1966, Frank was pretty well grounded in the area.
That's When he formed semi-permanent musical groups."
"I pretty much had a band off and on since then," Lamb said. "Fran's been with me for 25 years. Mike Chase, the drummer, who owns the Woodtick, has been with me around 15 years and then Bill's (Erickson) been with us for probably five-six years. He plays guitar.
"We've just played all over," he said.
Tractor shows, downtown events, weddings, church events, nursing homes, you name it; they've been there.
The red-haired pixie has known Frank Lamb her entire life. Though seven years apart, they essentially grew up together.
"Frank's mom is my godmother so we're almost like brother and sister," Gack said. "My dad and his wife's mother used to work together at the Badoura Nursery so it's been a family friendship there."
Like Frank, Fran grew up in a musical household.
"It was kind of neat," Gack said. "When I was about 10 years old my daddy had a lap steel guitar. He tuned it up in the key of G. He played the fiddle and he showed me how to play along with him and then in school I played the clarinet and then my graduation present in '63 was a guitar."
A lifetime love of music grew.
"I love playing the fiddle," Gack said. "That's my favorite instrument. I got hooked on that...
"My main instruments are the guitar, the fiddle and the mandolin. But I play standup bass, guitar, a hammer dulcimer, I have a viola, I have a cello, there's just a bunch of stuff - harmonicas. I have a little accordion that I work on now and again. But it seems if you get started on one, you can play just about anything if you want to."
Lamb specializes in keyboards but said he can still pick out a tune on a guitar or accordion.
"I do not play keyboards," Gack said. "I can pound out a tune if I want to but it's not one of my favorite things to do. We never had a piano. If I really need to know something I can pick it out."
In other words, the duo completes each other.
Both qualify as senior citizens, but neither looks the part.
"I guess that's what music does for you," Gack giggled.
They hooked up musically a quarter century ago, and each played with other musicians along the way.
Gack played with a regional Celtic band called Northwind Crossing, which was together seven years, while still playing with Lamb's band.
"We played for a lot of Christmas parties," Lamb said. "Those kind of things it's either alone or one or two of us."
Music has kept him young, too.
"Yeah, that's one good thing you can have with you all of your life," Lamb said. "As long as your health is good."
The two have hundreds of middle-aged groupies. They play an eclectic mix of classics, country, old-time favorites.
At a recent Lions dinner, they gamely donned Santa hats and ties to perform.
"There's a lot of people come to our dances, especially in Leader, Backup, Pine River and the Jenkins area," Lamb said. "I'd say it's pushing 100. It's hard to say."
On New Year's Eve they will be making their joyful noise in Backus.
In January Lamb and wife Deloris will head south for a month to Arizona and Las Vegas.
They'll resume playing locally in February.
And based on longevity, they'll no doubt play right through Heaven's Gate, attracting a large crowd with them.