The Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s Will McLean Festival Highlights

Will McLean logo 2016

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Jessie and Lee Townsend along with Andy Garfield and David McBrady performing on the Azalea Stage at the 2016 Will McLean Festival near Brooksville, FL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 Will McLean Music Festival was a tremendous success for the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band.  If you didn’t have an opportunity to go, you can watch a few of their performances on the Magnolia, Azalea and Cypress Stages below.  Thanks to Red Henry, Andy Garfield and David McBrady for lending their musical talents to the weekend.  Jessie and Lee couldn’t have done it without you.

The overall goal of their music sets was to honor many of the Florida songwriters who have passed on, but who have left a wonderful legacy with their music including Will McLean, Don Grooms, Jim Ballew, and Ann Thomas. They also wanted to include music from two of their favorite musicians, environmental troubadour Dale Crider and the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe.

 

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Dale Crider and Lee Townsend

In the 1970s  Dale Crider from Windsor was working as a wildlife biologist for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission.  Through his job he saw firsthand the negative effects on the environment of the government’s decision to straighten the Kissimmee River in Florida and wrote a song about it.  Here is the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s rendition of Dale’s song, “Oh Kissimmee River.”

 

Will McLean waiting to perform
Will McLean waiting to perform

The late Will McLean (1919-1990) wrote hundreds of songs, stories and poems.  Many were about Florida’s critters and unique characters as well as Florida history.  He also wrote a love song called, “Macclenny Farewell.”  Here is Jessie and Lee’s version of that song accompanied by Andy Garfield on guitar and David McBrady on bass on the Azalea Stage at the festival.

 

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Jessie and Lee Townsend performing Crying Bird on the Magnolia Stage at the 2016 Will McLean Festival

Will McLean loved to write about Florida’s unique creatures….from sea turtles crawling up on the beach on Conch Island to sandhill cranes and panthers.  He also wrote a beautiful song about the Florida Limpkin called, “Cryin’ Bird.”  Here is Jessie and Lee’s interpretation of that song performed on the Magnolia Stage during the Hour of Power at the festival.

 

Jim Ballew
The late Jim Ballew performing at the Florida Folk Festival (photo courtesy of the FL State Archives)

The late Jim Ballew often played with the late Gamble Rogers, Paul Champion and Will McLean at festivals around the state.  He was not only a great musician, but a fine songwriter.  One of his most beautiful songs was called, “When I Die.”  Jessie and Lee Townsend recently learned this beautiful song and were accompanied by Red Henry on fiddle, Andy Garfield on guitar and David McBrady on bass on the Cypress Stage at the Will McLean Festival.

 

Frank and Ann Thomas
Frank and Ann Thomas performing at the Florida Folk Festival (photo courtesy of the State of FL archives)

Frank and Ann Thomas entertained Florida audiences for decades. Many of their songs capture Florida history.  The late Ann Thomas also had a comical side as in her song, “Lost Tourist’s Letter Home.”  Here is the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s rendition of her song performed on the Azalea Stage.

 

Don Grooms in an early performance photo
Don Grooms in an early performance photo

The late Don Grooms wrote some very funny songs….but he also had some very serious and poignant songs such as Vitachuko and Tsali about important native American leaders.  In “Wild Birds” he wrote about a difficult relationship where one of the persons just couldn’t stay in one place for long.  Here is the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s version of the song performed on the Cypress Stage.

 

 

Another highlight for Jessie and Lee at the 2016 Will McLean Music Festival was the opportunity to participate in a special tribute to longtime Will McLean Foundation Director, Margaret Longhill on Saturday night.  Jessie and Lee represented the young people who have been inspired by Longhill to perform Florida songs.  During the presentation they performed Will McLean’s love song, “Macclenny Farewell.”  They were joined on stage by bass player David McBrady.  The song is about 27 minutes into the presentation below:

 

 

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Jessie and Lee Townsend along with Andy Garfield, Red Henry and David McBrady jamming at the Will McLean Festival

Jessie and Lee love bluegrass music, especially Bill Monroe tunes.  Here are three versions of Bill Monroe’s Lonesome Wind Blues.  The first is from their set on the Cypress Stage with some great picking by Red Henry, Andy Garfield and David McBrady at the Cypress Stage.

 

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The late Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe

The Jessie and Lee Townsend band also performed Bill Monroe’s song, “Lonesome Wind Blues” on the Azalea Stage.

 

And here’s the version of the song while jamming in the parking lot:

 

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(From left to right) Andy Garfield, Lee Townsend, Jessie Townsend and Red Henry

Lee Townsend and Andy Garfield have been performing together since they played in a high school bluegrass band at P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville. Since then they’ve performed at a wide variety of events and festivals in North Central Florida.  Here they are performing, ” Up 18 North,” written by the Kruger Brothers, on the Azalea Stage at the 2016 Will McLean Festival.

 

Jessie and Lee Townsend’s CD, “Tribute” Now Available

DSC_0081Jessie and Lee have recorded their first professional CD at Gatorbone Studios in Keystone Heights.  Click here to listen to song samples and to find out how to order one.

 

 

 

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