‘Where everyone knows your name’ | After shooting her lover in a fight, a woman from Saint-Louis has spent her entire life fleeing the song inspired by her crime | Saint-Louis news headlines


ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – “Frankie and Johnny were in love. They had a fight one day.”

The music scene at the turn of the 19th century was booming, especially in the black community. It was ragtime, and nowhere in America was it more exposed than in Saint-Louis. And few people enjoyed the party atmosphere more than Francine “Frankie” Baker. It seemed like everyone knew his name.

Maybe it was because she was 22, beautiful and rich.

And a prostitute.

Frankie was well dressed, could dance around any woman in town, and owned a boarding house at 212 Targee Street.


It was a cold but cheerful Christmas night in 1895. “Chestnut Valley” was where the action took place. The red light district lined Market, Chestnut, and Targee streets, and was centered by the infamous Rose Bud Café at 2222 Market. It was the third district, and for the police officers of Saint-Louis, the nickname of “the bloody third district” was well deserved.

Autumn was in the air on the night of October 14, 1899. And so it was with something else. Suspicion. Frankie Baker thought her 17-year-old lover Allen Britt wasn’t up to anything good, and she was right. Her man was having an affair with another prostitute, Alice Pryor. Allen may have been young, but he was both popular with the ladies and good at the piano keys.

That night he was playing a concert at the Phoenix Hotel when Frankie walked in. Unfortunately for Allen, Frankie walked in during his break. And even more sadly for Allen, Frankie caught him in the hallway having sex with Alice Pryor.

It didn’t suit Frankie and the two took him out onto the street.

Frankie begged Allen to come home with her. He refused and Frankie went home alone. Some time in the middle of the night, having drunk far too much, Allen went home. Frankie shouted. Allen yelled back.

“Johnny he swore he would leave her

He said he was going

He never comes home

He goes to wander

Frankie she begged and begged

Cried “Oh Johnny, please stay”

She said: “My darling I hurt you

But please don’t go “”

Allen threw down a lamp, then pulled out a knife. Unfortunately for Allen, Frankie had a gun under his pillow.

“Frankie then told him Johnny

“Hey man, your time has come”

From under her silk kimono

She drew a forty-four rifle

Oh it was a bear, it was a pretty big deal

Johnny he rushed up the stairs

Cryin ‘”Oh Frankie, don’t shoot”

Frankie took aim with his forty-four

Five times with a rooty-toot-toot “

Frankie shot Allen in the stomach. Injured, he tripped two blocks from his parents’ house, where he died two days later. Unfortunately for Frankie, Allen told police she pulled the trigger. It would be a hard charge to beat for Frankie, and in court she claimed self-defense; that Allen abused her on several occasions. To help her case, she came to court with a black eye.

It worked. Judge Willis Henry Clark ruled that Frankie was innocent in self-defense.

But she hasn’t been so lucky in the public eye. And it didn’t take long for her to find out people were talking about her.


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Just a few days after the shooting, a new tune of ragtime swept through the streets of Saint-Louis. It told the story of a woman named Frankie, angry at being dumped for a rival named Alice, firing a gun at a man named “Albert” and shooting him five times after he begged for his life. .

Real crime meets ragtime in Saint-Louis.

To make the lyrics sound better, Allen became Albert, and later became Johnny. Finally, “Frankie and Johnny” was sung everywhere. Whenever and wherever Frankie went, she would hear “

“Frankie and Johnny were in love, they had a fight one day”

Things were going so bad that Frankie couldn’t take it anymore. Born and raised in Saint-Louis, she packed her bags a year after filming and decided to go to the middle of nowhere. She drifted from city to city before settling in Omaha. And when she got there, she found out that the people there also had a favorite song.

“Frankie and Johnny were in love, they had a fight one day”

And when the good people of Omaha quickly figured out who Frankie was, she was again bombed wherever she went. Eventually she had had enough and decided to head as far west as possible, just to get away from the song. In 1925, she moved to Portland, where she tried to quietly open a shoe shine factory, far from the bright lights and brothels of St. Louis. And far from Frankie and Johnny.

It was a lost cause.

Incredibly, the song became a national ragtime masterpiece, and Frankie and Johnny were household names in America by now. Their tune will eventually be recorded more than 250 times by various artists, with very different lyrics. But if the lyrics changed, it didn’t matter when people found out who Frankie was.

Then Mae West came to put the last nail in Frankie’s coffin. The actress starred in a Hollywood blockbuster film titled She wronged him, and suddenly “Frankie and Johnny” came to life on the big screen. Now Frankie was being stalked in his own home by reporters and autograph seekers. People stood outside her door and sang to her all day long.

It was more than Frankie could take. So she started to sue, claiming that she was wrongly portrayed in the song and movie as a murderer. She lost. Finally, at wit’s end, hearing only “Frankie and Johnny” every minute of her life, Francine “Frankie” Baker enrolled in a mental institution, where she would die two years later, “Frankie and Johnny” humming his brain.

What about the shooting site, 212 Targee? It’s always so busy. This is where the St. Louis Blues play hockey.

Business center

The Enterprise Center in downtown St. Louis.

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