Tag Archives: Will McLean Folk Festival

Will McLean performing

Will McLean: The Father of Florida Folk

Click here to hear full length archival interviews with Will McLean  (recorded by Donna Green-Townsend in 1985 & 1987)

CD cover for a live recording by WUFT of Florida's Black Hat Troubadour, Will McLean, just 5 years before his death in 1990.
CD cover for a live recording by WUFT of Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour, Will McLean, just 5 years before his death in 1990.

Will McLean is considered the “Father of Florida Folk.”  The “Black Hat Troubadour” travelled all across his beloved state writing hundreds of poems, songs and stories.  After his death in 1990 he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  Each year Florida singer songwriters gather at the Will McLean Folk Festival to honor him.  McLean wanted to save Florida through his music.  Each year the Will McLean Foundation holds a “Best New Florida Song Contest” to keep McLean’s mission alive.

Don Grooms sings 3 of his best songs late 70s or early 80s.mp4.Still005To watch archival video of Will McLean CLICK HERE:

 

 

 

 

Will McLean waiting to perform
Will McLean waiting to perform

Donna Green-Townsend interviewed McLean 5 years before his death in 1985 and again in 1987.  She also talked with some of the musicians who were inspired to write about Florida because of Will McLean.  (Scroll down to see the full feature transcript.  You can also hear Will’s most popular songs below)  

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In 1988 Will McLean joined storyteller Cousin Thelma Boltin and his music buddy Gamble Rogers in Cross Creek, FL for the 50th Anniversary of “The Yearling” celebration at the farm of the late Pulitizer Prize-winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  See a few snippets from a rare video recorded at that event below:

 

Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore's Landing
Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore’s Landing

In January of 1990, following a Memorial Service at Gainesville’s Historic Thomas Center, friends gathered at Gore’s Landing to disperse Will McLean’s ashes into the Ocklawaha River.  Before he died, McLean told Margaret Longhill that he had hoped to light a small campfire one last time at Gore’s Landing, his favorite campsite.  Some of those in attendance were Margaret Longhill, Don Grooms, Dale Crider and family, Donna Green-Townsend and family, Wayne Martin and Bobby Hicks to name a few.  In this brief never before published or broadcast recording, you will hear a small portion of that special ceremony at the river:

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Doug Gauss Gamble Rogers and Sanda Jemison 1 24 1990Here is the audio of the eulogy given by the late Gamble Rogers (inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1998) at the memorial service for Will McLean in January of 1990

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Transcription of the feature above:

Will McLean performing
Will McLean performing (photo courtesy of the Will McLean Foundation)

Will McLean, “It’s very important that Florida keep her past and I’m but one of the few writers and I have not even scratched the surface of the richness and the deepness of the lore and legends of Florida.” (Florida Sand)  

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

Musician Pete Seeger once wrote,  “Will McLean’s songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida.”  McLean lived a simple life, always steering away from fame and fortune just when it seemed he had achieved it.  Most of the time he travelled the state in dilapidated vehicles, only taking with him a bag of taters and onions, a fishing hook and a bottle of cheap wine, pawning many of his guitars.  In a never-before aired interview, McLean shared his story in 1985, just five years before his death.

Will McLean, “I’m a millionaire a million times over.  I’m not talking about money rich.  I’m rich in the beauty of Florida and nature.”

That earthy spirit lives on today in many of the Florida songwriters attending the annual Will McLean Music Festival named in his honor. Singer Songwriter from Windsor, Dale Crider, “I think he made a lot of people in Florida aware that they could write and sing and dance and perform Florida.”

