All posts by Donna Green-Townsend

Bill Cosby critical of the lack of good role models on TV in an ironic archival 1979 Interview

Comedian Bill Cosby giving a 1979 press Conference
Comedian Bill Cosby giving a 1979 press Conference in KS (photo by Vickie Cooper)

Editor’s note: I was so excited to meet the famous comedian back in 1979.  I had memorized many of his comedy routines to use in my speech classes in high school. I remember how shocked I was during the press conference (hear an excerpt below) when he was SO serious about everything. I had expected him to be funny. Now all these years later I realize there was a lot more going on with this man than comedy…..

 

 

 

June 17, 2017:  Judge declares a mistrial in Bill Cosby sexual assault case
A Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial Saturday after a jury was deadlocked on sexual-assault charges against Bill Cosby, the comic legend whose legacy as a promoter of wholesome values has been tarnished by a years-long sex and drugging scandal.  Click here to read more….

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June 8, 2017:  Bill Cosby Trial Day 4: More Testimony, but No Mrs. Cosby
By GRAHAM BOWLEY and JON HURDLE
  • With the major prosecution witnesses now finished testifying at Bill Cosby’s trial on sexual assault charges, who will the defense introduce soon as part of its rebuttal? Mr. Cosby has said he will not testify. Might he change his mind?
  • The prosecution plans to call a forensic toxicologist to testify about the effects of quaaludes and other drugs, which prosecutors say Mr. Cosby used to incapacitate women.  Click here to read more:

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June 6, 2017:  By Donna Green-Townsend
 A 50-year-career in the entertainment business is on the line for 79-year-old comedian Bill Cosby.

Cosby is on trial this week in a sexual assault case which many say will “define his legacy” as a father and family man both on screen and off.

Cosby’s private life has been targeted by dozens of young women who say the actor drugged and sexually assaulted them.  The majority of those claims  will never be decided by a court because of the statute of limitations….basically the women waited too long to come forward.  But that’s not the case for former Temple University basketball staffer, 44 year-old Andrea Constand, who will take the stand in suburban Philadelphia this week and tell her story in public for the first time.

There is a bit of irony in the latest troubles facing the revered comedian. In a 1979 press conference, five years before he played the character of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his popular sitcom,  Cosby was critical about the lack of good role models on television.  The press conference took place before his show at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, KS.

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Excerpt of the 1979 press conference at the KS State Fair:

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First version of story Dec. 4, 2014:

Amid the wave of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, the comedian resigned Monday from the board of trustees of his alma mater, Temple University.

Bill Cosby’s troubles continue to mount.  On Tuesday a Riverside County, California woman, Judy Huth,  filed a lawsuit against the beleaguered comedian alleging he sexually assaulted her in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of sexual assault accusations against 77 year old Cosby.   Cosby’s attorney Martin D. Singer, describes the recent accusations as “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories.”

Meanwhile, many of Cosby’s scheduled stage performances have been cancelled.  Television executives have halted two of Cosby’s television projects and have also yanked reruns of the popular, “The Cosby Show,” off the air.  The sitcom dominated television ratings from1984 to 1992.  Before the show, most people primarily knew the comedian for his jello pudding commercials and Fat Albert cartoons along with his many stand-up comedy routines.

Florida Cabinet approves purchase of Blue Springs Park

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Blue Springs in Gilchrist County, FL
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Dante Wyndam from Sebring enjoys a swim in Blue Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update June 14, 2017:  On Wednesday morning the Florida Cabinet approved purchasing Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County.  The state has agreed to pay $5.25 million dollars for the 407-acre property which includes frontage along the Santa Fe River.  Real estate sites indicate the value of the property is closer to $10 million dollars.  Environmental organizations are praising the purchase decision and have described Blue Springs Park, which has been privately owned since the late 50’s, as an environmental jewel and a win-win for the state.

The park, like many springs in North Central Florida, is packed on a typical summer weekend with swimmers, snorkelers, kayakers, tubers and picnickers.

 The video below depicts a typical summer weekend at Blue Springs Park.

(videography by Donna Green-Townsend.  Song Blue Springs Swing by Lauren Heintz.  Wildwood Flower performed by Sam Pacetti and Gabriel Valla)

 

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Earlier post:  June 19, 2015:  Friday morning in Tallahassee, Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council unanimously voted to add Blue Springs and the 405-acre property on the Santa Fe River near High Springs to the list of first-magnitude springs the state is seeking to buy with Florida Forever funds.

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Original post:

On June 19th, the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council will decide whether to add Blue Springs to its larger “First Magnitude Springs” aquisition project.  Hundreds of people have signed a petition urging the state to purchase Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County and turn it into a state park.  Environmental groups like, “Our Santa Fe River,” and others point out the purchase would protect the spring from future development and make it available to the general public.  They point out how the park already has campsites, parking, boardwalks and other infrastructure which would make the transition to a state park easier.

The 405-acre property along the Santa Fe River in Florida has been privately owned by Kimberly David and Matt Barr since the late 1950s. Blue Springs has been a very popular recreation destination for years.  Environmentalists say Blue Springs is a unique treasure and protecting the popular water body is what Floridians had in mind when they voted for Amendment 1, the land conservation constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved in November.

 

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An online petition is circulating asking folks to support the state’s acquisition of Blue Springs Park.  The petition reads:
Purchase of Gilchrist Blue Springs

To be delivered to Mr. Hank Vinson, Staff Director, Acquisition and Restoration Council and Mr. Gary Clark, Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Designee

Dear Sirs: Your council will soon meet to determine the fate of one of Florida’s finest remaining natural resources and a prime example of what our state can boast as a unique treasure. Gilchrist Blue Springs seems made to order for what the people of Florida had in mind when they voted in Amendment 1. This spring is categorized as a second magnitude, just short of a first magnitude producing approximately 40 million gallons of fresh clean water each day, and as such is one of Florida’s major springs. There are 4 large springs and 2 smaller springs on the property, which has multiple buildings and 25 campsites with electric and water. In addition there are 100+ primitive campsites, nature trails, and a long boardwalk to the Santa Fe River. Wildlife is abundant on the property and especially important for two reasons: it boasts ten species of turtles, second only to the Ichetucknee in the Santa Fe basin, and it has a very high populations of snails, one of which, Elimia sp., is important for controlling nuisance algae. The surrounding land totals nearly 400 acres, which would then be protected from development and would further enhance the overall designation of the Santa Fe as an Outstanding Florida Waterway, ecological greenway, and paddling trail. The venue is already a park and has recreational facilities for swimming, camping and picnicking. The availability of the Gilchrist Blue Springs property comes at an opportune moment, when Amendment 1 funds have been assured by law. Our Santa Fe River encourages your council to grasp this opportunity to preserve this beautiful and invaluable part of the pristine Florida for which it is renowned.
If interested in signing the petition you can go to:

