Frank Bridges was born Francis James Bridges in 1888. He was the son of Irish immigrants William and Maude. The family lived in various areas of New York throughout the first decade of his life. William Bridges did many odd jobs that barely supported his small family. At the age of 11, Frank became an apprentice to his uncle Jerry who was a master woodworker. Frank was determined to learn a craft that would yield a steady income. By age 16 Frank was a semi-professional carpenter. This profession helped pay his family's expenses but it wasn't his true love. Around this time, Frank immersed himself in music. His woodworking skills allowed him to build his own instruments. Unfortunately his drive and passion for music would not be enough to make him a good musician. To put it lightly, Frank was horrible. Everyone knew, and Frank knew it too. Frank also considered himself to be a songwriter. Here is a lyric sample provided by the Bridges estate:
My Love, I'll take you out on the town.
My Love, I'll wear something brown.
My Love, I'll take you to fancy places
My Love, I'll take you to watch the races
My Love, I like the hair on your head
My Love, I'd like to build you a shed
Frank considered this song to be one of his better works. This song may not be good by any standard, but it shows the earliest mention of his future wife.
Frank met Emily Clarke when he was 18. The two quickly fell in love and married 2 years later. Their marriage was like a dream for the first year, but then things got difficult. There were fewer carpentry jobs for Frank, and their debts were quickly increasing. Emily had a miscarriage that caused a lot of tension in the relationship. To ease his frustrations, Frank turned to his music.
Frank was convinced that his difficulty with music was caused by his use of conventional instruments. He built guitars and mandolins, but couldn't really play either of those instruments very well. He invented a new instrument called the swinett. It was gourd shaped double stringed instrument that made a "pig-like" sound. Frank was convinced that this was the answer to all of his problems. In 1911 Frank quit carpentry business to pursue a new career as a full time musical instrument builder. He was convinced that the swinett would be the next big thing in music. For a year, Frank built and pedaled these instruments all around the New York area. In that time he sold one swinett. He didn't actually sell it. He used it to pay off a debt. Frank and Emily decided that he should go back to carpentry. Frank's ego was bruised by his negative experiences in the musical instrument business. He took on drinking as his new hobby.
Frank and Emily were able to pay off some of their debts with the money from Frank's new carpentry jobs, but much of that money went to Frank's new drinking habit. His condition elevated rapidly into full blown alcoholism. During this time Frank began an affair with a prostitute named Anna. In 1913 Anna became pregnant. Frank was terrified. He gave Anna 300 dollars and moved his family to Connecticut. He left behind a mistress with a bastard child, and hundreds of dollars in debts.
The Bridges began their new life in Connecticut. Frank quit drinking and found a steady carpentry job. In 1916 Emily gave birth to their daughter Molly. Molly would be their only child. Frank occasionally went back to New York to visit his family and pay off whatever debts he could. He never heard from Anna again, who was rumored to have given birth to a baby boy.
Frank lived the rest of his life in Connecticut. He died of a heart attack at the age of 68.
Molly married but had no children. His only progeny can be unreliably traced
To hear a piece by Frank's progeny Richie Castellano click here.