What a memorable Florida Folk Festival for Jessie and Lee Townsend. Thanks to Jeanie Fitchen and Mark Smith for giving special stage time to them this year. There were some magic moments as this brother-sister duo performed “Dumbarton’s Drums” on the historic Old Marble Stage with Jeanie on her 50th year performing at the Florida Folk Festival. Of special note is the fact Jeanie received the first ever “Legacy Award” from the Florida Folk Festival organizers this year.
Another magic moment was having the opportunity to perform the late Jim Ballew’s beautiful song, “When I Die,” on the Ann Thomas River Gazebo Stage. Though Jim Ballew is best known for his incredible guitar picking, it’s been said that the last time he played on the Gazebo Stage he played “When I Die” on a banjo in honor of his music buddy and great banjo player, the late Paul Champion. It was especially memorable to Lee and the band to learn about that memory since Lee just happened to play banjo on the song that day. As they performed you could hear the audience singing along. It was a goosebump moment for sure. Jessie and Lee were joined by Andy Garfield on guitar and David McBrady on bass.
Jessie and Lee’s performance set at the River Gazebo Stage included a variety of songs that will soon be added to their latest CD project which they’re calling, “Tribute.” In all there will be 12 songs which pay tribute to some of Florida’s best songwriters past and present and more. Six songs have already been mastered and are available on their CD Sampler. In addition to “When I Die,” (the song above) the upcoming CD will feature a song originally written by environmental troubadour Dale Crider from Windsor, FL. Here are Jessie, Lee, Andy Garfield and David McBrady performing, “Oh Kissimmee River” which points out the environmental boondoggle of the government for trying to straighten Florida’s Kissimmee River.
Gainesville Singer-Songwriter Mark Smith asked Jessie and Lee to join him on the River Gazebo Stage on the last day of the Florida Folk Festival to sing one of his songs, “Florida Lullabye.”
It’s a tradition to end the final set on the Gazebo Stage at the Florida Folk Festival with the performers and audience singing together on “Old Folks At Home.”
The 2016 Will McLean Music Festival was a tremendous success for the Jessie and Lee TownsendBand. 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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 Jessieand Lee Townsend Band’s rendition of her song performed on the Azalea Stage.
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:
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.
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:
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
Jessie 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.
(For bookings or to contact Lee send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 352-672-7574)
The following YouTube Videos are from some of Lee Townsend’s various bluegrass performances around North Central Florida. (Read about Lee’s musical story and see pictures of Lee below the You Tube videos)
Jessie and Lee Townsend
Lee and Jessie Townsend’s CD Sampler is ready. Click here to listen to highlights.
On Friday, April 29th, 2016 Red and Chris Henry along with David McBrady joined Jessie and Lee at Gatorbone Studios to begin recording six additional songs for their new CD called, “Tribute.” Here’s a sample of one of the recordings, “Oh Kissimmee River,” written by environmental troubadour Dale Crider from Windsor, FL. The song points out the folly of the government’s effort to straighten Florida’s Kissimmee River.
Lee and Jessie recently performed at the 27th Annual Will McLean Music Festival. Here’s one example of the songs they performed, the late Jim Ballew’s “When I Die”
Here’s Lee and Andy Garfield performing “Up 18 North” on the Azalea Stage.
To see more highlights from Jessie and Lee’s performances at the Will McLean Festival click here:
To see highlights from Jessie and Lee’s performances at the Florida Folk Festival click here:
Homecoming Service at the New Cross Creek Baptist Church
On April 26, 2015 Jessie and Lee Townsend performed “What Wondrous Love Is This” at the Homecoming Services of the New Cross Creek Baptist Church on April 26, 2015
2015 Will McLean Festival
On March 15th, 2015 Lee and his sister Jessie performed Will McLean’s “Macclenny Farewell” during the Hour of Power on the Main Stage accompanied by David McBrady on bass.
Lee and Jessie also made great harmony on the Azalea Stage at the 2015 Will McLean Festival performing Townes Van Zandt’s, “If I Needed You” with help on the bass and harmony by David McBrady.
The trio even got in some bluegrass with “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin.”
Lee playing banjo on Wild Hog by Will McLean performed by Whitey Markle and the Swamprooters at the Will McLean Festival 2015
Blue Linewalkers at the 2013 Florida Folk Festival
“Cold Sheets of Rain” with Erik Alvar on bass, Andy Garfield on acoustic guitar and vocals, Lee Townsend on banjo, Amanda Anderson on fiddle and vocals and Christian Ward on fiddle
Boy of Mine In Tennessee”
“Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
Lee Townsend and Amanda Anderson
“Down In The River To Pray” and “A Living Prayer” presented at the New Cross Creek Baptist Church, January, 2012
Orange and Bluegrass Band Performing in Waldo, 2013
“Little Boy of Mine In Tennessee”
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
“Nine Pound Hammer”
Jamming at Lis and Lon Williamson’s Porch in 2013
Tumblin’ Creek Bluegrass Band On The Main Stage At Florida Folk Festival, 2013
Performing “Landslide” at the P.K. Yonge High School Graduation in 2011
“Foggy Mountain Breakdown”– Jamming at the Hippodrome
Lee Townsend loves to play music, especially bluegrass. Even at the young age of 3 he wanted to play the guitar.
His love for music isn’t a total surprise. His grandpa Dorsey Lee Townsend was a great guitar player who played with his brother Jesse Townsend around the Cross Creek area in the 1930s through the 1970s. His other grandpa, Sterling Green from Missouri, also played the guitar and had a family band.
Lee learned his first music chords from his mom (Donna Green-Townsend) and dad (Dorsey Lee Townsend, Jr.)
David Cook gave Lee his first professional guitar lessons.
His parents along with musician and singer songwriter Jon Semmes from Dunnellon helped purchase his first “real” guitar. It wasn’t long before he decided he also wanted to try out playing the banjo. His Aunt Linda and Uncle Jim Johnson provided his first one.
At P.K. Yonge High School Lee had the opportunity to take Mr. Randy Hollinger’s instrumental ensemble class. The class included not only a bluegrass band, but a rock band, blues band and a girl’s punk rock band.
The bands put on a big show every May on the school’s performing arts center stage. But the bluegrass band had a life of its own and soon the Tumblin’ Creek Bluegrass Band began performing at a variety of venues, including the Will McLean Folk Festival, the Florida Folk Festival, United Downtown in Gainesville, the Micanopy Fall Festival, and the Alachua Downtown Festival among others.
Not surprisingly, when Lee went on to college he joined a bluegrass club and a band soon formed called Orange and Bluegrass.
As with many acoustic bands, there’s always a mix and match of performers at various festivals. On Memorial Weekend of 2013 one of those mix and match groups became the Blue Linewalkers who performed on the Main Stage of the Florida Folk Festival. Performers included Erik Alvar on bass, Andy Garfield on vocals and guitar, Lee Townsend on banjo, Amanda Anderson on Fiddle and vocals and Christian Ward on fiddle.