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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 03:32 pm

Frank rocks out of town


Frank Huston in front of his downtown music studio.

Whenever area guitar players get mentioned, Frank Huston’s name is sure to come up early in the conversation. Huston, now into his fourth decade of playing music on the local scene, is moving to Portland, Ore., in a few weeks. This Friday, Dec. 9, “Frank Rock” plays a fan appreciation and farewell show with the Oohs at Frankie’s (no relation) 49er. The band does a final gig at Lime Street Café on Dec. 16.

Relocating came about when Frank’s wife, Amanda, landed a great job the couple felt they couldn’t pass up. In typically funny Frank fashion, he laughingly described the move as “every musician’s dream of a wife getting a good-paying job,” reminding one and all of the old saw that goes, “What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend? Homeless.” But on a serious note, his departure leaves a big gap in the local music scene as he takes his well-stocked, musical arsenal to another arena.

“I don’t look at this like the golden rainbow thing, like the big move to a big city, but I see it as a good opportunity to use everything I’ve learned through the years on a new scene,” he says. “I won’t have to hit the bricks every Friday and Saturday night to play. I can pick and choose what gigs to do and play more creatively. Might end up doing more jazz. Don’t know for sure until I get there, but no matter where I go I know I’ll be playing music and making money.”

Frank got bit by the music bug around age 14, began taking lessons at Walter Collins Studio on Singer Ave. and ended up studying classical guitar and music from “Sister A” at Springfield College in Illinois in the early 80s. He continued his education a decade later, pursuing jazz studies at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music. Through private lessons in his downtown studio and three years of teaching at Lincoln Land Community College, Frank passed on his knowledge of music to a generation of students.

 The list of groups graced by Frank Huston’s presence over the last 30-plus years reads like Springfield rock music history. There was Magnum Force, Dreaming in Colors and the Teddy Boys, then Sky High, the Trees and Cats on Holiday. With the Disciples of Chaos he played same Chicago clubs with Poster Children and Smashing Pumpkins before those groups went big time. More recently Huston worked with the Dan Rivero Trio, Debbie Ross Band and one of the best area rock bands you’ll ever see, the Oohs.

“People have told me I’m the best guitar player in town, but I never let the big fish in a small pond deal go to my head,” he muses. “I know there’ll be plenty of guys as good and better than me out there in Portland. Nothing like some stiff competition to get things going.”

This week he’s busy packing up his sizable and wonderful collection of amps and guitars (about 50 each, plus assorted pedals and gear assortments) and overlooking the movers as they load the precious cargo. He’s lined up a guitar teaching job at an art center and is looking forward to “beating the street” in the very happening Portland music scene. Whatever he does, Frank’s brimming confidence and skilled playing will take him to the heights of the scene there, as happened here.

“I’m not burning any bridges and I’ll be back to visit. Leaving is bittersweet. I’ll miss playing with all the bands and seeing friends and working with students,” he says. “It’s been a great run. Now I’m ready to embark on a new adventure.”

Good luck, Frank. We’ll miss you.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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