Will McLean years ago holding something
Will McLean by his travel van (photo courtesy of the Will McLean Foundation)

Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour was known for his genteel manner, but his voice thundered on the marble stage of the Florida Folklife Festival in White Springs as he captured stories in song about green turtles laying eggs on the shores of St. Augustine (Conch Island)

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and Sandhill Cranes in Payne’s Prairie, and some not so pretty stories about a wild hog in Gulf Hammock  (Wild Hog) 

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and a panther chase resulting in a deadly encounter with a snake in Tate’s Hell. (Tate’s Hell)  

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Don Grooms & Will McLean
Don Grooms & Will McLean sitting on stage. (photo courtesy of the Will McLean Foundation)

Singer-Songwriter Don Grooms was one of Will McLean’s closest musical buddies, “Will liked songs about individual human beings and if you pay attention to his repertoire of songs there was Cush Holston, Scotty the drummer, the guy in Tate’s Hell, Osceola.”  (Osceola)  

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Will McLean inspired many songwriters to explore the heritage of the state and themselves.  Grooms, a Native American, remembers how McLean encouraged him to write the story of the bloody skirmish between the Spanish explorers and Native Americans in Payne’s Prairie.

Don Grooms,  “I came up with a five minute song called “Vitachuco” and I played it for Will and he said play that for me again and after I finished he said, ‘Grooms you have finally justified your existence.”  (Vitachuco)   

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Dale & Linda Crider years ago
Early performance photo of Dale and Linda Crider after he started writing Florida songs inspired by Will McLean. (Photo courtesy of Dale Crider)

One of the first singer/songwriters to carry on Will McLean’s love for Florida through song is musician and wildlife biologist Dale Crider.  Crider has entertained national and international audiences with his wildlife and wilderness songs, and he credits his beginning to Will McLean:  (Hold Back The Waters)  

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Dale Crider,  “Hold Back the Waters was the song that started my whole career in writing about the environment.  Will was singing that on stage at the Florida Folklife Festival and I said, ya, ya, if it can be that good you know to sing about a place or a region or an object in Florida, I can do that.”

Both Dale Crider and Don Grooms helped to disperse Will McLean’s ashes into the Ocklawaha River on January 18th, 1990.  Dale emotionally recalls how his friend’s last wishes coincided so well with his on-going desire to return to the land where the wind is born.

Dale Crider,  “And I envisioned that that night there were herons and egrets that caught minnows that had Will’s ashes in them and flew him up to the tree tops and roosted him that night and actually his soul could have been transferred to something like a hawk.” (My Soul Is A Hawk)

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Painting of Will McLean by Mary Ann Dinella
Painting of Will McLean by Mary Ann DiNella

The Will McLean Music Festival honoring the Father of Florida Folk is held each March at the Sertoma Youth Ranch located seven miles west of Dade City in Central Florida.  For more information go to the website www.willmclean.com.

 

 

 

 

Will loved to watch the Florida Sandhill Cranes “dance and prance” on Payne’s Prairie near Gainesville, FL.  One of his more beloved songs described the experience.  Here’s a video recorded of sandhill cranes produced by Donna Green-Townsend with Will singing his “Courtship Dance of the Florida Sandhill Crane” to music played by musician and luthier David Beede and Kate Kennedy (music recorded at one of Will’s last live recorded concerts at the historic Thomas Center in Gainesville in Nov. of 1985).

 

Will McLean and Cousin Thelma Boltin Share Christmas Memories  (aired on WUFT in December of 1987)

Lottie and Will McLean at young ages
Early photo of Will McLean and his sister Lottie (photo courtesy of the Will McLean Foundation)

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Transcription of the Feature:  (Oh Christmas Tree)  Computerized teddy bears and video cassette recorders are a long way from the gifts of fruit and simple toys of Christmases past.  Folklorist Cousin Thelma Boltin and singer song writer  Will McLean share some of their most memorable Christmases.

Cousin Thelma Boltin:  “In early times everybody went out and cut their own Christmas trees.  It was unthinkable to buy a tree and there was no such thing as an artificial tree.  That would have been disgraceful to have an artificial tree.  And it was always a great day when we decided we’d go get the tree and we didn’t get it too long before Christmas.  But in the early days we’d go out with the horse and wagon and then in modern times we’d go out in the model T or in the Coca Cola Truck because my daddy was the Coca Cola man.  And we loved to get a Cedar, that was our favorite kind. But if we couldn’t find a Cedar, as they got scarce, um, we’d get a shortleaf pine.  It smells so wonderful in the house.  It’s a little more difficult to decorate than the Cedar and a Cypress was pretty but boy it was sticky and hard to handle and do anything with.  And once or twice I can remember, and this was before our Cedar was protected, and thank goodness it is protected, it’s against the law to cut Cedar down anywhere, I mean cut Holly, and we would get a Holly tree. And of course that was sticky, but it was beautiful because especially if it were full of berries.” (OH CHRISTMAS TREE).