Apalachicola Documentary

Official website of the Murrow Award-Winning Documentary, “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” and various updates

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Rally for Apalachicola Bay in August before a Senate field hearing on the health of the bay. (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)

June 1, 2017 UPDATE:  Florida asks U.S. Supreme Court to Save Apalachicola River, Oyster Industry:

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is telling the U.S. Supreme Court that it represents the state’s last legal remedy for saving the Apalachicola River and the oysters and people who depend on it.  Gov. Rick Scott in 2013 sued Georgia in the Supreme Court, seeking to cap Georgia’s water use upstream on the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. But a court official recommended in February that the case be dismissed because Florida had not included the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates federal reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River. In a brief filed Wednesday, Florida argues that the court had never found that a state was harmed by upstream water use but then determined it was powerless to do anything about it. If the court dismisses the case, Georgia would be free to continue or increase its water use, Florida said. ….Click here for the full story.

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October 2013 UPDATE:   Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi have moved forward with their plans to file a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court over the decades old Tri-State Water War.  The lawsuit is primarily aimed at Georgia over that state’s withdrawals of water from the Chattahoochee-Apalachicola-Flint River system—a river system Alabama, Florida and Georgia all share.  At the heart of the ongoing debate is the health of Apalachicola Bay and Florida’s seafood industry.

Click here to view highlights of the Senate field hearing held in Apalachicola on the issue in August of 2013. To learn more about how the Apalachicola community is affected by the “water war” listen and view segments below: Apalachicola Doin' Time

2000 Edward R. Murrow Award Winning Documentary

Pic I took at Apalachicola off Paddlewheel used for CD cover later
Fishing boats along the Apalachicola River bayfront (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)
Donna voicing the "Apalachicola Doin' Time" documentary at WUFT with co-hosts Daniel Beasley and Josh Azriel in 1999
Donna voicing the “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” documentary at WUFT with co-hosts Daniel Beasley and Josh Azriel in 1999
Introduction- to Re-Release of the Documentary

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Part One- The Issues

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Part Two- Florida’s Oyster Capitol

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Part Three- Apalachicola’s Waterfront

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Part Four- Water Quality and the Tri-State Water War

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Part Five- Apalachicola’s History

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Part Six- Tourism on the Rise

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Part Seven- Water Quantity and the Tri-State Water War

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Part Eight- Close and Credits

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Part Nine- Epilogue

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The Producers of Apalachicola Doin’ Time

Musicians Featured In Apalachicola Doin’ Time (featuring a sample of their music)

Dale Willfest 2001
Dale Crider

Dale Crider – Apalachicola Doin’ Time

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"Changes In The Wind" Jeanie Fitchen
Jeanie Fitchen

Jeanie Fitchen – Changes In The Wind

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"The River" Steve Gillette
Steve Gillette

Steve Gillette – The River

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"Music Drifts" and "Margaret" Mike Jurgensen
Mike Jurgenson

Mike Jurgensen – Music Drifts

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and Margaret

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Harvey Reid

Harvey Reid – Circles

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Ken Skeens

Ken Skeens – Old Florida River

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"Wisdom of the River" Mark Smith
Mark Smith

Mark Smith – Wisdom of the River

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Various locations around Apalachicola, Florida and some of the people interviewed for the documentary.

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Musical Murrow Celebration

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Just prior to the RTDNA Murrow Award ceremony in Minneapolis, MN, singer songwriter Mark Smith had a celebration at his home which included several of the songwriters who had music utilized in the documentary. In this video Dale Crider sings the song that inspired the documentary.

Holding a portrait given to him by Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd painted by Mary Ann DiNella
Crider holding a portrait given to him by Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd painted by Mary Ann DiNella

For more than three decades Dale Crider worked as a wildlife biologist for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission.  During that time he also followed his other passion, songwriting.  Crider wrote many songs about environmental conditions in Florida.  “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” was one such song.  It was by chance nearly 30 years after Crider penned the song that Apalachicola resident, George Floyd, happened upon one of Crider’s music tapes and heard his song.  On that day the concept for the need to tell the story of the Tri-State Water War was born.  Crider is considered to be Florida’s Environmental Troubadour.  He has inspired musicians across Florida to write songs about the environment.

Listen to an hour-long special on Across the Prairie on WUFT regarding the Re-release and update of the Apalachicola Doin’ Time Documentary Dale and documentary co-producer Donna Green-Townsend were special guests on the longtime Sunday afternoon program on WUFT, Across the Prairie with host Cathy DeWitt.  Click on the audio button below.

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Cover of Apalachicola Doin’ Time CD

Copies of the two-CD set of “Apalachicola Doin’ Time,” including the music companion CD, are available through the non-profit Will McLean Foundation. Will McLean is considered the “Father of Florida Folk.”  He’s the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  It was his mission to save Florida through music.

 

 

 

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In 2001 several of the musicians whose songs were used in the documentary were featured at not only the Will McLean Festival (March, 2001) but also the state’s official festival, The Florida Folk Festival (May, 2001). Click on the audio button below to hear the live presentation at the Will McLean Festival.  The late Jan Glidewell, longtime columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, introduced Donna Green-Townsend who hosted the special musical event.

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The late Homer Marks from Apalachicola

One of the key characters of the documentary, Homer Marks, lived to be 102.  (Homer died in 2005).  Click here to go to a special page dedicated to Homer Marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dale Crider, Josh Azriel, Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd and friend
Dale Crider, Josh Azriel, Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd and friend

Funding for the “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” documentary was provided by a grant from George Floyd in memory of Jim Floyd and George Kirvin, two of the earliest heralds of the rivers and bays and their value as an undisturbed natural resource.

