Born on the banks of the Mississippi river, Lee’s family later moved to Minneapolis. Following the death of his father in a motorcycle accident when he was 12, Frankie immersed himself in the city’s music scene, appearing onstage with local heroes Slim Dunlap (The Replacements) and Curtiss A at the impressionable age of 14. After inheriting records and instruments from his father’s collection, Lee was – as he sees it – “taught to play guitar by a ghost”.
At the age of 20 Lee dropped out of college, re-invested his soccer scholarship funds in a Volvo Station wagon and embarked on a life-long love affair with America’s open roads. Lee’s first stop was Nashville, where he met Merle Haggard on the same day he drove into town. Lee then moved on to Austin, TX where he spent 6 years working for Townes Van Zandt’s son JT building cabinets. The two became good friends and Lee played his first show at a night hosted by JT. “Austin was a Mecca for me. The scene at the time was bursting wide open with everything from Western swing cover bands to Roky Erikson’s psychedelic garage rock. I was out almost every night for 6 years. There was never an excuse to stay in.”