Cousin Thelma Boltin
Cousin Thelma Boltin (photo courtesy of Will McLean Foundation)

Cousin Thelma Boltin:  “We never did decorate our tree until Christmas Eve and we used the parlor on state occasions and this was a state occasion so the fire would be built in the fireplace and the candles put on the mantlepiece and then we’d decorate our tree.  In early days, I don’t believe, we never did put candles on our tree.  Momma considered that too dangerous and we hailed with delight the day when we could get strings of electric lights to put on the tree.  And of course, it was easy to get pretty ornaments from Woolworths and from what was the other ten cent store, we had two in town, McCrowry’s  and get beautiful ornaments.  We never did string popcorn to go on our tree but we put ropes of tinsel on it.  And oh we just thought our tree was the prettiest one in the neighborhood of course.  A child asked me today if we ever slept in the living room you know with the tree and we said ‘oh no, Santy Claus couldn’t come if we stayed with the Christmas tree.  But of course we were up long before day to see what Santy had left us.” (Jolly ‘Ole St. Nick)

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

Will McLean:  “Well, my first recollection is of a contraption bought that you could ride on.  I got a little ‘ole bitty, tiny kind of like a kitty car thing.  It was all painted up good uh, kind of a tricycle and I don’t know why I thought about that.  It was the first thing that came to my mind.  And of course over the fireplace we’d hang uh an old knit, Thelma you remember those old socks that uh they used to cost about a nickel a pair, old red and blue socks.  Kind of cotton socks.  We’d nail them up over the mantel and this was Christmas Eve.” (Silent Night)

Will & puppy
Will McLean, Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour (photo courtesy of the Will McLean Foundation)

Will McLean:  “Lady Boltin asked me once about if I could recall shootin’ firecrackers on Christmas.  And uh, I couldn’t remember ever at that early stage, early Christmases, shootin’ any kind of a firecracker or explosives.  But to get back to the stockin’ and Christmas mornin’, uh most the times I would have a little ‘ole 25 cent American Ace harmonica in the stockin’ wrapped in tissue paper and I’d have a piece of ‘ole peppermint stick candy and usually an apple, and an orange and a banana and I hope this won’t create any problems, three little nuts that uh, they were Brazil nuts.  You remember what we used to call them?(laugh) But anyway, that was Christmas and of course on Christmas Day the big ‘ole table in the dining room.  There’d be about 25 or 30 people there.  And kids runnin’ around everywhere.  All the families and mothers and their children there.  Uh, lord you could just smell the wonderful, wonderful and that, those were my Christmases up until I was about nine years of age.  And it’s good to go back there and think about it in time and place, be with my granddaddy and the people that I loved and who loved me.” (Chesnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)

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

Cousin Thelma Boltin:  “One of the things that we always got, we wore them out one year to the next were skates. We loved Skates and always asked Santy to bring us skates (laugh).  And always on Christmas Eve for supper we had oyster stew.  That was the Christmas Eve supper ‘cuz it was easy to fix and everybody liked it.  We could do it in a hurry and get in the living room to fix the tree (chuckle).  And that went on for many, many years.  And then I went off to college and I shocked the neighbors by not going to FSU or Florida State College for women in those days.  They weren’t allowed.  Ladies didn’t go to the University until the late 40s you know.  So I went to Emmerson College in Boston and that was truly Yankee land in everyway and so I had my first White Christmas up there.  (White Christmas) I was such a long way away that I stayed up there for the Christmas holidays and I had made friends with a fellow freshman.  Her name was Juliet Phillips and she took pity on me and invited me out to her home in Jamaica Plain and oh it was a thrill.  Everybody in Jamaica Plain it seemed to me put lighted candles in their windows from the attic to the basement and to get out on the street and see all those candles just after dark was a thrilling thing.  And we decided that we would go into Boston.  This was on Christmas Eve and up on Beacon Hill there was a tradition of having carol singers and bellringers and no cars were allowed up there.  Everybody walked.  And uh, many homes up there had open house and they’d be serving oh hot cider and goodies, doughnuts and the carol singers would be first on this corner and then on that corner.  And then we’d come upon the bellringers.  Then right at midnight over on the piazza a beautiful old Trinity church uh trumpeters stepped out and played ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’.” (Oh Come All Ye Faithful)