 

 

 

 

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Apalachicola Documentary Awards

1st Place National RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award, Best Documentary

1st Place Southeast Regional RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award, Best Documentary

1st Place Florida Associated Press Broadcasters, Public Affairs category

Silver Reel from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, documentary category

Finalist, Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Green Eye Shade awards (Southeast 11 state Region)

Finalist, Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Awards, Public Affairs category

1st Place, BEA Student Interactive Multimedia competition in the Online category

Silver Addy in the Collateral Material – CD Category for the Apalachicola Doin’ Time CD cover, insert and tray card.

 

Some of the stations that have carried Apalachicola Doin’ Time:

KBAQ Mesa, Arizona
KBOO Portland, Oregon
KERA Dallas, Texas
KJZZ Phoenix, Arizona
Utah Public Radio/KUSU FM Logan, Utah
WABE Atlanta, Georgia
WETS Johnson City, Tennessee
WFSU Tallahassee, Florida
WFSW Panama City, Florida
WJUF-FM Inverness, Florida
WKGC Panama City, Florida
WQCS  Asheville, North Carolina
WSLU Canton, New York
WUFT-FM Gainesville, Florida
California Public Radio
Georgia Public Radio

ADT quote 2ADT 3   Documentary Summary by- Co-Producer, Donna Green-Townsend Two hundred yards below the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, the waters of the Chattahoochee River begin a 500 mile journey south.  The river flows each day through Atlanta, past Western Georgia cities like Columbus and along the state boundary between Georgia and Alabama — past more than a dozen dams and locks on the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  At the Florida-Georgia border the Chattahoochee meets up with Georgia’s Flint River and  takes on a new name –The Apalachicola. Sixteen billion gallons of water flow down the Apalachicola into the Bay every day making it Florida’s largest waterway and it’s at the heart of a tri-state water war.

This documentary is an audio journey to the community at the end of the drainpipe so to speak — Apalachicola: a Florida seafood community that worries about being at the mercy of its northern water using neighbors. We journey to the city’s famous waterfront, hear about the history of this unique river town and find out how the community’s affected by the rapid development of ecotourism and growth.  We also talk with the key negotiators involved in the current water war involving Alabama, Florida and Georgia as the clock ticks down on a deadline to resolve differences over shared river resources.

There’s a lot at stake for all three southern states: rapid growth in Atlanta creates a strong need to secure drinking water for the future. Farmers want to maintain the ability to irrigate their crops, Alabama residents want to maintain peak hydropower and navigational use, and in Florida, at the end of the Apalachicola River, the seafood industry worries about the future of its oysters, scallops, crabs and shrimp.

unfortunately

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Update: U.S. Senators Nelson and Rubio Hold Senate Field Hearing in Apalachicola while Governor Rick Scott says Florida will file a lawsuit seeking to limit the amount of Apalachicola headwaters Georgia can use. (aired August 13, 2013)

 

Apalachicola’s oyster industry see historic collapse in 2012 from drought and salinity  (originally aired April 26, 2013)

The severe drought in 2012 caused an historic collapse of Florida’s oyster industry.  During the past year a variety of state agencies have been working for the Florida Sea Grant Program to try and understand all the causes for the fishery disaster.  The cooperative effort is working toward designing a plan to help restore and manage the industry in the future.  WUFT’s Donna Green-Townsend talked with the Director of the Florida Sea Grant College Program, Karl Havens, who is heading up the University of Florida’s Oyster Recovery Team, about the findings outlined in the group’s special report this week.

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Links to Environmental Data

United States Geological Service — Water Resources of Georgia: The overall website for the USGS water resources program in Georgia. Links to a variety of pollution data, answers to common questions and USGS publications.

Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper: The website of the non-profit organization that keeps tabs on everything that deals with the Chattahoochee, including a section on tri-state water issues. Background information on the river, legal issues, and information about joining the group.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources: An extensive section on Georgia’s plan to deal with water issues among the three states

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs: The specific details of Alabama’s water plans for the ACF river basin and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin.

Apalachicola Chamber of Commerce: The online home to the Apalachicola area. Find out about the historic nature of “Florida’s Forgotten Coast.”

Tupelo Honey: The largest and densest stands of Tupelo trees grow in the swamps of the lower Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers. Nowhere are Tupelos so dense that honey can be made from and certified pure Tupelo.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection: The site provides the latest information on proposed environmental legislation, appointments, and programs.

Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve: The Apalachicola Reserve includes two barrier islands and a portion of a third. The Reserve also includes the lower 52 miles of the Apalachicola River and its associated floodplain, small portions of adjoining uplands, and the Apalachicola Bay system. The overall high water quality of the Apalachicola estuary, with the combined effects of other factors, provide the ideal living conditions for estuarine biota and have resulted in the creation of a highly productive estuarine system. The myriad of habitats found within the Reserve support a wide range of plant and animal species, many of which are threatened or endangered.

Apalachicola River and Bay Ecosystem Plan: A 183-page plan to balance human needs with wildlife needs. Developed by Florida State University for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers.

Corps of Engineers: The various recreation sites on the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola river system, including various lakes, locks, dams, and campgrounds.

 

Read the original 1999 interviews with key players in the tri-state water war:

Sally Bethea — Executive Director of Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper

Matt Kales — Program Director at Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper

Bob Kerr — Director, Pollution Prevention Assistance Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Steve Leitman — Environmental Scientist, NW FL Water Management District

Woody Miley — Director, Apalachicola National Marine Estuary

Lindsey Thomas — Federal Commissioner of the ACT – ACF River Basin Commission

Now Available: The full transcript of the documentary.

A true “Mother’s Day” story about courtship in Cross Creek

DSC08728Editor’s note: I’m tickled to say that even though he didn’t use his rifle to shoot down this year’s magnolia blossom, my husband kept his Mother’s Day tradition alive this year (2017).

 

 

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Here’s the audio version of the chapter called, “Mother’s Day” by Shelley Fraser Mickle. (full written text with pictures can be found below)

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I’m proud to call Shelley Fraser Mickle a friend.  Shelley is one of the most entertaining writers I’ve ever met.  For many years radio listeners were able to hear her commentaries on life on not only WUFT-FM, but also nationally as she contributed her talent doing commentaries for NPR‘s “Morning Edition.”  She’s also an award-winning author of several novels.

I always looked forward to the days she would come in to the station and record her commentaries because on those days we had the opportunity to catch up on life.  That being said, as a journalist I should have known that some of the “Cross Creek” stories I shared with her would one day make it into print.  I’m actually quite pleased she was listening so closely.  My family is very proud of the chapter she wrote on my Cross Creek romance called, “Mother’s Day.”  She genuinely captured some of the unique qualities of my husband Lee Townsend in our “courting days.”

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(Full text of chapter called “Mother’s Day” from Shelley Fraser Mickle’s book, The Kids are gone; The Dog is Depressed & Mom’s On The Loose.)

 

 

I have a friend who lives at Cross Creek. She moved there over a decade ago from up North, and she would have left probably any number of times except that she fell in love with a man from the Creek. And that made all the difference. Apparently men at the Creek take the romancing of a woman very seriously.

For instance, a first date might be only a midnight fishing trip under a full moon on Orange Lake. It might be a frog gigging, or a beer shared out on a wooden bench near the Creek until it is dark and quiet, so that then you can listen to the alligators bellow in Lochloosa.

scan0001And you’ll know when the courting gets serious if a fella invites you to ride a boat out into the cypress woods after a big rain to watch the water run into the lake.

 

 

 

Let's Go Fishin'But no matter if you are fishing, gigging, or watching water, it’s a pretty sure fact that all the while, a certain magic is being practiced on you. So that afterward, it is very likely, your life will never be the same.

Creek men are aware of their power. And they strut it comfortably. For instance, it was reported that at the Marjorie Rawlings’ house, the staff spotted a snake sneaking into one of the rooms, and out of desperation, called one of the Creek men. After all, a man who has grown up at the Creek knows more than you ever want to know about snakes and how to handle them.

Chicken Snake MKR pump house A 2012-11-04_12-36-26_781As the story goes, this Creek man sauntered up the steps to the house, saying he’d handle that snake, just point him to it. Then went into the room where the snake was and shut the door. In a few minutes he came back out and announced, “That’s a female chicken snake. And it won’t take me but a minute to get her to move on out of here.”  One of the caretakers was really curious and asked, “But how do you know it’s a female snake?”  The creek man didn’t even blink. “Because she quivered when she looked at me,” he said.

sweethearts 1985I guess that really does say it all. Yes, the men at the Creek have a certain powerful charm. And it’s said that everybody knows when a creek man is seriously courting a woman, because that’s the only time he wears shoes.

 

scan0002So after my friend fell under the spell of one and married him, then stayed there to raise a family with him, she had to learn how to take on all sorts of new ways of thinking and saying things.

 

 

 

Pregnant with Ellie

When she became pregnant with their first child, she says she had to relearn how to announce that fact. For out at the Creek no one is ever pregnant. No. Rather it’s that you’re fixin’ to have a youngin’.

 

Baby Ellie

And then when the second one came, it was that she was fixin’ to have another one.Jessie

In fact, my friend says, since she has made her life at the Creek, she has found that almost everything she does has the word fixin’ it it.

File0009Last year on Mother’s Day, she was in the kitchen fixin’ to have a cup of tea when her husband sauntered up behind her, put his arms around her waist, and said to follow him, that he was fixin’ to give her a Mother’s Day present.

 

 

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He then led her outside, and on the way, grabbed his rifle, so that in only a minute they were standing under the giant magnolia that shades the whole side of the backyard. Then he propped his rifle on his shoulder and aimed it up toward the tree.

My friend says the blooms were like round white stars, perfuming the air with a sweetness that was like the smell of warm honey, or of spun sugar. Then her husband said to her, “Pick out one darlin’.”

And when she raised her hand toward a bloom near the top, he focused his eye down the rifle’s barrel and shot it down.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, as he bent down and picked up the sweet white blossom that had fallen at her feet.

Archival videos of the Father of Florida Folk Will McLean

Will McLean performing
Will McLean performing

The Father of Florida Folk, the late Will McLean, loved to entertain and share songs, poems and stories of the lore and legends of Florida.  Unfortunately, most of those performances were not captured on video or audio tape.  When those performances were recorded, it was special indeed.

Here are five such videos.

The first is the January 24, 1990 memorial service for Will at the Thomas Center in Gainesville. On that day in 1990 hundreds of people filled the Thomas Center in Gainesville, FL to capacity. They were all there to pay tribute to the Father of Florida Folk, Will McLean, who had just passed away from cancer a few days before. This archival video features many of his friends sharing not only their own precious stories about Will and how he touched their lives, but also sharing their versions of Will’s original songs. Some of those friends in attendance included Gamble Rogers, Don Grooms, Dale Crider, Jeanie Fitchen, Doug Gaus, Frank and Ann Thomas, Wayne Martin, Dennis Devine, Mary Ann DiNella, Barbara Sheen Todd, Margaret Longhill, Donna Green-Townsend and Bobby Hicks to name a few. There were not only tears, but laughter as many of the speakers shared personal memories demonstrating Will McLean’s sense of humor. Following the ceremony many friends travelled to McLean’s favorite camping spot, Gore’s Landing in Marion County to disperse his ashes into the Ocklawaha River. Will McLean’s desire to “save Florida through music” continues today through a music festival held in his honor. The festival is usually held the 2nd weekend of March at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, 7 miles west of Dade City and near Brooksville. For more information about the Will McLean Festival and Foundation go online to willmclean.com

 

The next four videos were made possible when his music buddy, the late Don Grooms, brought Will to a studio in Gainesville.  The first video is Will singing his most famous song, “Hold Back The Waters,” about the 1928 hurricane that drowned between  three and four thousand people around Lake Okeechobee. (You will see Will when he starts singing at about :24 seconds in)

 

 

Will McLean served during WWII
Will McLean served during WWII

It’s been said Will McLean wrote his song, “Florida Sand,” after returning home from WWII where he had been taken as a POW in the Philippines. When he landed in Florida he kissed the ground and said he would only write about his beloved Florida Sand. In this video his friend Lais provided dance interpretation of the song.

