A local Baltimore/Washington D.C. musician makes the most of his life by expressing his feelings and emotions through his gift of playing the piano.
To Frankie Mabry, music has always been his number one love, and he has been living his dream ever since he was a young child. He grew up in a music-involved family, which included many Gospel singers and his uncle who was heavily involved in the D.C. jazz scene.
Mabry first displayed his musical abilities when he sang at a James Brown Talent Contest in Washington D.C. at the age of five. After the contest, he would sing Gospel music at his Church with his family. From there he started playing and reading music through a wide variety of instruments including the clarinet, guitar, bass guitar, and his main instrument of choice, the piano.
“When I was about six or seven, my uncle bought me a little organ that had push buttons,” said Mabry. “And that’s what really interested me in playing the piano.”
After playing three types of clarinet throughout elementary and middle school, Mabry started to learn how to play the piano at the age of 14. He said that Gospel music and jazz were his original influences, but when he entered high school he started playing in the marching band and concert band, which got him into marches and classical music. In Mabry’s late high school career, he started listening to funk music, and a few musicians impacted the way he played the piano.
“Stevie Wonder is my main influence because I used to listen to the various techniques he used on his records, and I started to emulate those techniques with my playing style,” he said. “The first song I learned on piano was “Knocked Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder.”
Mabry started taking music and the piano more seriously, and he joined his first band, Nirvana (not the famous one) in 1976. He played the piano and sang and it was one of the first times Mabry and his band mates were playing original music that they had written in front of an audience. After a short stint with that band, Mabry went on to do a lot of solo stuff in his early adult years.
Mabry stayed away from playing music for 13-14 years while he started a career and raised a family, but got back into playing when he built a studio in his basement. After he built the studio, he played and recorded his solo material for ten years and also played piano with a Church choir in Philadelphia. After settling back down in Maryland a few years ago, Mabry joined The Band With No Name, a popular cover band that frequently plays in the Baltimore/Metro area.
“On top of my full time job, I like to go out and market our band and try to find bars where we can play,” said Mabry. “I enjoy doing a lot of the leg work of the band because I have the personality for it and I like meeting and talking to new people, and I enjoy checking out new bands. The only thing that can be exhausting about playing all the time is all of the hours spent setting up and breaking down equipment.”
Frankie Mabry hopes to continue singing and playing piano with The Band With No Name for a while, but he is happy as long as he gets to continue living his dream and pass his knowledge of music to younger people and his children. He said that seeing his daughter learn how to play the violin and share that same passion has been one of the greatest joys of his life.
“Music is the thing that keeps me going through the tough times and makes life worth living,” he said. “ I will continue to play and love music until the day I die.”