Many of Will McLean’s stories, poems, music recordings and photos are being housed in a special library at the College of Central Florida. Gallery of Photos below are courtesy of the Will McLean Foundation

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The Winner and Finishers of the 2015 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest Named

Hank Mattson 2 jpegThe first place award for the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest goes to poet Hank Mattson from Lake Placid, FL and musician Dana Robinson from Cabot, VT for the song, “When This Old Hat Was New.”  Mattson says the poem depicts the dogged determination of Jacob Summerlin, a famous Florida Cracker of the 1800’s, to preserve a culture that for over 400 years has been raising cattle.

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Mattson is a working cowboy and poet specializing in Florida’s Cracker Cow Hunter History.  He has performed at poetry gatherings and pioneer events across the state and beyond.  In 2011 he won the Laura Rider Award for excellence in folk poetry.  Mattson is a member of the Florida Cattleman’s Association, the Pro-Rodeo Hall Of Fame Society and the Friends Of Florida Folk and says it’s his mission to chronicle and preserve the life and times of the myriad of Florida Folks who for more than 400 years have been “working’ cattle.”

The two musicians who perform on “When This Old Hat Was New,” Dana and Susan Robinson, describe themselves as “two guitar-playing, banjo-frailing, fiddle-sawing, and harmony-singing interpreters of the American experience.”  They perform a unique blend of contemporary songwriting and traditional Appalachian music.
Dana and Sue Robinson 1A few months ago poet Mattson met the Robinson couple at the Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, FL.  The result was magical.  Within a month Dana and Sue created a melody for Mattson’s poem.  Below you’ll hear a live performance version of  “When This Old Hat Was New.”

 

 

 

Here’s Hank Mattson saying a few words at the Will McLean Festival on March 14th, 2015 about winning the contest.

John Butler
2nd place John R. Butler

The second place finisher of the 2015 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest is John R. Butler from Estero, FL with his song, “O Miami.”  Butler describes his song as “a musical series of snapshots of the great city, taken through the decades.”

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Here’s John Butler and his band performing his song on March 14th, 2015 at the Will McLean Festival

Butler has played in a number of bands and as a solo performer throughout high school, college and beyond. His songwriting achievements include a first place finish in the 2011 North Florida Folk Festival Americana songwriting contest, a first place award in the 2014 “Hope by Song” songwriting competition in southwest Florida, and a win (as one of three co-equal winners) in the 2015 South Florida Folk Festival. One of Butler’s songs was included in the soundtrack of the 2013 feature film, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D.”  Butler says these days he spends most of his performing time as a member of The Honey Creepers, a southwest-Florida based trio.

 

Lauren Heintz
3rd place Lauren Heintz

The third place finisher of the song contest is Lauren Heintz from Winter Park, FL.  Heintz describes her song, “Bluer Skies,” as “a lifelong search for a home, and the exultation that results when it is discovered Florida is that place.”

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On Saturday, March 14th, 2015, Lauren performed her song on the Magnolia Stage at the 2015 Will McLean Festival

Lauren is the recipient of many songwriting awards including the 2014 South Florida Folk Festival Singer/Songwriter (live) competition and recipient of the Vic Heyman songwriting award, the 2013 Walnut Valley Festival Song Contest, and has won fourth place in the 2013 and 2014 Will McLean Song Contest.  She also received honorable mention in the 2014 Woody Guthrie Song Contest.

Lauren’s original music has been compared to Gordan Lightfoot, Jim Croce and John Denver.  In 2012 she released the album, “Feels Like A Miracle” and has another project in the works with Gatorbone Studios.

