Frank Metcalf


I read Steve Brown’s last quarter article on Benoit Bourque and noted that Benoit mentioned Frank’ Grizzly’ Metcalf. I remembered that name from Beth Lenz’ master thesis titled The Bones in the US: History and Performance Practice. He was one of several rhythm bones players whose style she analyzed in detail.


Quoting from Beth’s thesis, “Metcalf’s style is based on duple rhythms, rather than the triplet. The basis of his style is a rhythm he calls – the Grizzly shuffle.” She describes this as a rhythmically altered triplet where either the first note is a quarter note and the second and third are 16th notes or the first and second are 16th notes and the third is a quarter note. She suggests practicing playing a straight triplet, then the first and then the second at the same tempo.


Benoit mentioned that Frank lived in Vancouver and it was easy to find his telephone number on the internet.  Franks was a delight to talk to. He said he developed his style for playing reels.


Frank’s favorite rhythm bones are moose bones as they are perfectly shaped for playing even though this is a big animal. The best, he says, come from middle aged females.


One of the things that Beth mentioned in her thesis was Frank added a microphone (actually a Barcus-Berry pickup) and amplifier to his rhythm bones. He put a rubber band around the bones to muffle the sound. He plays two distinct sounds, the muffled one and another that sounded like a conga drum by playing on the edge of the bones. He was on a Canadian television program.