From age 15 Frankie Jaxon, as he became, toured as a singer and as such joined the Henry McDaniel Minstrel Show. He worked in medicine shows in Texas and then worked regularly in Atlantic City and Chicago. He did a stint in the army 1918-19, and was promoted to sergeant before being honorably discharged.
Within months he was starring; he sang, danced, and performed as a female impersonator in Atlantic City. He returned to his family in Bronzeville (more), Chicago’s African-American district, which he made his home base. He supplemented successful home-town shows with short tours by small companies of black performers. In 1925 he joined Mae Dix (1895 – 1958) and her Chicago Harmonaders. He was the only black and the only known queer man in the troupe. When they played in southern US states, he had to be escorted to and from the theater and whenever he needed to leave the hotel. Despite this he won rave reviews. This publicity translated into major bookings in Chicago. His appearance at the faltering Grande Theater on South Slate Street is said to have saved the owners from bankruptcy.
He was known as “Half-Pint” because he was only 5’2” (1.57m). At the same time he was a jazz singer appearing with King Oliver, Tampa Red and Thomas Dorsey. He had a small part in the Duke Ellington film, Black and Tan, and in King Vidor’s Hallelujah, both 1929. He had been signed to play a female role in The Mortage Man as a target of an unscrupulous banker – but the film was never made in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash.
- Jim Elledge. “Play It, Whip It, Pat It, Bang It”. In The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third-Sexers, Pansies, Queers and Sex Morons in Chicago's First Century. Chicago Revew Press, 2018 : 159-172.
Unfortunately we have no photographs of Frankie in drag.