There were 42 entries in the competition for 2015.  The winning songs from the top three contestants were all featured at the 2015 Will McLean Folk Festival the weekend of March 13th-15th at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, 7 miles West of Dade City. Will McLean is considered to be the Father of Florida Folk. McLean who wanted to save Florida through music was the first folk artist inducted into Florida’s Artists Hall of Fame.

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BLOG: “I Love To Sing”

dgt train tracksPerforming has been a personal passion for me since I was a young girl.  Though it wasn’t something I pursued professionally, singing and playing has been a fun part of my life and just naturally comes from being raised in a musical family.  My dad, Sterling Green, taught me my first few guitar chords when I was around the age of 10 or 11 and let me plunk around on an old electric guitar.   I always loved to sing, though I didn’t purchase my own guitar until after college.  My two older brothers Dan and Sterling both learned to play guitar as well and my younger brother Stan learned to keep rhythm on a snare drum while my mom added her part by playing a comb.

On weekends in the 60’s and 70’s we’d get together with my dad’s brother Ralph who played guitar and sang and our Uncle Forest who played the fiddle and we’d spend hours and hours making some great music together.  Those were special times.  Sadly, both my dad and his brother passed away in 1982 only five weeks apart from heart problems, but what they taught us will live on in our memories forever.

Lee Mace's Ozark OpryIn the early years, whenever my mom could, she’d sign my brothers and me up for various talent shows around our small town of Montgomery City in Missouri.  I have to laugh when I think about taking 4th place at the “Old Settlers Picnic” in nearby New Florence, MO for singing “Worms.”  I think I won a whole $2.00.  My brothers fared much better winning 2nd with their version of “Wildwood Flower.”  Later we had the opportunity to play on stage with some of the members of Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry in a talent show.  I was only in 8th grade and sang a rather adult song, “Charlie’s Shoes.”  We didn’t win, but it was a great experience for all of us.

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Though that was a long time ago, my family’s love for music has been passed down to our children.  My brothers Sterling and his son James, Dan and his son Daniel and Stan’s son Sam all play guitar.  My own son Lee plays banjo and guitar and my daughter Jessie loves to sing.  (My daughter Ellie used to play guitar and I hope will take it up again one day).

Pat & Dorsey Lee Townsend, Sr.
Pat & Dorsey Lee Townsend, Sr. in the 1940s.

My husband Lee grew up playing music as well following in the footsteps of his dad, Dorsey Lee Townsend, Sr.   It’s been said he spent four decades playing around North Central Florida with his brother Jesse and even Chubby Wise.  Music is just good for the soul.

In 1981 and 1982 while working as the News Director for KHCC-FM in Hutchinson, KS I had the opportunity to conduct interviews with all of the musicians and top contestants of the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS.  Our station then produced a 13-part series of music programs for national distribution on public radio two years in a row.  The experience of meeting such legends as Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Bryan Bowers, Dave Grisman, Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush and Bela Flek was all it took for me to be renewed with musical energy.  

 

 

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

In 1983 I moved to Florida to begin work as a news producer for WUFT-FM.  Less than two years later I had the opportunity to meet Florida’s Black Hat Troubadour, Will McLean.  I had learned one of his most famous songs, “Hold Back The Waters,” while producing the “Walnut Valley Series.” When he realized I knew his song he asked me to sing it with him at his November, 1985 concert at the historic Thomas Center in Gainesville.  That concert eventually became a CD produced by WUFT.  Here is the introduction to the song that night in 1985

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and here’s the recording of Will McLean, Murphy Henry and me singing “Hold Back The Waters.”

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Just a few years later I bought a nicer guitar and began to go to music jams in the Gainesville area.  

Train Wreck front cover editedOne Christmas season when my mother and I were discussing Christmas presents she told me not to get her anything that cost a lot as she knew I was struggling to pay for three children in daycare.  I rounded up some of my favorite music buddies and asked if they’d consider getting together to produce a CD for my mom.  I had just met some of these guys, but they all said yes.  With the help of WUFT-FM ‘s (former) Program Director Bill Beckett we gathered at Bill’s home and recorded around 11 tracks for what became known as “Train Wreck.”  Bill mixed as he recorded while we were all gathered around microphones in a large circle in his living room.  The gathering included  David Cook on piano, Art Crummer on dobro, Dave McBrady on banjo, Dan Peterson on bass, Ned Stewart on guitar and Ray Valla on mandolin.  We’d practice the song once, maybe twice, and walla….we did it for real.  It was an amazing night.  Four more tracks were recorded on a separate night, including two songs written by my friend Priscilla Bingham and with the additional help of Ron Bowman on fiddle.  Here are the tracks on the CD:

