1943 - Present
Inducted in 2013
Born August 2, 1943, and raised in Clay County, Frank Thomas is a native Floridian whose ancestors came to Florida in the late eighteenth century. His family’s direct connection with the land, his strong Florida heritage, and his love of, and interest in Florida’s history, inspired much of his music. Frank’s entire family played music and he learned it singing gospel at home and in church. He was strongly influenced at a very young age by listening to artists such as Hank Williams, Sr. on the Grand Ole Opry that he heard on a battery-powered radio in his childhood home in Middleburg, Florida where they had no electricity until the mid 1950s. Frank left Florida around 1960 while serving in the military and returned after approximately seven years of service in the Army.
Frank went on to tour nationally with several well-known gospel, blue-grass, and country groups including The Taylor Brothers, The Webb Family, and the Arkansas Travelers, as front-man singing and playing rhythm guitar. Franks touring with the Arkansas Travelers ended with a stint in Branson at the Old Branson Barn. He later returned to Florida and performed extensively with many well-known artists including Bobby Drawdy, Paul Champion, Gamble Rogers, and Will McLean. He was also influenced by Will McLean and strongly encouraged by his wife, Ann (who was also a prolific songwriter) to write songs about his beloved state of Florida. Frank has written many songs about Florida, and has recorded a number of albums including Cracker Nights, Florida Stories, Bingo!, Spanish Gold, There Goes the Neighborhood, and Just Another Day.
Together, Frank and Ann produced and hosted a weekly singer-songwriter radio show for WMNF-FM in the Tampa area that was also nationally syndicated on NPR. They were participants in the Florida Humanities Council’s Speakers Bureau and traveled Florida performing their music at schools, festivals, music and folk clubs, on television, and on concert stages. Their video “Florida History in Song” won the Florida Historical Societies coveted Golden Quill Award and has been re-released on DVD recently. Other awards received include The Florida Folk Heritage Award, and the Florida Historical Societies Inaugural Jillian Prescott History Award, the Stetson Kennedy Foundation’s Fellow Man and Mother Earth Award, and many others. The Inaugural North Florida Folk Festival was held in his honor at the Florida Agricultural Museum in Palm Coast to honor Frank’s lifetime achievements.
Frank has inspired many songwriters to write songs about Florida’s history, environment, and colorful characters. Frank, in recent years, has also teamed up with Stetson Kennedy to provide their audiences an entertaining and informative program starting with Frank and his music and ending with a Stetson Kennedy interview, then taking questions from the audience. He is referred to by some, as The Dean of Florida Folk because of hundreds of assignments given to songwriters, over the years, to write about some of the lesser-known events in the state’s history. Frank continues the rich tradition of passing on Florida history through story telling in song and still resides at his home, known as The Cracker Palace, in rural Polk County, Florida.