Frank's Living Room and The Birth Of Hipster Divebar Jukebox

I thought I knew drinking, and I thought I knew about music, but truth be told — I knew next to nothing. My idea of drinking was a 17 year olds technique of dumping out a third of a quart of Tropicana orange juice and replacing it with cheap vodka. Musically, I was up on the latest New Wave and Punk, but I wouldn’t know a George Jones tearjerker or a vintage STAX side if it sat down next to me on a rickety Frank’s Living Room stool, and bought me a snakebite.

After my first couple of visits, I was pretty sure his name was Leo, not Frank. Leo poured with a heavy hand. I remembered that he sighed and smiled when we called him Frank, serving us another round of Vodkas and Grapefruits, while flipping over a mixed tape. The tapes were Leo’s. He played them loud. Ear-shatteringly loud:

Nervous Breakdown

Get Off My Cloud

The Grand Tour

Holiday in Cambodia

September Gurls

After The Fire Is Gone

Lust For Life

Johnny Hit and Run Pauline (Leo had a thing for X)

Gardening At Night

American Music

Cry Like A Baby

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

Mamma Tried

I’ll Take You There

Rise Above

Color Me Impressed

Time of The Season

Pale Blue Eyes

Sex Bomb

One For My Baby

Like I mentioned, at first we thought he was “Frank”. After all, he lorded over the place — Frank’s Living Room — a majestically squalid, 500 square foot, literally underground bar in the greyest city on earth — Albany NY.

Leo was my personal John Peel. Although he was probably barely 30, Leo was my elder statesman. He taught me about life, love and loss all through the power of a perfectly sequenced mixed tape. Leo trafficked in classic Country, Rockabilly, Soul, Garage Rock, and the most cutting edge, and hardest new Punk and New Wave.

Without knowing it, Leo changed our take on music.
All genres mixed together.
All eras counted.
As long as it was pure, it was on the Frank’s Living Room list.

Leo created the model for Hipster Dive Bar Jukebox.
This station is for the Leo in us all.


Classic Country. Vintage Soul. Select Punk, New Wave & Indie:

Hipster Divebar Jukebox:


19 thoughts on “Frank's Living Room and The Birth Of Hipster Divebar Jukebox”

  1. REALLY really great. Granted, I’m easy when it comes to something like this, but you had me at those terrific first five words. Well done.

  2. Great memorial Jack. RIP Leo. A true gentleman, a gracious soul.

    I will make one addition to the musical honor roll, a personal fav, the Dbs “black&white,” which seemed to be blasting out of Frank’s crappy speakers every night I was in there (which was most nights. How did I graduate?)

      1. Neil, we lived two doors down! I remember getting pitchers-to-go for our dinners. Leo would get a plate. At the end of the semester I returned about 4 pitchers and 20 glasses that made it to our apartment!

        I also got to hang with Leo when I played on Frank’s softball team. They had a great league – home team was the host and post-game bar…losing team ponied up $5 each (yes $5!) for open taps all night for both teams. I got to see a lot of bars and meet people all over Albany through Leo. Had some fun when Leo moved over to the Washington Tavern for a while also.
        Sorry to hear he is gone.

  3. amazing post! can’t wait to hear the station! i remember frank’s well, and the music. i can’t say i remember leo that well, as i was usually too busy staring into linda hayme’s eyes to pay attention to little else!

  4. Jack, thanks for writing this. I’d forgotten the Leo-George Jones connection; I have him to thank for turning me on to Marianne Faithfull.

      1. I am, I think…graduated into a full name sometime after leaving Frank’s.

        Leo was an extraordinarily kind man.

  5. Lest we are left with the impression that only hip dudes frequented this subterranean enclave of music chic, I too frequented Frank’s in the 1980s, more than once wearing my I Was A Victim Of The Stranglers t-shirt, or maybe some Ant makeup en route to a show at JB Scotts. And if Leo, aka ‘Frank’ was our musical mentor, leave some room at the bar to sidle up with another old friend, Jack, from the mighty Yukon, and the source of many a turly lethal snakebite. Play it again, Leo, of all the dive bars in this lousy world, I’m glad I showed up in yours.

  6. I loved Frank’s and could be found there most weekend (and quite a few weekday) nights in ’81-’84. You could always scrap together a couple of bucks for 40 cent drafts. Leo was the best and I had the privilege of having one of my mix tapes in rotation. Shout out to Kevin from your CDB summer of ’83 morning jock. Those Bose speakers weren’t so crappy.

  7. I didn’t know Frank’s but I knew Leo pretty well. I worked with him for a lot of years at IBM and knew him from his days at Washington Tavern. He was smart, cool, fun, funny, easy to talk to, and so into music. That’s where we really merged – music! I miss his puns, his conversation, his knowledge, and his laughter. He was a friend and a terrific person!

  8. I been mainlining this station since Thursday. Driving around with band members. Blasting it during set breaks at wild parties in the desert, while cooking at home, and even listening on headphones at work. A few misses here and there but I’d say it’s pretty darn near 95% right on. Thank you!

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