Track 1- Intro and Wreck of the ‘ole 97

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Track 2- Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

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Track 3- Goodbye Little Darlin’

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Track 4- Blue Kentucky Girl

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Track 5- Don’t Come Cryin’ To Me

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Track 6- Shady Grove

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Track 7- Cryin’ My Heart Out Over You

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Track 8- Sadie

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Track 9- No One Will Ever Know

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Track 10- Rough and Rocky

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Track 11- Down South

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Track 12- Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia

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Track 13- I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could

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Track 14-Old Fashioned Love

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Track 15- From Loving You

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My mother treasured that CD, especially when she went through four years of dementia in a nursing home.  Music helped to soothe her and it helped her to remember.  It’s so interesting how dementia patients can remember lyrics despite memory loss.

Following the recording of the first Train Wreck CD I began to do more live performances at folk festivals and church events.  See some of the videos below:

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Performing Highway of Sorrow with Art Crummer on dobro and Lynn Hall on banjo at a Sunday Sampler in Dunnellon, FL in the spring of 2000

Someday We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart:

“Where Could I Go”

Donna, Jessie and Lee Townsend singing Never Grow Old at the Homecoming services for the Providence United Methodist Church in Windsor, FL on October 26, 2014

Donna, Jessie and Lee Townsend performing I’ll Fly Away at the Homecoming services for the Providence United Methodist Church in Windsor, FL on October 26, 2014

Singing Little White Church at the Homecoming Services for the Providence United Methodist Church in Windsor, FL on October 26, 2014

Singing Where The Soul of Man Never Dies at the Homecoming Services for the Providence United Methodist Church in Windsor, FL on October 26, 2014

 

The following music tracks are some of my favorite live performance recordings:

 

ae20By The Mark performed at the Providence United Methodist Church in Windsor, FL in October 2012 with Lee Townsend on guitar and vocals and Cedric Forson on vocals

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Performing at the Will McLean Folk Festival in 2001

Conch Island performed at the Will McLean Folk Festival in 2001 with Art Crummer on guitar

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Donna performing with Train Wreck in 2000 at the Will McLean Folk Festival (photo by Bill Marder)

Hot Buttered Rum performed at the Will McLean Folk Festival in 2001 with Art Crummer on dobro, Dave Cook on guitar, Annie McPherson on mandolin and Dennis Devine on bass

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Performing in August, WV at Elkins College in 2000

I’m Goin’ Back To the Old Home performed at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV in August, 2000

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DGT-Mississippi You’re On My Mind sung around a campfire at White Springs during the FL Folk Festival in 1999

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Lee performing with the Orange and Bluegrass Band in Waldo

Never Grow Old performed with my son Lee on banjo

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“Angel Band and Old Rugged Cross” Medley performed at the New Cross Creek Baptist Church at the April, 2013 Homecoming Sing

“I Saw The Light and I’lly Fly Away” medley performed at the New Cross Creek Baptist Church on October 14th, 2012

Mississippi You’re On My Mind

Performing “Never Grow Old” with son Lee and daughter Jessie at the Paran Baptist Church Gospel Sing on Saturday, April 5th, 2014

“Where The Soul of Man Never Dies” performed by Donna and Lee Townsend at the New Cross Creek Baptist Church at the April, 2013 Homecoming Sing

Mem Semmes

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Mem Semmes and her son Jon

The late Mem Semmes from Dunnellon loved music. Not only did she write hundreds of songs, but she also helped provide a long time venue for Florida’s singer songwriters through the monthly concert series, The Sunday Sampler. Just a few years before she died her son Jon Semmes helped Mem produce her first CD.  Mem talked about songwriting with Donna Green-Townsend in this one hour special aired on WUFT in December of 2007 on Across The Prairie.

