5 Jan 2022

Frank Watkinson and his viral YouTube covers

From Summer Times, 10:17 am on 5 January 2022

A collection of heartfelt acoustic cover songs by a 68-year-old British retiree have found a global audience in the last couple of years.

Frank Watkinson's YouTube channel - on which he shares pared-back emotional renditions of popular songs like Mazzy Star's 'Fade Into You' - has over 14 million views.

Frank tells Jesse Mulligan he's always loved acoustic music but has never played live - apart from to a succession of dogs and cats.

"I'm not a great guitar player and I can't really sing so I have to make the best of what I've got."

He guesses people like his music because of its honesty.

"I don't really like to do songs if I can't feel something in the song.

"I like to put myself into the song and it seems to have caught on, they seem to like it."

Frank hadn't heard the song 'Snuff' by the American heavy metal band Slipknot when a friend requested he cover it.

'I just did it quite fast and sent it back to him, basically saying 'no I can't do it. This is what I can do.' And he liked it, so I posted it.'

Frank's cover of 'Snuff' was mentioned in international heavy metal magazines and is now his most-played song.

"I think my subscribers went up at least 200,000 after that one."

He's amused that some of them seem to think he gets recognised on the street.

"Nobody knows who I am. I'm just the old man with the dog walking on the field."

Frank's daughter does enjoy teasing him about his fame, though.

"If she sees me in a supermarket she'll shout 'oh there's Frank Watkinson - look!' just to embarrass me."

Although the YouTube channel gives Frank "a nice bit of money coming in every month", he doesn't make much money from his music.

He does try to read every comment under his songs, though, and give each a 'heart'.

"I've got a little system. I give it about half an hour every day to go on to comments and make sure I've read them.

"Some people give me their life stories and some sad stories… and if I click the heart they know I've read it."