Philadelphia native Frankie Smith is known most for the joyously nonsensical 1981 funk hit "Double Dutch Bus." Prior to entering the music industry, Smith attended college in Tennessee, majored in elementary education, and went for a minor in music. A nephew of comedian Pigmeat Markham, Smith taught himself to play piano. After a return to his hometown, he became a staff songwriter for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International and had his songs recorded by Archie Bell & the Drells, the O'Jays, Billy Paul, and others.
While at Philadelphia International, Smith also began to work with Bill Bloom, and the duo began to write material for Philly's smaller WMOT label. With time left over from a recording session with Fat Larry's Band, Smith had Fat Larry record a drum track. Bloom took a copy of the track home and came up with a keyboard part. Two weeks later, a bass part was added to the drum and keyboard tracks. Still smarting from missing out on a bus-driving gig, Smith recorded an expletive-laced improvised rap about a "double Dutch bus." The engineers laughed and told Smith that they couldn't use that and Smith re-recorded a cuss-free version of the rap. He kept in mind the huge crossover success of Kurtis Blow, who had a million-selling single with The Breaks, and Pig Latin, which had become a current rage with the kids. Smith recorded the rap at about two o'clock in the morning, giving the vocal a groggy, froggy flavor. To complete the track, Smith went to a bus terminal and recorded a horn, and invited neighborhood kids to the recording studio to add some hip Pig Latin.
The track became extremely long, with co-writers/co-producers Smith and Bloom having singer Beverly Johnson add some vocals. The two decided to split up the track, with "Double Dutch" featuring Johnson being the A-side of the single and Smith's version, titled "Double Dutch Bus," becoming the B-side. WMOT favored Smith's track more and instead made it the A-side. Selling over two-million copies and included on the Children of Tomorrow album, "Double Dutch Bus" parked at number one R&B for four weeks, going to number 30 pop in the summer of 1981. Dick Clark asked Smith to rap the rules for the 1982 American Music Awards, which aired on ABC. Smith toured with Rick James, Slave, Zapp, Sugarhill Gang, Gap Band, Commodores, Kool & the Gang, and Smokey Robinson. The entertainer appeared in movies such as Beloved, Snake Eyes, and B horror movies. Smith later re-recorded his biggest hit and released another album, The Frogman, in 1993. ~ Ed Hogan