Deena C. Bouknight
A big smile, extended hand, and an offer to play his guitar and sing is commonplace for anyone visiting Frank Webb, who resides at Grandview Manor. Blind since birth, Webb moved there four years ago when he turned 90 to be closer to one of his daughters, Nancy Odom, and her husband, Buddy. His full life, lived mostly in Florida, has included work, marriage for 44 years to Norma Jean (who passed 12 years ago), and four children. Currently, his focus is on his music. If Webb is not in his room enjoying myriad tapes listened to in his tape player with headphones, he is playing his guitar and singing with Grandview Manor’s personal care assistant for 18 years, David Woods.
“When he came in that first day with a guitar, I knew we would hit it off,” said Woods. “And we did. We hit it off right away. We like the same kind of music … gospel, bluegrass, and country. And then he played and sang ‘Truck Driving Man’ for me. That was it.”
Woods and Webb have been playing together ever since. Every Sunday, the duo plays and sings for residents at Grandview Manor, and then weekly, they drive to Franklin House to perform. Woods loads up their guitars in his car. “And Frank knows the way,” he said, pointing out that Webb can identify where they are even though he cannot see. “Every time we go I ask him if he wants to drive. He says, ‘Maybe next time.’”
Webb said he has always enjoyed music and learned to play the guitar in his late ’70s or early ’80s after a sister, Mary Ellen Webb, purchased a book on learning guitar. “She showed me where to put my fingers on the guitar she got for me. It was hard at first. You don’t learn the guitar overnight. But I practiced and play by ear. I know how to play at least 50 songs.” He also plays the harmonica.
Webb has never had a seeing-eye dog, but has used a guide stick to help him get around. He said where he lived in Florida he would walk everywhere. “I would go to the bus stop by myself and go all over the place. After I learned to play, I would go to the radio stations and talk to the announcers and perform for them.”
He added, “I’ve been very content with being blind. It hasn’t held me back. It’s just the way the good Lord made me.”
“He doesn’t see color, but he knows it,” explained Woods, who has learned much since meeting Webb about what is involved in living as a blind person. “When I first met him, I shut my eyes to try to feel what he feels. I couldn’t. I admire his spirit so much.”
Webb’s daughter, Nancy Odom, commented: “What a blessing my Dad has been not only in my life, but in watching him touch others with his gift of music,” commented Webb’s daughter Nancy Odom. “Being blind all his life and the challenges he’s had to endure … yet he continues to keep a great attitude about life. He loves the Lord with all his heart and one day will be reunited with his loving wife (my mother).”
When they perform, Woods sings harmony and Webb sings lead. Their signature songs are Webb’s favorites, “Truck Driving Man” as well as “House of Gold.” Webb’s deeply passionate voice is complemented by Woods’ clear harmony.
“I had never played before with any resident, but I found a kindred spirit in Frank,” said Woods, a Franklin native who has played throughout Macon County since he was 12 years old. Woods has been given permission by Webb’s family to take him to other venues and they played together at Woods’ family reunion. “Frank gets all the attention,” he quips.
“I look forward to every time we play together,” said Webb. “David and I have become good friends … the guitar introduced us.
“I never thought I would live to be 94 and playing and singing,” said Webb. “I have all the faculties that God gave me and I’m happy.”