From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Britt, Allen [Frankie and Johnny]

(born: 1882  -  died: 1899) 

Allen Britt was born in Kentucky, according to his death certificate. It is believed that he is the character referred to as Johnny in the popular song Frankie and Johnny. The song, composed by Bill Dooley, was originally titled Frankie and Al (or Albert), until Britt's father became enraged that his son's name was being used in the song, and the name Johnny was used instead. Allen Britt was a piano player, he was shot on October 15, 1899, and died a few days later at the City Hospital in St. Louis, MO. He is buried in an unmarked grave in St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis. Britt was shot by his girlfriend, Frankie Baker (1876-1952), after the two got into a fight. Britt's name is also given as Albert in some sources. He was the son and only child of George and Nancy Britt (both from Tennessee), the family had moved to St. Louis in 1891. Frankie Baker, born in St. Louis, was acquitted of shooting Allen Britt and she left St. Louis, eventually settling in Portland, OR, where she shined shoes for a living. She had two unsuccessful law suits, one against Mae West and Paramount Pictures for the use of her name in the film She Done Him Wrong, and in 1938, she sued Republic Pictures for their 1936 film Frankie and Johnny. After Baker lost the suit, Republic Pictures claimed ownership of the story. Frankie Baker became sick later in life and also suffered from mental illness. She was placed in the East Oregon Hospital where she died. Frankie Baker and Allen Britt's families did not benefit from the popularity of the story "Frankie and Johnny." The tale has been song on commercial phonograph recordings and records, presented in plays, minstrels, in literature, newspaper articles, poems, paintings, ballets, movies, and all other mediums. For more see Hoecakes, Hambone, and All that Jazz by R. M. Nolen; Body and Soul by P. Stanfield; and The Devil's Music by G. Oakley.

See photo image of Frankie Baker on p.52 in Jet, 01/24/1952.

Listen to Frankie and Johnnie by Ethel Waters on YouTube.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: She done him wrong (videorecording)
NKAA Source: Hoecakes, hambone, and all that jazz : African American traditions in Missouri
NKAA Source: Body and soul : jazz and blues in American film, 1927-63
NKAA Source: The Devil's music : a history of the blues

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Britt, Allen [Frankie and Johnny],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed February 25, 2018,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 13:51:45