Six months ago today on December 2, 2013 Florida lost one its most original singer-songwriters, Garrison Doles. He was only 62 years old. As a feature reporter for the past 40 years I’ve met and interviewed many songwriters, but Garrison Doles stood out to me. He was someone with the unique ability to truly create visual pictures with his words . His style of guitar playing tugged at one’s emotions.
Working as a song contest judge for the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Competition for the past several years, I’ve heard just about every kind of Florida song imaginable. There were songs about history, songs about the environment and funny songs as well. In 2009 I was moved to tears by the words and music of Garrison Doles’ song, “This Florida Again.”
At the time I had no idea who he was. I knew nothing of his former struggles with alcohol or the years he spent playing in smoky bars trying to appeal to audiences who really weren’t there to listen to the lyrics of his songs. I only knew the moment I heard “This Florida Again” it had the “goosebump factor.” What authors Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Patrick Smith did with words to describe the “old Florida” in their novels, Garrison created with music, both in lyrics and the emotion he brought out on the strings of his guitar. I couldn’t wait to meet him.
In 2009 he sat down in the WUFT studios to talk about winning the song contest, what inspired him and to play some of his songs.
In 2010 he returned to the Will McLean Folk Festival and performed his winning song:
During his interview in the studios of WUFT, Doles also shared memories about his early days performing around the state and when he first met the legendary Gamble Rogers.
In 2009 Garrison had just finished one of his newest CDs entitled, “Whenever I’m With You,” and he talked about some of the Florida musicians who played with him in the recording studio.
Doles is survived by his wife, Jan Richardson; his son, Emile; his parents, Harold and Dee; his brothers, Jeff (Suzanne), Greg (Doreen), and Jon (Heather); and many nieces and nephews. He is deeply missed.