Growing by the Bay

Category: Frisco

Frisco or dust

Here’s an amusing animation depicting Mark Twain drolly calling for respect for San Francisco’s dignity. It’s pretty funny, and nicely done. Is this a real Twain quote? I’d like to know where it’s from.


via Eye on Blogs


Top 10 classic Frisco tunes

I’m excluding old music hall / movie songs like “Hello, Frisco” and “O Susanna” (I’m allowing old blues and country tunes though). I’m also excluding contemporary songs like all the hip hop and rap that have “Frisco” in the lyrics.

10. Bob Dylan, “Roving Gambler”

I gambled up in Washington, gambled over in Spain
I’m on my way to Frisco town
to knock down my last game

9. Merle Haggard, “Here in Frisco”

They say it’s raining in Chicago and it’s cold and clear in Denver
Been windy all night long here in Frisco
Trolley cars are clinging the big Bay Town’s swinging
And I’m still all alone here in Frisco

8. Frank Zappa, “Who Needs the Peace Corps?”

What’s there to live for?
Who needs the Peace Corps?
Think I’ll just drop out
I’ll go to Frisco

7. The Youngbloods, “Grizzly Bear”

I used to love to watch her dance that Grizzly Bear
I guess she’s gone to Frisco to dance it there

6. Cab Calloway, “Frisco Flo”

Frisco Flo was just as sharp as a tack;
Frisco Flo, for a fellow would give the shirt right off of her back.

5. Memphis Minne, “Frisco Town”

You can toot your whistle, you can ring your bell
But I know you been wanting it by the way you smell
I’m on my way to Frisco town

4. Jesse Fuller, “San Francisco Bay Blues”

I got the blues when my baby left me
down by the Frisco bay

3. Chuck Berry, “Sweet Little Sixteen”

They’re really rockin in Boston
In Pittsburgh, P. A.
Deep in the heart of Texas
And ’round the Frisco bay

2. Johnny Cash, “Give My Love to Rose”

He said they let me out of prison down in Frisco
For ten long years I’ve paid for what I’ve done
I was trying to get back to Louisiana
To see my Rose and get to know my son

and the top classic Frisco tune, yes, that old chestnut

1. Otis Redding, “Dock of the Bay”

I left my home in Georgia
and headed for the Frisco bay

So what songs am I forgetting?


Honorable mention: Waylon Jennings, “Frisco Depot” (Frisco’s a mile long away / You can afford to fly / But it might as well be the moon, / Lord, when you’re as broke as I); George Strait, “Give It Away” (Like that picture from our honeymoon, / That night in Frisco Bay: / She said: “Give it away.” / Well, I can’t give it away); Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup, “Mean Ol’ Frisco” (Well, that mean old Frisco, and that low down Santa Fe / Well it carried my baby away, and it’s blown right back on me); Hoyt Axton, “I Aint Got a Worry” (Well I ain’t got a worry, you know I ain’t got a care. / ’m going back to Frisco, all my friends are there); Grateful Dead, “Casey Jones” (He turned to his fireman and this is what he said / “Boy, we’re going to reach Frisco, but we’ll all be dead”).


The toughest guys on the old SF waterfront, neither rubes nor tourists, called it Frisco, and no effete journalist would have tried to correct them. — Herb Caen


Don’t call it San-Fran

I’m no Herb Caen, but it looks like my anti-San-Fran movement is picking up an adherent or two.

Then again, the authors are “SF-wannabes,” in the arrogant lingo of our provincial thought police.

frisco, not san fran

Pink Floyd: Darkness over Frisco

Don’t Call It Frisco

pink floyd frisco

There’s a laundromat in the city’s Hayes Valley called the Don’t Call It Frisco Laundromat. The name quotes an admonition you will hear often from a certain generation of locals, who will tell you the word grates like chalk on a blackboard. The taboo started, or at least took hold, in 1953 with the publication of San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen’s first book, entitled, well, Don’t Call it Frisco. Caen is much beloved but the truth is he was a bit of an elitist; he had a dogmatic and imperious streak. (I know — back in the day I sometimes had lunch with his power claque.)

“Not Frisco but San Francisco,” Caen prescribed. “Caress each Spanish syllable, salute our Italian Saint. Don’t say Frisco and don’t say San-Fran-Cis-Co. That’s the way Easterners, like Larry King pronounce it. It’s more like SanfrnSISco.” (No one pointed out that the command to caress each syllable and to elide them was contradictory.)

And a generation of independent and free-spirited San Franciscans meekly complied with the columnist’s mandate. Perhaps they were motivated by the suspicion that their city might not in fact be in the same league with New York City after all, so they sought to sweep their underclass underpinnings under the rug, to turn their back on their rough-and-tumble past.

But there’s a long tradition of calling the city Frisco. (The term frisco, meaning a port where ships could be repaired, goes back to Middle English.) Immigrants during the Gold Rush sang:

I soon shall be in Frisco and there I’ll look around,
When I find the gold lumps there I’ll pick them off the ground.
Oh, California, that’s the life for me . . .

Even in Caen’s day Otis Redding sang that he was leaving his home in Georgia and heading for the Frisco Bay. The Youngbloods sang:

I used to love to watch her dance
That Grizzly Bear
I guess she’s gone to Frisco-o-o
To dance it there

james cagney in the frisco kidThe poet Kenneth Rexroth, another contemporary of Caen’s, called the city Frisco, and the beat poet Bob Kaufman wrote a series of “Frisco” poems. Sal Paradise, Jack Kerouac’s alter ego in On the Road, says he is heading for “Frisco.”

Today a lot of people are looser and less uptight that about the city’s handle than was once the case. There’s a tattoo parlor in the Mission district called Frisco Tattoo. A CD of local bands is called Frisco Styles. The Notorious B.I.G. rapped that he was “Sippin’ Crist-o with some freaks from Frisco.” Columnist Stephanie Salter uses the term Frisco regularly. A Barry Bonds fan t-shirt is emblazoned with the slogan Frisco Grooves.

The local hiphop movement called Yay Area hyphy uses Frisco as a “term of endearment.” For example, Frontline’s Now You Know contains these lyrics:

Wah wha wha wha, thats Oakland
Yee yee yee yee, thats Richmond
Hey, hey, thats Frisco
And if you aint from the bay now yo ass know

Letting go of silly, tight-assed prescriptions like Caen’s is a sign that the city is coming into its own, confident enough in itsself not to have to monitor how people refer to it. Those who disapprove of Frisco are trying to own the city,” says screenwriter Theo McKinney. “People should be able to call the city what they wish.”

Do I call it Frisco? Well, no, not really, except sometimes in fun. Which I hope is the spirit of this site.

So don’t call it Frisco. Or do call it Frisco (but be prepared for some rolled eyes). Or, as some folks do, you could just call it “the ‘Sco.” That way you’re covered — you’re cool.

The choice is yours.

Some rights reserved 2022 Tom’s Garden. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via