Tag Archives: Songwriting

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




2014 Will McLean Song Contest Winner and Finishers

Here are the winner, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers of the 2014 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest: (39 entries)

Will McLean performing
The late Will McLean

Here’s a look back at the top 3 winners of the 2014 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest along with video clips of them performing their winning song on the main stage at the 2014 festival.




Jane Fallon Song Contest Winner 2014 A
1st place winner Jane Fallon

The 2014 first place winner was Jane Fallon from Brookline, NH.  Her song entitled “Before the Fire (Rosewood)”  captures the emotional story and resulting fear from the 1923 Rosewood tragedy in North Central Florida.   Jane has been a finalist in several songwriting competitions such as SolarFest , the Ossipee Music Festival and the prestigious Rose Garden Coffeehouse Competition. Her songs have placed 2nd and 3rd  respectively in the Neuse River MusicFest competition and the West Coast Songwriters Competition.

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Larry Mangum
2nd place Larry Mangum

The 2014 second place finisher Larry Mangum is from Jacksonville.  His song entitled “Florida” describes the beauty of the Sunshine State and why he’s proud to call it home. Mangum has given nearly 3000 performances over 4 decades as a folk, rock, country and Americana artist. He’s released 8 albums of original music and 2 live albums since 1980.  In 2006 he won third place in the Will Mclean Song contest with his tribute to Gamble Rogers, “The Last Troubadour.”  He is also host and co-founder of “The Songwriters’ Circle” in Jacksonville, a monthly program featuring many of the best regional and national touring acts.

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Sealey Guitar colour
Third place Ray Sealey

The 2014 third place finisher was Ray Sealey from Harrington, QC.  His song “Kissimmee Prairie Dream” gives the flavor of Central Florida’s early years in the Kissimmee area. Ray was born in England and received a degree in English Literature after emigrating to Canada.  He was involved in folk music in his early years but then turned to classical guitar. He eventually taught music at the Universities of Western Ontario and Ottawa. He also worked in radio at the CBC and later in arts management being involved in music festivals, summer music centers and orchestras.  Now, later in life, he has returned to those early folk roots and spends summer in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal and winter in Florida.

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Festival montage photo by Gail Carson
Jan Glidewell
The late Jan Glidewell

2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the Will McLean Folk Festival which ran from Friday, March 7th thru Sunday, March 9th. The 2014 festival honored Jan Glidewell, a longtime columnist for the Tampa Bay Times who died in 2013 from cancer. Glidewell was an avid supporter of the festival. The 26th year for the 3-day festival gets underway at the Sertoma Youth Ranch near Dade City on March 13th, 2015. The winner and 2nd and 3rd place finishers of this year’s song contest will be featured on Saturday, March 14th.

The Will McLean festival features four stages, including a young performers stage, a variety of music workshops, arts and crafts, food and more.  McLean, known as the “Black Hat Troubadour,”  is the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. In 2014 one of the newest folk musicians inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, Frank Thomas,  also performed at the Will McLean Music Festival. In the clip below recorded on the Cypress Stage at last year’s festival you’ll see Frank singing one of his most popular songs, “Cracker Cowman.”

Frank Thomas was accompanied by members of the band Roadside Revue featuring Dawn DeWitt on bass, Bari Litschauer on banjo, Ron Litschauer on guitar and Stan Geberer on harmonica.

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