Tag Archives: Black Hat Troubadour

Will McLean Archival Audio Interviews from 1985 and 1987 (never before published)

Will McLean waiting to perform
The Black Hat Troubadour Will McLean

(Raw Interviews from 1985 and 1987 featured below)

(all photos courtesy of Margaret Longhill and the Will McLean Foundation)

In November of 1985 Will McLean showed up at my office at WUFT-FM on the University of Florida campus.    McLean, known to many as the “Black Hat Troubadour”  penned hundreds of songs, stories and poems about what he called his “beloved Florida sand.” McLean, who died in 1990, was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

As I documented in earlier posts, McLean wanted to hang up some fliers about his November 17th, 1985 concert at the historic Thomas Center in Gainesville.  I had only lived in Florida about a year and a half at that point.  Though I had never met him and didn’t know a lot about him I did know one of his songs very well.  “Hold Back The Waters.” It was about the 1928 Hurricane that killed between 3,000 to 4,000 people.  The song had become very popular in folk music circles.  That fact alone enticed me to ask Will to sit down for an interview in 1985.  A couple of years later, after I’d gotten to know him better, I asked Will to come in for a second interview.  The two interviews have been in my personal audio archives for nearly 30 years.  I thought it was about time I shared them on my website.

Author’s note:  My voice sounds very young in these old interviews.  Also, the interviews below are from cassette dubs from the original reel to reel tapes.  Some of the 1985 cassette dubs have gotten a little scratchy over time.  I am anxious to see how the original reel to reels will sound if I can get my hands on a reel to reel machine.  The 1987 dubs from the cassette below sound much better.  I’m including both years for the sake of archival history).

I’m posting the interviews in a couple of different ways.  You can either listen to the interviews in their entirety or listen to them in separated segments (see below).

scan0004Will McLean Interview in 1985

1985 Full Interview

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

Segment 1:  Will shares stories about his grandfather and mother

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Segment 2:  Will talks about the public radio Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor

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Will McLean 8-28-58
Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour, the late Will McLean

Segment 3:  Will shares the story of his song “Hold Back The Waters”

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Will McLean0174
(l to r) Dale Crider, Will McLean and Gamble Rogers

Here’s the song Hold Back The Waters:

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Segment 4:  Will shares the story of performing at Carnegie Hall in NYC with Pete Seeger

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Will McLean0024Segment 5:  Will talks about giving his music away and his song Macclenny Farewell

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Here’s the song Macclenny Farewell:

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Will McLean 1981Segment 6:  Will shares the story of his wife Alice’s cancer battle and finding new love

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Segment 7:  Will talks about environmental concerns

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(left to right) Paul Champion, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean
(l to r) Paul Champion, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean

Segment 8:  Will talks about his friends Gamble Rogers, Paul Champion and Cousin Thelma Boltin

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Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean 1988 50th Anniv of The Yearling in Cross Creek (photo by Iris Greenfield)
Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean 1988 50th Anniv of The Yearling in Cross Creek (photo by Iris Greenfield)

Segment 9:  Will talks about the Florida songs he’s written that he’s most proud of

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Lottie and Will McLean as children from Chipley, Florida
Lottie and Will McLean as children from Chipley, Florida

 

 

Here is Will’s song Florida Sand:

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Here’s Away O’ee:

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Segment 10:  Will shares more about his Carnegie Hall performance in NYC

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Will McLean0048Will McLean Interview in 1987

Full interview with Will McLean in 1987 Part One

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Part Two of the full interview in 1987 Will addresses whether he’d ever go back to Rosewood to try and gather material for a song

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Shorter separated segments:

Will McLean0206Segment 1:  Will shares the story behind his song The Ballad of Scotty

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Here’s the song Ballad of Scotty

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Will McLean (14)Segment 2:  Will talks about the inspiration for his song Wild Hog

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Here’s the song Wild Hog:

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Will McLean (12)Segment 3:  Will shares the story of Cush Holston

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Here’s Will’s song Cush Holston:

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Will McLean (20)Segment 4:  Will gives the background on Tate’s Hell

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Here’s Will’s song Tate’s Hell:

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 Segment 5:  Will talks about his grandfather

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Will McLean performing on a set with audience on stage
Will McLean performing on a set with audience on stage

Segment 6:  Will talks about “who” he is and why

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Segment 7:  Will shares the story of being run out of Rosewood (he refers to it as Rosehill)

