With as many family bands and brother duets as there are in bluegrass and old-time music -- not to mention as many people as there are named Franklin in the mountainous area connecting North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky -- the bluegrass private detectives found that obtaining information about the Franklin Brothers band was something like the proverbial record needle in a haystack. Eventually, Delmas Franklin was located, perhaps actually in a haystack. He had performed one of the lead vocals on a rare recording that was a sort of Rosetta stone of early bluegrass. "Sweeter Than the Flowers" was the title of the ditty the family band cut somewhere between 1946 and 1947 as a private pressing for the Mt. Airy, NC, radio station WPAQ, which created many such interesting artifacts. "Rarer than the flowers" was the way old-time record collectors looked at it, and still do, although for the sake of listening there was finally an accessible reissue in the mid-'70s as part of Rounder's superb The Early Days of Bluegrass series.
Delmas Franklin has remained the only spokesman for this group, as guitarist Clyde Franklin is deceased and no Bill Franklin has ever been located; that is, plenty of them have been, but none that had anything to do with performing the harmony vocal and trilling the mandolin on the radio station record. The interesting Ballard Taylor filled out the group, bringing in a fiddle influence from another era. He was the younger members' grandfather, and a legendary fiddler who often performed under the stage name of Grandpappy Nerit. Father Franklin -- the fiddler's son -- was a coal miner from West Virginia. Delmas Franklin began performing at the age of eight in a group with his brothers. Bill Franklin was only 10, and the senior member of the ensemble was thus Clyde Franklin at the ripe age of 12. Band photographs that have been located show the brothers at a few years older, around their late teens.
The band finally broke up in the '50s, although when this might have happened in the decade is a bit muddled. Delmas Franklin, who became a disc jockey as well as starting his own band called the Georgia Ramblers, has said the family band called it quits in 1950, yet recording dates given for tracks included on several compilations are 1959. Delmas relocated to Rome, GA, where his new musical outfit was based out of until 1968. The Georgia Ramblers had some old-time influence, but has been described as more of a square dance band, including an electric guitar player who would surely have been shown the door, or had it cracked over his head, by a bluegrass band. The Franklin spokesman has also indicated that the brothers also cut sides for a label in Chicago when he was about 14 years old, but these recordings seem to be even rarer than "Sweeter Than the Flowers." Several other unrelated bands have come along called the Franklin Brothers since the early days of bluegrass, all of which play roots rock. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi