Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


Sheila Wilcoxson, Frankie "Funkmaster" Redding RIP / Sheila's Coffeeshop Conversations appearance Audio

By TOM D'ANTONI // Two of Oregon's best-loved Blues/Soul/Jazz musicians passed away in the last weeks. Singer Sheila Wilcoxson had a major run as a Blues belter and closet Jazz singer, and Frankie "Funkmaster" Redding lent funky keyboards to many Portland bands. Listen to her talk and sing on Coffeeshop Conversations and read what Norman Sylvester said about him.

When I first moved to Portland in 1997, in checking out the music scene, there was one singer who stood out as I tried to see everyone I could. She was a big woman with a big voice that could become small and delicate on her command. Her name was Sheila Wilcoxson. She was already legendary around here. I wrote about her, got to know her, hung out with her, sat at tables as she sang Billie Holiday songs to me.

I encouraged her to sing more Jazz (probably not the best for her career, now that I think about it) but she never really did, except when she sang to me.

There was a time when it looked like she was going to break through, getting management who knew what they were doing, travelling to Europe to sing...it never happened for her. Eventually she went back to her full time job in the lab at Good Sam and disappeared from the scene. Was it something in her which prevented her from achieving what she most certainly deserved? Or the vicissitudes of life in the music industry? Probably some of both.

Sheila died of cancer this week. There was a tribute show at the Alberta Rose theater for her a few weeks ago.

After she retired from the hospital, she decided to take up her singing career again. I hadn't seen her for years. She had showed up at the Alberta Rose years before. I wanted to take her to the green room where many of her peers and some she had inspired were waiting to play. She didn't want to go because she thought nobody remembered her. I brought her to the green room anyway where she was greeted with much love.

When I heard that she was resuming singing in public, I asked her to come on the OMN Coffeeshop Conversations podcast. She said yes. It was the last time she sang to me. Here's what I said in the introduction:

With me today is a singer whose name you may recognize if you were a music fan in Portland twenty years ago. She was the queen of Portland Blues singers back then. Her name is Sheila Wilcoxson.

All of a sudden she was gone from the scene around fifteen years ago. Vanished. What happened? No, it wasn’t drugs or alcohol. It was more complicated than that.

If you ever wonder what ever happened to her and why she has begun singing again…you’re about to find out.

And you’re going to hear her sing again during this Coffeeshop Conversation.



Here is what Norman Sylvester, who played with Frankie "Funkmaster" Redding wrote about him:

There will be a Musical Celebration of Life open to the public;
Sunday October 20th 2:00pm-5:00pm @ Spareroom Lounge
4830 NE 42nd Ave. & Alberta Crt. PDX 97218

Frankie aka “the Funkmaster” as he was known, performed as a professional Musician since he was fifteen years old. He started at Portland’s Original Cotton Club when he was still attending Jefferson High School, sitting in on the B-3 organ for the dynamic Billy Larkin. Since that time, Frankie has performed with National acts during his career; Tyrone Davis, Etta James & Terry Evans to name a few. Frankie also played with many regional acts; The Royallaires, Wine, Vanilla Manila, City Lights, The Arnold Brothers, The Staple Brothers, The Norman Sylvester Band, Richard Day Reynolds and more.

Along with his joy of music, Frankie loved collecting movies and vintage action figures. He was known for his keen sense of fashion and had a smile & laugh that would light up the room! Join us for the gathering Frankie wanted of family, friends, musicians and fans when he joined our BIG BAND in the Heavens.


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