Florida

(1969)

       When we moved to Florida in 1969, they were a few years behind New York, and folk was still big. There was a great venue near where we lived in Pinellas Park called Beaux Arts. The owner, Tom, hired me as the paid male folk singer. Pat Champion was the paid female folk singer. There was also one paid group. I started playing with bassist Beau Fisher at Beaux Arts and at the local college. Soon, we joined with Pat and landed the group spot at Beaux Arts. Susie and I had purchased our first "real" tape recorder, our Roberts 420X along with 2 Shure Unidyne 545s mics, and we did much experimentation with sound-on-sound multi-tracking, purposeful distortion, and tape delay with Susie engineering. We played live on TV. Near the end of the 1st song, I broke a string (I never break strings!). The station had a 60 second ad, during which I replaced the string and tuned up in time to start the 2nd song immediately after the ad, although I did have to constantly tune that string during the next song, live on TV.

 

        There was a folk festival held at Beaux Arts every year with a statewide competition. I won a prize for my song entitled "Lee Harvey Oswald Blues" and sub-titled "Standin' In A Jungle With A Gun Isn't Much Fun; Dyin' Ain't Either", but ironically, the first prize went to a guy who played instrumentally in a tuning like I had been doing a lot of in New York and he was also someone I had jammed with at our apartment with Susie engineering. 

         We sent a tape to Susie's friend Justin Haywood from The Moody Blues. He wrote back that it was the "funniest" thing he had ever heard. Two of the songs were pretty funny intentionally, but not all of them! We also met with Dion, of the famous Dion and The Belmonts, who had a label in town. He was semi-retired at the time, but had a huge comeback hit a few years later with "Abraham, Martin and John" after Bobby Kennedy's assassination. He was nice enough, but not interested in what I had to offer. St. Petersburg was a very limited scene, and our plan was always to use Florida as a stop-over to the West.

       Susie and I continued on to California with our baby PJ. Both Pat and Beau made plans to join us when we got situated in San Francisco. Pat in the interim decided to stay in Florida and Beau tried; got as far as Arizona, his car broke down and he turned back. He sent us a cartoon apology card and that was the last we heard from him. I heard that he later toured with a band called White Witch. 

      Although I have written and recorded acoustic songs in the years since, and some certainly could be classified as "folk", society moved on and the era of sitting quietly and listening to someone sing a folk song was pretty much over. It seems to be coming back. Here in Humboldt, there are a number of open mics that remind me of those days. Once in a while, I'll go out and play a few songs with my acoustic guitar, kickin' it old school! 

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©2019 by Jimmy Foot