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