 

 

Early photo of Will McLean's grandparents
Early photo of Will McLean’s grandparents

Will McLean spent many of his early years with his grandfather who took him to a variety of places in Florida. Those travels influenced Will’s songwriting, poems and stories. Many of those writings bring attention to Will’s concern about Florida’s environment. That concern is very evident in his song, “Lament.” Lais also interprets this song through dance.

 

 

Will McLean, Tim DeMass and Don
Will McLean, Tim DeMass and Don Grooms

Today hundreds of singer songwriters have been inspired to write songs about Florida because of Will McLean’s passion for the state. Will’s dear music buddy, the late Don Grooms, wrote one of his most famous songs, “Vitachuko,” because of Will’s inspiration. It’s about the bloody skirmish between Native American Chief Vitachuko and Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto. Grooms said when he played it for McLean Will said, “Grooms you have finally justified your existence.” In this recording Will accompanies Grooms by playing harmonica. The late Tim DeMass is playing bass. (You will see a closeup of Will on the harmonica at about two minutes into the video and at the end of the song.)

 

To go back to the page “Will McLean: The Father of Florida Folk” CLICK HERE:
To go to the official Will McLean website CLICK HERE
Don Grooms and Will McLean
Don Grooms and Will McLean
Will McLean resting beside his guitar
Will McLean resting beside his guitar

 

 

 

A Gatherin’ In The Live Oaks 4-Part Music Series

From my audio archives:

A Gatherin’ In The Live Oaks

Four One-Hour Music Programs produced from mainstage performances at the 45th Annual Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, FL

(including selections from the archives of other festivals and performances)

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The late Will McLean and Paul Champion in the late 1960s to early 1970s

Produced by Bill Beckett and hosted by Donna Green-Townsend with production assistance from Jim Bickerstaff, Ken Crawford, Pete Gallagher and Ray Valla

Part One:

Featuring music from Marie Nofsinger, Valarie Caracappa (Wisecracker), Upsala, Pete Gallagher and the Green Grass Revival, Wingnuts, Vassar Clements, John McCuen, Clyde Walker and Sam Pacetti

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Part Two:

Featuring music from Jeanie Fitchen, Chuck Hardwicke, Ken and Leigh Skeens, Grant Livingston, Frank and Ann Thomas, Dale Crider, Ron and Bari Litschauer, Happy and Patti, Simple Gifts and Mindy Simmons

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Part Three:

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The late Gamble Rogers at the FL Folk Festival

Featuring music and stories from Jim Ballew, Paul Champion, Cush Holston, Will McLean, Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Don Grooms.

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Part Four:

Featuring music from Long John Higginbotham, Rock Bottom, James Billie and John Anderson

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Willie Green- The Real Deal

Bluesman Willie Green……He’s the Real Deal

Willie Green 1 2007 FL Folk FestBluesman Willie Green has just won the 2017 Florida State Heritage Award!  

 Patrons of the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek, FL are treated every weekend with the Delta blues sound of Willie Green.  Music is Willie’s life.  He began playing harmonica as a teenager and eventually picked up the guitar after being inspired by the music he heard in Florida clubs like the Blue Chip, the Down Beat and the Diamond Club.

Life wasn’t always kind to Willie in his early years.  He was born in the mid-1930s to a family of sharecroppers and migrant laborers in Pine Level, AL, outside of Mongtomery.  He had to quit school at a young age to help support his family by travelling from farm to farm throughout the Southeast harvesting peanuts, fruit and vegetables.  Later in life he ended up in Ocala, FL, though the 1980s were also hard times for Willie as well.

Now in his “golden years” he’s attracting a tremendous following for his authentic blues music.  He’s become a favorite at various state festivals such as the Florida Folk Festival, Magnolia Fest, Springing the Blues, the Gamble Rogers Festival and at blues competitions such as the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.  Willie has opened for well-known blues musicians including Robert Cray and Eric Clapton, Grammy-winning blues musician John Hammond, shared the stage with the late “Honeyboy” Edwards and collaborated with Southern rock group J.J. Grey and Mofro.   In 2010, he received Stetson Kennedy’s Fellow Man and Mother Earth Award

Reporter Trimmel Gomes and Donna Green-Townsend brought Willie into the WUFT studios in 2005 to hear the story of his life and to hear him play a little blues.

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Willie playing Baby You Mine

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Willie singing a song about Muddy Waters called Hoochie Coochie Man

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Willie performing Blue With A Feelin

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OCL-LOGO

Willie Green

On October 15th, 1935, or there abouts, a baby boy was born in a rural Alabama sharecropper’s cabin. His mother Mattie and father Willie Green Sr. named him Willie Grant Green. The Grant comes from the famous Union general. Willie doesn’t know the name of the little farm hamlet, only that it was near the city of Montgomery. He doesn’t have any family photos or even a birth certificate. Only that his family were sharecroppers and travelling migrant workers. He was lucky to go school for a of couple years, but was soon pulled from the 4th grade to start working in the fields, picking everything from peanuts to potatoes. Travelling around the southeast in the back of a truck, field to field, farm to farm, he picked vegetables and fruits through his teenage years and into his twenties. By then he had left the family following the crop harvest north as far as Maine, he met a girl there, a local farmer’s daughter. He says he always wished he would have stayed, but time to head back south: more crops coming in the spring. His brother was called to Vietnam. Willie never saw him again.

While still at home as a teenager, Willie would sneak out at night, sometimes catching a ride on a passing freight into Montgomery to the juke joints. He wanted to hear the music, the BLUES music, from the greats like John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Muddy Waters; all those cats getting home before sunrise to the welcome of a belt in the hands of Mama Mattie, who wasn’t fond of the juke joint scene.