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Will McLean (3)Segment 8:  Will talks about the 1928 hurricane and his song Hold Back The Waters and his relationship with the Seminoles

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Here are Will’s songs Seminole and Osceola’s Last Words:

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Lais doing dance interpretation while Will McLean performed at the Florida Folk Festival
Lais doing dance interpretation while Will McLean performed at the Florida Folk Festival

Segment 9:  Will talks about his dream for a ballet featuring his songs of Florida

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Will McLean (53)
The late Cousin Thelma Boltin with Will McLean circa 1988 in Cross Creek

Segment 10:  Will talks about what he’s been writing lately

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Segment 11:  Will talking about whether he would go back to Rosewood to try and gather song material

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Segment 12:  Will talks about environmental concerns for Florida

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Pete Seeger’s ties to Will McLean, the “Father of Florida Folk”

Singer Songwriter Pete Seeger, a good friend of Will McLean
Singer Songwriter Pete Seeger, a good friend of Will McLean

One of the most enduring and loved folk singers in the U.S. has died.  Pete Seeger, who had America singing such iconic tunes as, “If I Had a Hammer” died Monday at the age of 94 at a hospital in New York.  President Barack Obama issued a statement saying, “Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song, but more importantly, he believed inthe power of community …to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be.  Over the years, Pete used his voice, and his hammer, to strike blows for worker’s rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation.  And he always invited us to sing along.  For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger.”

In March, 2014 Singer Songwriter from Delray Beach, Rod MacDonald, asked several other musicians and the audience at the Will McLean Folk Festival to join him in a tribute to the late Pete Seeger:

Florida's Black Hat Troubadour
Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour

While most people will be recalling the dozens of classics he helped make famous, like Turn, Turn, Turn, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, and Woodie Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, among others, there are many in the Sunshine State who will remember how Seeger reached out to the “Black Hat Troubadour” in Florida, the late Will McLean.  The two songwriters shared a deep respect for one another.

“Will McLean’s songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida.”  That’s how Pete Seeger described his friend.  That quote was shared at the 1990 memorial service for McLean who was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  President Emerita of the Will McLean Foundation, Margaret Longhill, says, Seeger and McLean were both genuine people with a great songwriting connection.  They both liked to write songs about everyday people and they both liked to have their audiences sing along.  “Pete Seeger’s songs will live forever in the hearts of those who seek truth, justice and love,” says Longhill.

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

Longhill remembers attending a Pete Seeger concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater with McLean in the mid 1980s.  Prior to the concert Seeger and McLean chatted as friends backstage.  During the concert Seeger said to the audience, “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to know  in this audience tonight is America’s greatest living songwriter, Will McLean.  Will McLean stand up,” recalls Longhill.

Longhill says the story that’s been passed down is that McLean and Seeger  became acquainted after McLean wrote a letter to Seeger saying, “I’m a Florida folk singer and I don’t have a guitar.”  Soon after Seeger sent him a 12-string guitar.  During McLean’s memorial service in 1990 many of his musician friends recalled with humor how that guitar was pawned as were many other guitars that followed.

While Pete Seeger will always be remembered for his part in the folk music revival in the 1960s, many in Florida will also think of him for providing McLean and the late Gamble Rogers the opportunity to perform at a folk music concert in Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Seeger loved Mclean’s earthy songs about unique characters and places in Florida such as Wild Hog, Tate’s Hell and Osceola’s Last Words.

Though Seeger travelled and wrote songs all around the country, McLean wasn’t interested in seeking fame and fortune and preferred to remain in Florida and write about his beloved “Florida Sand.”  But the two songwriters continued to have great respect for one another. Seeger even performed one of McLean’s best known Florida songs about Chief Osceola during the nationally televised “Johnny Cash Show” in 1970.  He performs that song with Cash about a minute and thirty seconds into the video.

Here’s a segment from a November 1985 interview with Donna Green-Townsend where McLean shares the story of performing at Carnegie Hall in NYC with Pete Seeger

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Here’s more about that special trip to Carnegie Hall in NYC from the November, 1985 interview with Donna Green-Townsend

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The Will McLean Foundation continues to hold a festival each year in honor of the state’s “Black Hat Troubadour.”  The festival is held each March at the Sertoma Youth Ranch near Dade City.  The festival features three stages along with various music workshops and the winners of an annual songwriting contest.  

Click here to go back to the Will McLean Festival Website.