Franklyn Leon Smith, an R&B novelty records artist, was born on January 29, 1953, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Mary Josephine Smith, who worked at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital’s commissary. He began playing the piano at the age of eight in 1961.
Smith began as a writer for Gamble and Huff at Philadelphia International Records in 1972 and quickly advanced to producer. He worked with a diverse range of musicians, including Archie Bell and the Drells and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. He was, however, furloughed due to the recording industry’s downsizing.
This disappointing experience prompted him to enroll as an elementary education major at Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1974. Smith’s daughter, Vashon “Indy” Smith, was born a year later, in 1975.
Smith published his first album, Children of Tomorrow, on the Philadelphia record label WMOT (We Men of Talent) Records in 1981, which includes the single “Double Dutch Bus.” The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and the children’s rope game Double Dutch were both inspirations for the song. The song became an instant hit due to its dialectical language usage (Pig Latin), which was commonly heard in local nightclubs and on neighborhood streets.
“Double Dutch Bus” peaked at number one on the Billboard R&B chart in the United States and remained there for eight weeks. It peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the Billboard Pop Top 40. Smith appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand after the song sold over a million copies.
Later that year, on the WMOT label, Smith released two more singles, “The Auction” and “Children of Tomorrow,” and on the Metronome Records label, “Teeny-Bopper Lady.” Smith, a master of the yo-yo, combined it with disco music the following year, 1982, when he recorded the single “Yo-Yo Champ (From Mississippi)” on Frills Records. Side A featured vocals, while Side B featured instrumentals. The single was not a chart success.
Smith next attracted step teams in 1985 with the release of the CD “Slap Ya Thigh” on the CD Baby label. Smith released a new version of his now 12-year-old smash tune “The New Double Dutch Bus” in 1993. It was not a hit on the charts. Smith, who knew how to “walk the dog” and perform other frivolous yo-yo feats, was invited to perform on the ABC network’s Dangerous Minds in 1995.
Frankie Smith and His World Wide Party Crew, Smith’s second and final album, was released in 2006. It did not chart, as did his other post-1981 singles and his debut album.
Franklyn Leon Smith died on March 8, 2019, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was 63.