“It’s a hectic life,” said Mary Frantic, speaking of all the businesses she and her husband, Al Frantic, are currently involved in.
The common denominator is music. And, in fact, the “Frantics” are really the Knights, but few people know them by this name. For this article, they will be Al and Mary.
The pair moved to Milton in 2018 from northern New Jersey and quickly made their presence known within the beach music community. Not only does Al play guitar and sing – both solo and in the Al Frantic Band – but he and Mary own Frantic Frets Music & Antique Shop, where they sell and repair stringed instruments. And, most recently, they founded Music Happens Project Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity.
Al holds a degree in communications and has worked in the audio visual field at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and in the school system of Paterson, NJ. He’s been playing in bands since he was a teenager in the 1970s.
“It was in one of those bands, we were in our thirties and just jamming, when we decided we needed a name. Someone suggested the Frantic Hotrods, but that sounded too much. 50s, too angel food, too teenage-wants-a-girlfriend. But Frantic stayed, and I kept the name, and now there have been several iterations of the Al Frantic band,” he said. he said, “I’ve always used my hands in my AV work and with my instruments and sound systems. It comes naturally to me.”
Mary has honed her business skills and marketing skills over the years working and volunteering at various non-profit organizations in New Jersey and Delaware. These include Hackensack Riverkeeper and the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, as well as locally the Delaware Center for Inland Bays and the Milton Historical Society.
When Al and Mary arrived in Delaware, they knew their lives would revolve around music, but even they were surprised by how much they’ve accomplished in a few COVID-dominated years.
“We could never have done in New Jersey what we did here. We’ve found a niche and are honored to have been embraced by some really cool musicians,” Al said.
The first third of the niche plays music, both solo and with the band. Mary books and promotes at venues such as Irish Eyes, the Brimming Horn Meadery and Lefty’s Alley & Eats. Other band members include Ken Schleifer on drums and a combination of Dr. Jon Patterson and Bob Harvey on bass. Their music ranges from the Beatles to Zeppelin and everything in between. It’s good times, rock music where the crowd leaves with satisfied smiles and with most of their song requests enthusiastically played.
Al credits Kim Butler, guitarist and drummer Jill Brady, formerly of The Girlfriends, and Jill, who currently performs with his band, Girls Room, for helping him get off to a good start in the local music scene. He also showed up regularly on Wednesday nights at BJ’s Damn Jam Crew at The Pond in Rehoboth Beach, where he showed off his talents and was instantly recognized as a bona fide guitarist and vocalist.
The second, and perhaps most important, tier is the Frantic Frets establishment at the Frantics’ home at 26374 Broadkill Road (Route 16) in Milton. The incredible three-room shop is filled with used fretted instruments that Al has worked on to make them sound and look like new. Literally every day one can find an inventory of full and three-quarter guitars, basses and basses, violins, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles and dulcimers, and their associated equipment, including amplifiers and tuners.
“We’re known as ‘the home of the beach guitar,'” Mary said. “For $100 you can get a low-end, highly playable, fully-configured, no-frills instrument. It’s perfect for vacationers who want to sing around the fire pit and haven’t thought to bring their guitar.
In addition to selling instruments and albums at Frantic Frets, many musicians of all calibers bring in their prized parts – in many cases the tools of their livelihood – for a tune-up or repair.
Lower Case Blues guitarist Jake Banaszak said, “Frantic Frets is what a local music store is. It’s a great place for repairs and used gear. Al and Mary are the best.
(For more from Frantic Frets, including new merchandise and monthly open-mic events, go to www.franticfrets.com or check out Frantic Music on Facebook.)
But playing, fixing and selling music is not enough for the Frantics. Their shared passion for music and helping others led them to form the Music Happens Project Inc. (MPHI). Its mission is to help fill a need in the career musician community by providing subsidized programs, services and equipment, financial assistance and mentorship to those who are struggling, regardless of age, within the by Delmarva. MPHI also includes a catastrophic relief fund in the event that equipment has been stolen or damaged, or in the event of sudden illness. This could take the form of a one-time equipment loan or financial assistance of up to $1,000.
“Helping out is not a handout,” Mary said.
Prospective applicants who make a living from live performances will need to go through a confidential application process and be vetted. The Frantics expect to have registered approximately 15 musicians by the end of 2023. As part of their membership in the MPHI, musicians will be required to perform occasionally at a showcase event, lead in-house or online workshops in their area of expertise and participate in the audience for the events of other musicians.
To kick off this new venture and celebrate Frantic Frets’ fourth year, the couple is hosting a fun fundraiser called Music & Mutts Jamboree on Saturday, June 11, from noon to 5 p.m. the event will, of course, include lots of great live music. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Cocktails by Beach Time Distilling, Dewey Beer Company and the Olde Shoal Food Truck.
True to the heart of the Frantics, in addition to raising awareness for the Music Happens project, the event will also promote three other charities: Grass Roots Rescue, which will bring in adoptable pets; the Milton Food Pantry, for canned food depots; and Alex’s Lemonade Stand, supporting the Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Tickets for Mutts & Music are free, but entry is limited. For an e-ticket and more information, go to www.musichappens/events.org.
Whether you’re a musician or music lover from Selbyville to Milton, get to know the Frantics. You never know when you can be frantic for what they have to offer.