FRANKLIN, Ind. — Frank Dean ‘s love of music started when his aunt played him his first rock and roll album as a child and continued throughout his life. During his long career, he opened for some of the music industry’s most iconic acts and traveled all over.
“I have played and opened for I think at last count was 67 majors and, luckily, I knew them all years ago before they were big stars,” he said.
But it was a gig at The Willard that made him fall in love with the town of Franklin and eventually open his own guitar store there, right on Jefferson Street near the courthouse.
This October, Frank’s Guitars will celebrate 20 years. And over those years, people from around the world have come to see the treasures and hear the stories only he can share.
We’re jamming in Franklin on this trip In Your Neighborhood.
“I guess I figured out the only way I could have hundreds of guitars around me was to own a store,” said owner Frank Dean. “So I did that.”
Now, guitars line the walls of Dean’s shop: electric, acoustic, guitars for kids and beginners, vintage, new and used and even specialty guitars.
“Then we’ve got guitars that aren’t even for sale because I just can’t bear letting go of them,” he said. “I sold a $5,000 Gibson to a friend of mine last week and almost cried as it left because I didn’t want to see it go. And that happens all the time.”
He also has some special instruments that aren’t on display, including one particular favorite.
“This one was from the 50th anniversary of The Byrds ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ tour, and all The Byrds signed it for me.”
But as often as people come to purchase an instrument, just as many come for the endless storytelling and jam sessions.
“Mainly I think now I’ve just become a place where old musicians come to hang out. I’m like the old general store. Except it’s for old hippies,” he said with a smile.
It’s part music store, part history museum, where you’ll see photos featuring Frank Dean and all the famous artists he’s played with or opened for during his career.
Some have even stopped by the shop, including Kenny Vaughan, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash and Marty Stuart.
“I usually try to arrange [their visits] for late night,” Dean explained. “People see a half a million-dollar tour bus pull up and all of a sudden it gets really crowded in here.”
You’ll see all kinds of artifacts like signed sheet music from Johnny Cash and cases showcasing some famous wardrobe items like a jacket once worn by Hank Williams Sr.
And he has a story to go with all of them.
“That was a gift from Marty Stuart. The Hank jacket. It is spectacular. And if you turn around there, there’s another special one from Miss Emmy,” he noted. “I’ve got to tell you, if there’s a sweeter person in the world than Emmy Lou Harris then I’ve never met them.”
“We were playing one night, and we were opening for her, and I think she went about three minutes over our sound check and she waited until every single one of us were on stage so she could come up and apologize,” Dean recalled. “And two nights later we opened for Todd Rundgren and he got mad that we wanted a sound check.”
It’s no surprise that even a quick trip to Frank’s Guitars can often turn into multiple hours of storytelling and fellowship.
“It’s a place to share music. We come in, we trade licks. I pull out one of my 5,000 piece CDs and we listen to that or trade songs,” he said. “As a song writer, a lot of other songwriters hang out here.”
And Frank Dean couldn’t imagine it any other way.
“It’s everything I wanted it to be. And everybody wants to buy it. I have people coming in weekly because it’s two doors down from the courthouse. And it’s like, what am I going to do? Play golf with doctors? Do I look like that’s going to happen?” Dean laughs.
Four Things You Need to Know About Frank’s Guitars:
- After a long and successful career as a musician opening for some of the industry’s biggest acts, Frank Dean opened his own guitar shop at 55 E. Jefferson Street in Franklin.
- Nearly two decades later, the shop has become so much more than a guitar shop by not only selling instruments, but also showcasing some of Dean’s amazing music artifacts, famous clothing items and instruments, walls full of photos and autographs. “It really is like a museum. It is my museum,” he said.
- Of all the amazing stories Frank Dean has to share and the famous friends who stop by, he says his favorite part about owning his guitar shop is still the people and getting to share music with others. “We’ve had people stay here for hours,” he said. “I’ve had people from New Zealand and Australia. And they’ll take cabs here.”
- In addition to selling guitars and lesson books, he offers repair services and lessons which will start up again in the fall. So if you or someone you know is interested in becoming a student, he says to give them a call in late August to make sure you can get a slot.
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