Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers – Americana on the Hudson
Written by Liam Sweeny on November 28, 2018
At the General Store down the river, go about five miles south past the last Cow Crossing sign, where the trucks in the lot all have mud finishes and if they don’t sell it, you just don’t need it, and you might just find Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers kickstarting Judgment Day.
With Frank Novko on bass, Johnny Hoffman and Bob Resnick on guitar and drums respectively, and everybody pitching in on vocals, Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers have here, there, and a little bit of everywhere. We sit down with Big Frank for a chat.
RRX: I’ve heard you all described as “swamp rock” and having heard some of your stuff, I can definitely see that. Can you describe your sound to our readers? How else would you describe yourselves beside swamp rock?
BF: Our sound is the sum of our influences, varied as they are, with the common thread being what is now termed the Americana music/genre. Which is an all-encompassing term itself, being a mix of blues, rock, classic country, Motown/Stax and R&B. Beside “swamp rock” I would say our sound would be what you would hear in a roadhouse somewhere out in Oklahoma in, say, 1964 – a bit of country, some R&B, a little surf, some rock, a bit of garage rock, etc…
RRX: You guys are a three piece. There are a lot of power bands that are three piece, like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Rush… what do you think are advantages of being a three piece band?
BF: For one it’s easier to get everyone together for rehearsals and scheduling gigs. Also it’s a purity of sound; with fewer members, it’s easier at times to give the music space, and also lets us all have our moment to stretch out.
RRX: Can you tell us how Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers came to rock the Capital Region? Is your current lineup the lineup you’ve always had, or have there been other players throughout the years?
BF: The genesis of the band came about as I was tired of being reliant on singers/front people. I was writing songs, and wanted to do something different, something that incorporated originals and covers you don’t typically hear.
The lineup, as with many groups, has changed a little over the years, with the constant members being Johnny Hoffman (guitars, vocals) and I. We’ve cultivated a good musical dialog over the years. I joke at times; it seems we have the Spinal Tap drummer curse. We’ve had a few talented people on drums – former members are Johnny Long, Matt Robbins, and Corey Hough on guitar, harmonica and vocals. We use the guys as fill-ins when Bob has another commitment.
RRX: You guys have been bringing joy to the region for a long time. Can you think of any notable shows you played? Any notorious shows? Do you have a place around here that you really like to jam out at?
BF: A more recent notable show was last year at The Hanger on the Hudson, we opened for The Fleshtones (we’ve opened for them a few times.) This gig, we played a couple of tunes from their back catalog, songs they hadn’t played in years as an unannounced tribute to them. The feedback from Keith Streng (Fleshtones guitarist ) was very positive; he enjoyed what we did.
Notorious shows – well there’s been a few. A gig in Herkimer at Brownies with a group called Boneslaw, a crazy night with a packed house the typical rock debauchery. Many gigs at Positively 4th Street with Black Cat Elliot, the Lawn Sausages, Phillips Head…
Places we like to play – pretty much anywhere that will have us, but of note, The Ale House in Troy and the Lost and Found in Albany. We did a Sunday session there this past spring/summer. Also The Olde English Pub and Indian Ladder Farms Cidery and Brewery.
RRX: Following from the previous question, you all have been in the local scene for a long time. You’ve probably seen it change considerably over the years. So, broad question: what do you think has changed around here since you started playing? And just as important, what has stayed a constant in the 518 music scene?
BF: The obvious answer, the venues to play at have changed, opening/closing. Places to play original music is limited. Gigs start earlier (which isn’t a bad thing.) New opportunities have risen at the local breweries that host live music which is nice to see.
The constant is the level of talent in the area; we have some damn fine musicians, talented songwriters, and the camaraderie of bands and musicians is good.
RRX: We’re all influenced by people, but I hate asking people to list influences. So I try to be creative. Discuss this among yourselves and compose a super group that you’re going to open up for. The players all must be from different bands. What’s the lineup?
BF: As I’m writing this alone here’s my supergroup (Frank) it does not reflect the opinion of the Bargain Bingers
OK here’s the group:
Vocals: Big Mama Thornton
Drums: Charlie Watts
Bass: (upright) Ron Carter
Keyboards: Jon Valby
Guitars: Roy Nichols, Rick Miller, Steve Ferguson
Horns: the Blood Sweat and Tears horn section from 1973
RRX: Sharing is caring. Share for us some local musicians, in your genre or not, that you’d like to show some love to. And to add to this, say one thing about them to pique our interest. Who do you love?
BF: Skip Parson of Skip Parson and the Riverboat Jazz band. Skip has been playing in the area forever, and now in his 80’s he’s still bringing it on clarinet. Dixieland and trad. Jazz, he’s the real deal. Catch him at The Fountain on New Scotland Ave, Albany. He’s been playing there since 1971.
Got to shout out to Black Cat Elliot. I played bass for them a few years ago when they needed a player. Great tunes and fun guys to hang with.
Guitarist Bernie Mulleda, from the 1980’s Albany band The Stomplistics. If he’s out playing, catch him, be it gypsy jazz, R&B, or slinky Stones rock. He crushes it.
Catch Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers at the Radio Radio X-Mas Rock and Roll Show of Shows at the River Street Pub in Troy on December 7th, with Blase Debris and Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival Band.