Willie-Green Old City Life
Photo Courtesy of Old City Life publication

One day an old boy gave Willie a harp, and the rest is history. He continued his migrant worker job, with the harp in his back pocket, playing when he could, sitting in with anyone he could. In the 1960s Willie found his way to Florida, were some cousins lived in Pompano Beach. During this time he was called back to Alabama one time. Mama Mattie had passed away on the farm. This was the last time he saw the place and his only relatives there. Willie remembers he inherited her refrigerator, but had no way to haul it home on the Greyhound bus. Back in Florida he found new jobs like pipe laying, driving a pulp wood truck, laying cement roads; anything that made a little dough. Heven started learning to play some guitar to go with the harp. He got to sit in with some of the great blues players travelling through. Cash was king, no bank account needed…..

To continue reading more from this article in the publication, “Old City Life” about blues singer and performer Willie Green click here.

Celebrating the Life of John Henry Hankinson, Jr.

John Hankinson0002
John Henry Hankinson, Jr.

Florida lost an environmental giant on March 3rd when John Henry Hankinson, Jr. died.  On March 7, 2017 hundreds gathered at the Fort King Presbyterian Church in Ocala, FL for a celebration of his life. The service included not only friends and family, but environmental leaders from across the state and Southeast region of the United States.

 

During the “Celebration of Life” service, Hankinson was called a modern day Da Vinci,  a patriot and an environmental land use visionary and leader of the environmental protection movement.

He was described as a good husband and father who raised two sons and a person who could make people laugh and dream.

In an email read at the service former EPA Director, Carol Browner, described Hankinson as “a good friend to me and many, many others and mentor to untold number of conservationists.  He lived large and he lived well.”

Manley Fuller, Executive Director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, described Hankinson as, “someone who could disarm people with his humor and his brilliant dry wit…He was a brilliant conservation advocate who functioned at a high level but, with the common touch, he could comfortably negotiate complex deals for clean water with captains of industry or sit down and find common ground with regular folks along Florida’s waterways or around the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

See pictures and hear music from the celebration of life service below:

 

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John Hankinson shaking hands with President Barack Obama

John’s most recent position was the Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force where he worked with 11 federal agencies and five states to develop strategy for restoration of the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  It’s my understanding he was selected for the position by former President Barack Obama.

He has also served as the Regional Administrator of the EPA’s office in Atlanta overseeing federal wetland regulation and state implementation of delegated Clean Water Act programs in eight southern states.

Closer view of bayfront
Apalachicola Bayfront

His work included promoting comprehensive watershed and coastal aquatic ecosystem management including the Florida Everglades, National Estuary Programs, and efforts to establish a compact for the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint (ACF) River System.  The list of awards for his accomplishments is long.

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Before working for the EPA he held the position of Director of Planning and Acquisition at the St. John’s River Water Management District in Florida. In that capacity he helped the state acquire more than 200,000 acres of environmentally important lands.

Early in his career Hankinson told me he was inspired by the environmental activism of Marjorie Harris Carr.  Carr is best known for her work at helping stop the construction of the now defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal.  Even though the project came to a halt, there are dams on either side of the state, the Inglis Locke on the Gulf Side and the Kirkpatrick Dam (better known as the Rodman Dam)  between  the St. John’s and Ocklawaha Rivers.

cross-florida-barge-canal
Cross Florida Barge Canal

In 1996 I produced a series on the Cross Florida Barge Canal controversy when the federal government gave money back to each of the counties who had contributed to the dream for the “Big Ditch.”   To hear John Hankinson’s comments about Marjorie Carr click on segment 5 of my Cross Florida Barge Canal Series entitled, “Remembering Marjorie Carr.”

Hankinson continued the efforts of Carr as he worked for years trying to restore the Ocklawaha River to be a free flowing system.  At times it seemed as if it would really happen as various governors and numerous environmental groups supported the idea.  But each time supporters thought the dam would finally be removed, state lawmakers pushed back.  Leading the opposition for many years was the late State Senator George Kirkpatrick who loved to fish on the Rodman Reservoir.

On the day I interviewed Hankinson for the series in 1997 he was in town for the first official “Undam the Dam Jam” held at the Cousin Thelma Boltin Center in Gainesville.   I can still recall how as we sat outside for our interview, a plane circled above us pulling a banner that read, “Save the Rodman.”  It was as if the opponents of the restoration effort knew I was talking to Hankinson and decided to disturb our interview.  We both got a pretty good laugh out of the scenario above us as I couldn’t keep interviewing him without picking up the sound of the plane overhead.  You can hear his comments in segment 6 of the series listed above.

Former Florida Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay spoke at the service and described Hankinson’s determination to “Free the Ocklawaha.”

DSC08170Hankinson loved playing music and was an avid blues harmonica player with several bands including the band known as Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres as well as the band called, The Non Essentials.

On the morning of March 7th, 2017 John Henry Hankinson, Jr.’s body was laid to rest at Prairie Creek Cemetery near Micanopy , FL.

In lieu of flowers, his family suggested a donation be made to Florida Defenders of the Environment for the John H. Hankinson, Jr. Ocklawaha River Restoration Fund.  (put on bottom of the check).  The address is P.O. Box 357086, Gainesville, FL  32635.

John Henry Hankinson, Jr.   May 8, 1948 – March 3, 2017

RIP John

 

To read two other interesting articles about Hankinson’s legacy go to the Orlando Sentinel at the following link:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-john-hankinson-environmentalist-death-20170306-story.html

Another interesting article:

https://flaglerlive.com/105435/john-hankinson-jr/

 

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Memories of her life and times in Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings & Cracker Culture
A video written and produced by University of Florida Student Monica Berra.  Script Editing assistance and narration by Donna Green-Townsend

 

Two versions of a video produced by Dorsey Lee Townsend III for a class project while in Santa Fe College:

 (Longer version with additional interview added)

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A video distributed by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection called, “Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park”

 

History of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings featuring MKR reenactor Betty Jean Steinshouer produced by Visit Gainesville.

 

Interviews regarding the scheduled play, “Invasion of Privacy” which took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall of Santa Fe College in June of 2015. The interviewees were on the Ilene Silverman Show.

 

Alachua-County-Courthouse
The old Alachua County Courthouse in Gainesville, FL

The 1946 “Invasion of Privacy Trial” of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings vs. Zelma Cason has captivated lawyers and literary experts alike.  On June 18th thru June 20th, 2015 the public got a flavor of the famous trial  when the award-winning play by Larry Parr, “Invasion of Privacy,” took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College.

