FRANKLIN LYNCH

FRANKLIN LYNCH

This is a picture of Frank Lynch. You haven’t heard of him, but if you’ve heard my recording of the song “Young Girl”, you’ve heard his words. He recorded the song first in 1969. The reason you haven’t heard of Frank Lynch is because shortly after that song was released, he was shot and killed by a white police officer at the age of 24. The specifics of the story, then and now, are up for debate. On March 7th, 1970, while a patient at Boston City Hospital, Lynch began “threateningly snapping a towel” at a police officer, Walter Duggan, who was guarding another patient in the same ward. Duggan shot and killed Frank Lynch as well as another man in the same room, Edward Crowley. 

Then, as now, there were rallies, public outcry and allegations of racism by the police. Despite massive outcry from Boston’s Black Community and even a probe by the NAACP, no charges were filed against Officer Duggan and he was not even suspended from duty. A group called The Boston Black United Front even held a mock “trial” of Officer Duggan and invited him to come and defend himself. He did not attend. 

Frank Lynch’s music and his death have faded in to the annals of history. It’s now been a little more than 50 years since his murder, and he’s become just another name on an obscure record label. Now the names of Black men killed by police become nationally known. But what we don’t know, and what we’ll never know, is that would have happened to those men if their lives had not been tragically cut short. What would have happened to Frank Lynch? To his music? We’ll never know. We barely even remember his name. 

All the lives lost to police violence against the Black community are not just names. Frank Lynch was not the first and George Floyd unfortunately will not be the last. They were people with hopes, dreams, talent and potential. That’s something we can’t afford to forget - Eli Paperboy Reed

If you wanted to buy R & B in Boston, MA the go-to place was Skippy White’s. For more than 30 years Skippy was the soul king of the city. And while he mainly sold music he did make the occasional foray into providing it as well. Perhaps his best known label was Bluestown but there were others as well like My Record. This 45 by the obscure Franklin Lynch is the only one I’m aware of on the My Record label and it contains two good sides. The pick is undoubtedly People Will Make You Say Things, a really tuneful ballad. The chord changes work well, as does the orchestral arrangement, and Lynch does the song justice with his gospel tinged vocal – the short unaccompanied rap and his falsetto phrases being especially tasty. The faster flip shows his strong chops to good effect as well. 

"Earlier tonight I spoke on the phone to Herschel Dwellingham who wrote the song "Young Girl." We spoke for over an hour and I found out that not only did he write Young Girl, he arranged, produced and played drums on the record! He grew up in Bogalusa, LA (where he lives again now) and moved to Boston to attend Berklee and after became THE arranger, producer and session drummer for basically all the R & B and Soul records that came out in Boston between 1963 and 1973. He also was the band leader and drummer at the biggest and best Boston Soul Club at the time, The Sugar Shack, in addition to writing and arranging commercial jingles at Ace recording studios in Boston's famed combat zone. Herschel really transformed the Soul Scene in Boston by combining the southern sound he had gotten growing up in Bogalusa (about 70 miles north of New Orleans) with the formal training he received at Berklee. 

"Young Girl" was recorded in late 1967 and was the 2nd record Herschel ever produced, after the Billy Thompson record. He and the singer Franklin Lynch had known each other for a few years and after a local DJ failed to follow up on a promise to record Lynch, Herschel decided he would produce him himself. He wrote the song "Young Girl" along with the b-side of the single "People Will Make You Say Things." This time Herschel did the horn and string arrangements himself in addition to producing and playing drums. His friend Alf Clausen, though, was involved again this time playing the distinctive french horn part on the session! Herschel recorded the song on his own dime and then brought it to label and record store impresario Skippy White who promptly released it on his label My Records. As soon as the record came out in 1968 it was given pick hits by billboard, cashbox and several other trade magazines. 

"Young Girl" was on its way to taking off before fate intervened. On a Friday night, Franklin Lynch was playing with Herschel and his band at the famous Boston club, Paul's Mall. At this time Lynch was living with his Aunt who he had recently moved in with after living with Herschel and his wife for almost 2 years. After the gig Herschel was driving Frank home and said that he was acting "funny" and kept talking about death and about how he knew he was going to die. That night, Lynch got into an argument with his Aunt which escalated into a physical fight. A neighbor called the police who, in the process of arresting Frank broke his arm. He was taken, along with another prisoner, to Mass. General Hospital and an armed police officer was stationed there to guard both prisoners. Apparently Frank was still in an odd state because when he came out of the bathroom he started waving a towel at the police officer in a threatening manner. The other prisoner, decided to join in and they both advanced toward the officer. The cop shot Frank 3 times in the head at close range, killing him instantly. 

After that night, there was an uproar in Boston's black community. Franklin Lynch's family sued the city of Boston along with the Boston Police force but their case was unsuccessful. Boston was still a very racially divided city in 1968 and no one was surprised by the verdict.