Frank Hannon

 

Groupology

  • Tesla
  • Frank Hannon Band

Jurassic

 

Watch Frank Hannon in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Successfully blending hard-edged, radio friendly songs and ballads without actually selling out and being stuck with the label of Corporate Rock. Hannon and Tesla are responsible for kick starting the acoustic and unplugged craze after their release of the album Five-Man Acoustic Jam. Despite being one of the few 80s bands that still have a hold on their musical integrity, they are still unfairly lumped into the category of being an 80s hair band.

Influences

Obvious: Thin Lizzy, Michael Schenker, Tommy Mclendon, Jimmy Page, and Peter Frampton — he still lists Frampton Comes Alive as his favorite album.

Not-so-obvious: Steve Howe, Bill Nelson, Steve Lukather, Dickey Betts (his Father-in-Law) and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Strengths

Songwriting. Frank plays a large role in Tesla's songwriting. From songs such as Modern Day Cowboy, Love Song, and Edison's Medicine, he has been able to compose strong, hook laden tunes without employing 80s rock cliches. This let Tesla carve out a distinctive sound. Frank, like Jimmy Page, also blended acoustic and electric into many of his songs adding an exciting dynamic to their music.

Melody. On the songs where Frank handles the lead guitar chores, he has an extremely strong sense of melody. You can definitely hear Schenker and Frampton in his playing. He has chops but prefers to play within the framework of the song.

Taste. What floored me the most about Frank's playing is how tasty his playing actually is. I got my earful of it when I saw Tesla in 1989 on their tour with Badlands. At the encore, Both bands came back on stage and performed a roaring version of the Rolling Stones It's Only Rock and Roll. Frank was trading off licks with not only Tommy Skeoch but with Jake E. Lee as well. I have nothing against either of those guys, but but each took it as an opportunity to shred over the song. This overwhelmed the original groove and spirit of the tune. Conversely, Frank played within the framework of the song. And that difference is noteworthy: Frank Hannon has an innate sense of how to play what works in a song. He stamps his own style on the music without overwhelming it. As a beginning guitar player, I tried to incorporate that approach in my own style. Speed and tricks are often impressive, but the best solos lift a song to a higher plane because they are part of the composition.

Consistency. Frank (and Tesla as a whole) has maintained a high level of music consistency. The songwriting has never gotten stale. Despite the 80s metal trends and the early 90s grunge Telsa always did their own thing without alienating their fan base and succeeding in earning new fans with each subsequent new album.

Teamwork. In the tradition of the great great guitar duos like Lizzy, Priest, and Maiden, Frank shares guitar and songwriting duties with Tesla's other lead guitarist, Tommy Skeoch. To their credit, Hannon and Skeoch did their homework and understand what makes a twin lead guitar band work. They each have distinctive tones and playing styles but they compliment each other. And Frank and Tommy check their egos at the door. It doesn't matter who wrote the song, they use the best lead work for the song.

Weaknesses

Frank has chops and shred skills galore and can really unload on a song when he needs to. However, because he takes a more song-oriented approach, Tesla gets more attention as a band than Hannon has as a guitar hero. However in most guitar playing circles, Frank's playing and songwriting still earns respect. Don't be among those saying: Frank who? Check him out!

Tone

Frank has a nice fat, warm tone which he achieves by playing through three modified Hiwatt Custom 100s. He uses an A-B box to change amps for different tonal applications. While he doesn't use a heavily processed sound, he does uses certain effects such as a ZVEX octane3 fuzzbox, Boss Flanger, Boss chorus, MXR phase 90, Boss delay, VOX wah-wah, Rocktron talkbox, Line6 modulator, and most recently a pedal by ZVEX called an OOH WAH.

Frank is a diehard Gibson man and has played Gibsons extensively. He has a rich, warm, tone which provides a nice balance to Tommy's less vintage sound (who uses mostly ESP guitars). Hannon's main axe is a 96 cherry Gibson SG Standard Re-Issue with standard humbuckers. For the more shimmery, country sounding songs like Call it What you Want he'll pull out a Japanese Fender Telecaster (year unknown). Frank's most prized possession is a Gibson ES-1275 — the classic Gibson double-neck made famous by Jimmy Page. And like Page, Frank primarily uses the double-neck as a tool for live work rather then in the studio. The twelve string allows more fullness for the acoustic portions of Tesla's songs when he doesn't want use an actual acoustic On the acoustic side of things Frank plays Gibson J-50s and J-150s. Frank plays D'Addario and SIT strings with the gauges running from .009 through .046.

Guitar Style

Frank is a strong rhythm player though Tesla is not known for bombastic Sabbath-like riffs. He doesn't noodle around the rhythm parts like Eddie Van Halen does. He keeps things in the pocket. Frank will also add color to Tesla's songs by tracking an acoustic on songs that are plain balls-out electric rockers. The acoustic helps to beef up the sound and makes the rhythm tracks sound fuller. Songs Little Suzi, and 2 Late 4 Love are perfect examples.

Frank is also a skilled slide player, as evidenced by songs such as Heaven's Trail (No Way Out).

Most of Frank's leads are derived from the minor pentatonic and blues scales. He is a very meat-and-potatoes guitarist with a 70s flavor about his playing. There are no 80s metal trappings like false harmonics, two handed tapping, dive bombs, or super shredding. This actually a strength of Frank's playing, and made Tesla a successful band. As difficult it is to stamp your own identity in a two guitar band, Hannon manages to come across loud and clear and compliment Skeoch's style of playing.

From the raucous sounding Coming at you Live to the country tinged Call it What You Want, to the soulful ballad, Love Song Frank's influences take him to different types of lead styles. But Hannon's solos are not going to rip your face off because he doesn't write them that way. Frank is a thoughtful player and composes his solos rather than playing off at the top of his head. Frank's solos all fit the songs and contain that important hummability factor — like Rhoads on Crazy Train, or Jabs on No One Like You, etc.

Frank is mostly an alternate picker. He uses legato occasionally to give his faster runs a liquid-smooth flow. Like Zakk Wylde, Frank's picked notes add a lot more attack to his leads. They also provide a nice rhythmical punch ala Michael Schenker The best examples of this lead style can be heard on songs like Hang Tough, Party's Over, and the first section of the lead break on Modern Day Cowboy. One particular lead characteristic of Hannon's is that he can make impossibly long reaches with his fingers. Very frustrating when trying to play his licks and discovering your own reach is too short!

Vibrato: Frank has a small to medium vibrato that he uses to add color to his solos. He will use it mostly on high string bends to let that last high note hang out there a little longer with just a little finger waggle.

Frank Hannon

Recommended listening

Tesla

 

Profile By Mark Stevenson Copyright ©2004 All rights reserved.