It was after Marjorie Rawlings won the Pulitizer Prize for “The Yearling” that she continued her success with her book, “Cross Creek,” a book which captured what her life was like as well as her neighbors in the small fishing community.  But one friend of Rawlings, Zelma Cason, didn’t take “too kindly” to the way Rawlings described her in her book and decided to sue the famous author.  Click here to read more about this famous legal case.

Park Ranger Lee Townsend being interviewed on November 13th, 2009 at the MKR home about Marjorie’s life at the “Creek.”

 

A video interview with author J. T. Glisson about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek for Putnam Schools TV.

 

Shelley-Fraser-MickleA True “Mother’s Day” Story About Romance in Cross Creek by Shelley Fraser Mickle

I have a friend who lives at Cross Creek. She moved there over a decade ago from up North, and she would have left probably any number of times except that she fell in love with a man from the Creek. And that made all the difference. Apparently men at the Creek take the romancing of a woman very seriously.

For instance, a first date might be only a midnight fishing trip under a full moon on Orange Lake. It might be a frog gigging, or a beer shared out on a wooden bench near the Creek until it is dark and quiet, so that then you can listen to the alligators bellow in Lochloosa.

 Click here to read more…

 

Cross Creek Summer

MKR on her porchThe first  weekend in August of 1997 kicked off the first annual Cross Creek Summer, Arts and Culture in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Florida.  Organizers hoped the week-long event would introduce people to the Florida Rawlings loved and attract those ecotourists looking for the real Florida. To hear the report produced by Donna Green-Townsend  Click here

 

 

50th Anniversary of “The Yearling” Celebration on the MKR farm in Cross Creek in April of 1988
Includes rare video of the late Idella Parker, Cousin Thelma Boltin, Will McLean and Gamble Rogers.

 

Video with interesting pictures of Marjorie, though not all the facts are precise.

 

1979 video talking about the architecture of the MKR home in Cross Creek

My Friendship With “The Black Hat Troubadour” Will McLean

 

Will Mclean who was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1996
Will McLean, the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in 1996

By the time I met Will McLean he had already penned most of the hundreds of songs and poems he has become famous for.  He’d already performed at Carnegie Hall and made friends with the late Pete Seeger.  His glory days performing on the “Old Marble Stage” at the Florida Folk Festival were long since past.  The truth is, the day I met him I didn’t even really know him by name.  But I think therein lies the reason we became fast friends.  Will McLean was one of the most humble men I’d ever met.

It was in mid-November in 1985.  I was working in the WUFT-FM newsroom in Weimer Hall at the University of Florida when a tall man dressed all in black (that’s how I remember it) walked into my office and kindly, almost demurely, asked if he could post some fliers on the bulletin boards in the hallway to promote his concert that was to take place that following Sunday night November 17th in the Thomas Center in downtown Gainesville.  Just having someone come in and ask to post something was rare.  Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I didn’t just say yes or no.  I remember being intrigued by this man because of the soft-spoken way in which he asked me.  Maybe it was the way he was dressed and his stature that caused me to begin asking him questions, questions that today I’m a bit embarrassed that I asked, but so glad I did.

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Photo on Will McLean’s “Florida Sand” album

I remember questioning him about what kind of songs he’d written.  Instead of being surprised and offended that I didn’t know who he was he began to softly tell me some of the song titles and what they were about.  That’s where my friendship with Will McLean really began.  When he got to the song, “Hold Back the Waters,” my heart actually fluttered.  I had no idea how popular that song really was or the true history behind the song of the 1928 hurricane in Florida over Lake Okeechobee.  Geez, people in Florida had been singing this song like an anthem for more than 20 years.  But in 1985 I had only been living in Florida for a little more than two years and was just getting to know Florida history and area musicians.  But, I knew that song.  I fell in love with “Hold Back The Waters” when I was helping produce a national music series while out in the state of Kansas called, “The Walnut Valley Festival.”  The public radio station I was working for as news director, KHCC-FM, had produced 26 one-hour programs for national distribution.

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Album cover to record by Red and Murphy & Company I purchased at the Walnut Valley Festival in the early 1980s

My job was to interview all the musicians and produce features for the series.  It was my first real introduction to a genre of music you just don’t come across on the radio every day.  One of the groups performing in 1982 was Red and Murphy Henry, a bluegrass family band from Florida (now Virginia).  I can distinctly remember Murphy Henry introducing the song, Hold Back The Waters, saying it was about a hurricane.  Of all the songs I heard at the Walnut Valley Festival those two years in the early 1980s, this was the one song I sat down and wrote out the lyrics to and learned to sing. Listening back to the original tape I can hear Murphy Henry mentioning Will McLean’s name, but at the time I learned it I wasn’t as interested in the artist who wrote it as much as in the story of this devastating storm that pushed Lake Okeechobee’s waters over its banks and drowned between 3,000 to 4,000 people.

truck carrying victims of 1928 hurricaneThe 1928 storm was before television and the weather channel and before hurricanes even had names.  It intrigued me that the Seminoles living in Florida may have warned the storm was coming but people didn’t pay attention.  This storm is the reason there is now a dike all around Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.  There are many accounts from people recalling the storm describing how they were tied to trees by their families so they wouldn’t be swept away.  There are stories about the mass graves following the storm….some marked and some unmarked.  Yes, this was an intriguing song about history and my first introduction to what hurricanes could really do.

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Photo on Will McLean’s “Florida Sand” album

I loved “Hold Back The Waters.”  As soon as Will McLean mentioned it I remember blurting out, “I know that song.”  When I told him where I first heard it his eyes just lit up.  I wasn’t prepared for him to then ask, “Why don’t you come to my concert and sing it with me.”  He had just met me.  He didn’t know if I could sing or not.  I’m sure I thanked him kindly for asking, but he surely didn’t need me to come and sing.  It was his concert after all.  He insisted.