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Mem Semmes on These Diamonds CD Project

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The late Will McLean spent his life writing songs to save Florida through music.  Now the foundation named after the father of Florida folk is marketing an environmental CD trying to continue McLean’s lifelong mission.  The acoustic CD features musicians from across the Sunshine State singing about a wide variety of environmental stories and issues.  As Donna Green-Townsend reports even the CD title, These Diamonds carries a story behind it.

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Florida musicians included on the CD are:

The Eagles Fly – Mindy Simmons

Lullaby of the Rivers – Bob Patterson

Rose and the Gold – Mem Semmes

Cracker CowmanFrank Thomas

Florida Pines – Paul Garfinkel

Paw Prints in the Sand – Ken Skeens

These Diamonds – Grant Livingston

Turtle Tears – Amy Carol Webb

Rand McNally Map of Florida – Jim Bickerstaff

Plumes – Steve Blackwell

Apalachicola Doin’ Time – Dale Crider

Song For Our Children – Mary Ann Dinella

 

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Early band photo of Mem Semmes

Donna, Mem Semmes and Harriett Meyer at Apalachicola Doin' Time Celebration in 2000
Donna, Mem Semmes and Harriett Meyer at Apalachicola Doin’ Time Celebration in 2000

Jon Semmes

 

Jon Semmes, Pete Hennings, Pete Price and Ingrid Ellis
Jon Semmes, Pete Hennings, Pete Price and Ingrid Ellis

Jon Semmes and Ingrid Ellis have been performing together in the band, “Jon Semmes and the Florida Friends,” for more than a decade now.  Band members also include Pete Hennings and Pete Price.  Jon currently runs Singing River Tours on the Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers in Marion County.

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Jon Semmes talking with Donna Green-Townsend before one of his scheduled performances at the Florida Folk Festival.

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(Above) Jon Semmes of Dunnellon leads educational singing river tours of the Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers in Marion County, FL.  Trent Kelly and Donna Green-Townsend give a snippet of what those tours are like.

 

 

Jon Semmes singing a song written by his mother Mem Semmes called, “My Dunnellon” at a Sunday Sampler on September 9th, 2012 at the old Train Depot in Dunnellon,FL.


 

 

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Mike Jurgensen

Singer-Songwriter-Musician Mike Jurgensen From New Port Richey Continues to Entertain Mike Jurgensen performing at the Florida Folk Festival. Mike Jurgensen has won the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Competition three times.  Now he serves as one of the contest judges.  It’s a testament to his talent.  Whether singing solo or performing in the band 2PM, Mike’s smooth “James Taylor-style” voice captivates the audience. Two of his songs, “Margaret” and “Music Drifts Along This River,” were included in the national Edward R. Murrow award-winning documentary, “Apalachicola “Doin’ Time” produced by Donna Green-Townsend in 2000.

Mike currently performs with the trio, “2PM” which includes musicians Pete Price and Pete Hennings.  During the group’s latest appearance as part of the Sunday Sampler Series at the historic train depot in Dunnellon, FL they performed one of Mike’s latest songs, “Let’s Just Play One More.”  The song captures how music  can go late into the night around campfires at music festivals around the state because it’s just hard to pull yourself away from a great jam with friends.

 

 

Mike Jurgensen sat down with Donna Green-Townsend to talk about what inspires his songwriting:

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Feature on Mike before a concert at the Studio Arts Center in Crystal River, Florida.

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2010 Will McLean Song Contest Winner and Finishers

Here are the 2010 Winner, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers of the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest (38 entries)

 

Dawn DeWitt with Roadside Revue
1st place winner Dawn DeWitt (with bass)

Winner Dawn DeWitt “The Withlacoochee Way”

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Walt Leuzinger
2nd place Walt Leuzinger

2nd place Walt Leuzinger “Home On The Withlacoochee”

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Michael Denney
3rd place Michael Denney

3rd place Michael Denney “Florida Boy”

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Just prior to the 2010 Will McLean Festival, Donna Green-Townsend talked with the three winners and produced the following feature that aired on WUFT on March 11, 2010.

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Back to the list of winners by year
or
Click here to go to the Will McLean Festival website