Tag Archives: Florida Sand

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.)

 

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Don Grooms and Will McLean
Don Grooms and Will McLean
Will McLean resting beside his guitar
Will McLean resting beside his guitar

 

 

 

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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