 

 

 

Will McLean waiting to performBefore he left the station I introduced him to our operations manager and our chief engineer and it was decided that WUFT would send its remote recording truck to the concert.  I remember sitting in a little room at the Thomas Center that night in November of 1985 practicing the song with Will.  I was so afraid I’d forget the words or forget how to play it on my guitar.  My fears were relieved when I saw Murphy Henry walk into the Thomas Center, the person I first heard sing the song out in Kansas.  It turned out that I didn’t have to worry about playing the guitar, I only had to sing the song with Will and Murphy.  My fears about forgetting the words disappeared.  Here is the introduction to the song that night in 1985

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and here’s the recording of Will McLean, Murphy Henry and me singing “Hold Back The Waters.”

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In 1985 I was engaged to be married to Lee Townsend from Cross Creek.  He was with me at the Thomas Center.  As it turns out, Lee knew Will for a different reason.  When he was working as a mechanic in Gainesville he often worked on Will’s old vehicles, doing his best to keep them running, many long after they should have been abandoned.  That night Will dedicated a poem to us. It was a poem so appropriate for a couple who lived in the woods in Cross Creek.

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Florida's Black Hat Troubadour I will only say that following that November concert, for whatever reason, that professional recording got stashed away on a shelf and misplaced for nearly 12 years….a whole different story in itself.  Eventually, it resurfaced at just the right time because the new program director at WUFT-FM, Bill Beckett, had an appreciation for what this recording meant to history.  Working together with the Executive Director of the Will McLean Foundation, Margaret Longhill, we turned the recording into the CD, “Will McLean and Friends, Live at the Thomas Center.”  I met Margaret Longhill the same week I met Will in 1985.  She truly understood how rare this professional recording of Will McLean was.  We’ve been friends now for nearly 32 years.

Will McLean standing beside the van he used to travel around the state writing songs about his Florida sand
Will McLean standing beside the van he used to travel around the state writing songs about his Florida sand

Because of the way Will McLean lived, he had very few possessions.  After his wife Alice died of cancer Will spent most of his last years travelling around in an old beat up van and hanging out at campgrounds where he could fish or just plug in his extension cord at the homes of various friends.  He pawned many of his guitars to obtain money to buy wine and  he gave away cassette tapes of his recordings to just about everyone he met.  I think he enjoyed revisiting the places around Florida where his grandpa had taken him as a boy.  Those trips were the inspiration for many of his songs and poems.

Not all of the stories about Will McLean are pretty, but he was a unique individual….a treasure.  About a month after the Thomas Center concert Will came to Cross Creek to help me celebrate my 28th birthday.  I remember having a nice little music jam on my screened porch over Cross Creek.  What I also remember is that Will chose to just sit back and listen to everyone else sing and play, not wanting to be in the spotlight.  As much as I wanted him to play for us, I can now look back and appreciate how he didn’t want to be center stage the way some musicians do.  I liked that quality in him.

The same thing happened on March 15, 1986 at my wedding reception in Cross Creek.  Someone told me Will McLean had just arrived and was looking for me.  He had a wedding present for my husband Lee and me.  It was a cassette full of recordings he had made around the campfires at the Florida Folk Festival and other places.  Not wanting to be the focus of my wedding reception he kindly gave us his “best wishes” and disappeared. After getting to know Will better over the coming months I invited him into the WUFT studios to do a long interview in 1987.  You can hear my first interview with Will in 1985 when I was just getting to know him and the second interview where I knew Will a little better by clicking here.  Let’s just say I’m really glad I have those recordings.  There are stories in those interviews that needed to be preserved forever.

Painting of Will McLean by Marianne Dinella
Painting of Will McLean by Marianne Dinella

Will died in 1990 from cancer.  Friends gathered for his memorial in the Thomas Center, the same venue where I sang with him less than five years before.  Both floors of the Thomas Center were packed.  Many of his friends performed Will’s songs and told stories of how they knew him including the late Gamble Rogers, Don Grooms, Bobby Hicks, Dale Crider, Seminole Chief James Billie, Jeanie Fitchen, Mary Ann Dinella, Doug Gauss and Wayne Martin.  The list is long.  There were tears and much laughter as well.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard.  He touched so many of us in so many ways.  This is the first time I’ve ever really written my thoughts about it.  Thank goodness someone actually video-taped the service.  It is a real treasure to see.

 

Will McLean holding a puppy on a chilly day Afterwards many of us went to Gore’s Landing by the Ocklawaha River to disperse Will’s ashes.  Some of those in attendance were Margaret Longhill, Don Grooms, Dale Crider and family, Donna Green-Townsend and family, Wayne Martin and Bobby Hicks to name a few.  Gore’s Landing was one of Will’s favorite places to camp.  I saw him there while my family was also camping not long before he got so sick.

 

 

Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore's Landing
Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore’s Landing

Margaret Longhill chose the Ocklawaha River because before he died, McLean had told her that he had hoped to light a small campfire one last time at Gore’s Landing, his favorite campsite.  In this brief recording, you will hear a small portion of that special ceremony at the river:

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the late Will McLean considered to be the "Father of Florida folk"
The late Will McLean considered to be the “Father of Florida folk”

In 1996 because of his artistic contributions Will became the first folk artist inducted into the prestigious Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  Friday, March 10th – Sunday, March 12th marks the 28th anniversary of the Will McLean Folk Festival.  

One of the highlights of the festival is the hour when the winners of the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest perform their winning songs.  Will always wanted to “Save Florida Through Music.”  It’s amazing how many songs there are now about his beloved “Florida Sand.”

 If you’ve never been to the Will McLean Folk Festival you really should check it out.  It’s truly a “songwriters festival.”  It’s held at the Sertoma Youth Ranch just 7 miles west of Dade City at the bottom of an orange grove.  It’s small in comparison to many music festivals, but that’s why it’s so special.  The performers and the people who attend are all in the same campground, playing music throughout the night.  

Jessie and Lee Townsend
Jessie and Lee Townsend

My children have grown up there.  In 2016 my son Lee and daughter Jessie Townsend performed on both Saturday and Sunday at the festival and honored many songwriters who have passed on in a special “Florida Set.”  Meanwhile, my daughter Ellie helped with publicity on the Will McLean Facebook page and my son-in-law Andrew Floyd coordinates all the vendors at the festival.  

As the late singer-songwriter Pete Seeger said, “Will McLean’s songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida.”  Rest in Peace Will McLean, my friend.