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The Frank Dean Guitar Scene

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He's met the Man in Black. He's played with the likes of the George Jones, Dwight Yoakam and hundreds of others. He's been playing music for 40 years, with 12 albums -- including a new one, Antique Finish -- and countless songs he's written for others.

Meet Frank Dean.

Dean owns Frank's Guitars in Franklin, Indiana, and he has but one passion in life -- music.

A man who is weathered by life, like the main character in a country ballad, Dean is candid, funny and passionate.

"I have always stuck to the idea that I love music, and I won't play a song I can't stand," Dean says. "I've never done it, I've never played Free Bird. Ever. I will not play Free Bird."

Over the years Frank Dean has - met a great many musical legends. - KYLE BEERY
  • Kyle Beery
  • Over the years Frank Dean hasmet a great many musical legends.

Then he pauses and adds: "Well, you never say never. Somebody better bring me a big paycheck."

Frank's Guitars is tucked away in a building complex on Jefferson Street in Franklin. Guitars and banjos line the walls, as do picture after picture of Dean with country music legends.

Dean says he's fortunate to have been playing music his entire life and to have met so many people along the way.

"This is all I've ever done," Dean says. "Last month I celebrated my 40th anniversary playing live."

Growing up in the hills of West Virginia before moving to northeast Indianapolis as a boy, Dean grew up with nothing but country music.

He knew early on that music was the only path he wanted to take.

"I'm one of those, for a lack of a better term, true believers," he says. "There was never a plan B for me. This is what I was going to do, and it's probably too late to take up brain surgery. So I guess I'm kind of stuck here."

Dean has several gigs. He's a solo artist, part of a trio, and he also plays lead guitar for a rhythm and blues band called Cadillac Scott and the Snakehandlers.

Dean says he plays two or three shows every week.

"I haven't quite figured out whether the shop supplements my gigging or if my gigging supplements my shop," Dean said.

Dean wouldn't trade all of his memories for more recognition or a higher paying career. He's happy doing what he's doin'. - KYLE BEERY
  • Kyle Beery
  • Dean wouldn't trade all of his memories for more recognition or a higher paying career. He's happy doing what he's doin'.

His different groups play various venues all over the Midwest, from locally in central Indiana, to Cincinnati, to Chicago. Dean says he could probably just stay in town and be able to keep himself busy.

"There's like four bars in Franklin," he says, "and I play all of them."

He's already booked for nearly 70 events in 2015.

"It's hard work. You can't sit around and you can't wait for people to call you," Dean says. "You've got to go and see them, you've got to go talk to them, you've got to develop relationships with them."

Over the years, Dean has had the opportunity to meet some of music's all-time greats. Johnny Cash is his favorite. Dean has reservations about the Cash biopic "Walk The Line" starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, but he speaks highly of Cash and his family. He even joined them for a chicken dinner once.

"I didn't know (John) well. I don't want to say that, because that wouldn't be true," Dean says. "I knew him. He was an acquaintance, I'd met him a few times."

Dean met Cash through a Nashville friend.

"I never got invited over to the house to go fishing with him, but I'm really good friends with (singer/songwriter) Marty Stuart," Dean says. "And Marty at one time was married to one of his daughters, plus Marty was his utility guy on the road for years."

Dean hasn't had much fame with his music, which doesn't bother him.

But perhaps he is most noted for writing a Johnny Cash tribute song titled "You Walked Tall." He wrote the song years before Cash died. Shortly after Cash's death in 2003, members of Cash's band, The Tennessee Three, came to Frank's Guitars in search of a tribute song.

Dean said the manager of the band had heard hundreds of tribute songs they didn't like, and somehow heard that Dean had a good one.

"When you're a musician, you're used to being lied to all your life," Dean says, "So I said, 'Well, you can buy one.'"

"And I thought, well, I'm never going to see that bastard again, and three days later, Bob Wooten, the guitar player for the Tennessee Three and W.S. Holland, who has been with Cash since 1957, they call me up and say, 'Hey man, we love your song, can we get the rights to record it?'"

They did record it, and performed it at the premiere of Walk the Line.

While Dean is proud of that, it's not something he would ever brag about. He was just happy playing the music and paying tribute to his all-time favorite.

Dean stands by the fact that he wouldn't trade all of his memories for more recognition nor a higher paying career.

"You can buy a Mercedes Benz if you're selling insurance," Dean says, "but you can't meet Buck Owens."

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