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Now in our third calendar year
PCR #123  (Vol. 3, No. 31)  This edition is for the week of July 29--August 4, 2002.

La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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Local and National Music Personalities and Bands from the Tampa Bay Area-- 1960's to 1980's

In addition to abundant sunshine and warm temperatures, the Tampa Bay area has been blessed with an abundance of incredible musical talent. This is not a total compilation of all of the wonderful acts to have strutted their stuff in the Bay area over a three-decade period, but hopeful most major acts and acts of local interest will be included. Any acts that you the reader can think of that would be worthy of mention is certainly welcomed by e-mailing us here Crazedfanboy1@aol.com.

Let's first start with notable acts from around the State, as after all, this is "La Floridiana"!

Around the state...
Apopka-- John Anderson
Daytona Beach-- Allman Joys, the Hour Glass (forerunners of the Allman Brothers band)
Gainesville-- Tom Petty
Jacksonville-- Pat Boone, Allman Brothers, Lynrd Skynrd, Rossington Collins Band, 38 Special, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, Dennis Yost and the Classics IV
Leesburg-- Jim Stafford
Marianna-- Bobby Goldsboro
Melbourne-- Jim Morrison (The Doors), Leslie West (Mountain)
Miami-- Debbie Harry (Blondie), K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Harry Bellefonte, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
St. Augustine-- Ray Charles
West Palm Beach-- Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers)

The Tampa Bay Area
Melbourne native Jim Morrison did a brief stint at St. Petersburg Junior College in the 1960's prior to his leaving for the west coast to later form the rock group The Doors, while Steven Stills attended Plant high School in Tampa prior to his inclusion in the group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Rolling Stones' lead man Mick Jagger wrote "Satisfaction" in a hotel room in Clearwater. But true homegrown talent would have to include the following:

The Fabulous Tropics: The Fabulous Tropics, later known as the Tropics were a Tampa rock band from the 1960's who won the 1966 "International Battle of the Bands" contest at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. They competed against such high profile acts as Chicago Transit Authority (later renamed Chicago) and Tommy James and the Shondells. Their first place award landed them a recording contract enabling them to record a song called "Take the Time" which came in at 92 on American Bandstand. By the early 1970's several members of the Tropics (notably Buddy Pendergrass and Charlie Souza) formed the glitter-rock band White Witch that recorded on the Capricorn label. See http://www.whitewitchband.com/pendergrass.htm
Blues Image: Led by Tampa guitarist Mike Pinera, who later went on to the acid-rock group Iron Butterfly, this group of the late 60's hit pay dirt in 1970 with the national hit single "Ride Captain Ride". My favorite personal from the Blues Image playlist was a song called "Reality Does Not Inspire".
Southern Mother Trucking Company was a regional act that brought a Southern rock sound to the Bay area in the early 1970's.
The Outlaws: The most successful southern rock band to come from the Tampa area was The Outlaws. A local fixture throughout the late sixties to mid seventies, The Outlaws broke into national exposure with the hit song "Green Grass and High Tides Forever" in 1977. Band member Henry Paul left the group by the late 70's and continues to enjoy success in the country music industry.
The Bellamy Brothers: Hailing from Darby, in Pasco County, The Bellamy Brothers hit recording pay dirt with the single hit "Let Your Flow" in 1976. The Bellamy Brothers continue to this day to be a highly successful country act, and recorded my favorite "Give Me A Redneck Girl".
Savatage: Possibly the most enduring and consistently popular band to have origins in the Tampa Bay area is the hard rock band Savatage. Originally known as the band Avatar, this band formed by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva, drummer Steve Wacholz and bassist Keith Collins built a strong and loyal following starting in 1981 at billings throughout the Sunshine State. Avatar recorded two tracks for a compilation by the old 95 Rock N Roll Pirate WYNF radio in 1982. In 1983 Avatar released their first album, "City Beneath the Surface", but for legal reasons had to change its name to Savatage. its debut album was titled "Sirens". Altogether, the band has released 17 albums since that period. sadly, founding member Criss Oliva was killed by a drunk driver in October 1993. In 1996 the band began touring Europe and Japan, and that same year wrote and recorded "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" under the band name of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Savatage is still an active and highly productive band to this day, touring worldwide. They have a great web site at www.savatage.com.
The McCarr Brothers and Momentum: The early and mid-80's also brought the Bay area some great jazz talent. Most notably were the McCarr Brothers who basically played in the Tampa market. One of my best friends, Denis Lebrun and I saw this group several times during the mid 80's, and they never failed to produce absolute quality music. One of the McCarr brothers remains good friends with Denis to this day. Momentum was a jazz-rock group from the Manatee and Sarasota County area. I consider one of their EP releases, "Scintillation" from 1983 to be one of the finest jazz-rock fusion albums in my collection.
Stranger: As southern rock began to fade from the record scene by the late 70's, heavy metal bands such as Stranger became a local and regional favorite throughout the 1980's. Often found performing at Mr. T's Club 19 at Jersey Jim Towers in Clearwater in the early to mid 1980's, Stranger belted out such favorites as "Swamp Woman". Bands such as Stranger and Four in Legion may have also been regulars at the 49th Street Mining Company in Pinellas Park.
Four in Legion: Another local and regional favorite throughout the 1980's, Four in Legion, also an 80's heavy metal band, was another favorite at Mr. T's Club 19 at Jersey Jim Towers. I had the pleasure to see them in a double bill with Stranger in August 1985, and other than the debut of Blade in 1983, and two Steely Dan concerts, they were the finest live act I'd ever seen.
Pam Tillis: Plant City native, country singer and daughter of country music great Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis hit the national country charts with her single "Mi Vida Loca", and broke into country in a big way with the album "All The good Ones Are Gone". www.pamtillis.com
The Hats/Blade: Formed in the late 1970's by Nolan Canova, the Hats did cover material of heavy metal/hard rock groups such as Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and others. In December 1983, Canova reformed the band and unleashed Blade onto the Tampa populace. I was at the debut of Blade, and even when compared with sets I have seen performed by Journey, the Kinks, Bob Seger, Electric Light Orchestra, and Steely Dan, consider that set to be one of rock's finest moments.
   --- Of course, my good friend Will Moriaty honors me once again by including me in the rarified air of talented and famous groups of whose legendary status I could only aspire. My humble efforts of the '70s and '80s could scarcely compare to The Outlaws, Jim Stafford, Four-in-Legion, or Savatage, but I'm flattered that I keep getting thrown up there on occasion by ye mystic crew of Nolan's Pop Culture Review (see "History Lesson", below).
   Other important groups retrieved from my aging memory include Small Talk (see "History Lesson", below), Vintage Steel, Crimson Glory, The Purple Gang (later the Johnny G. Lyon Band), Black Velvet (John Lewis's Sabbath tribute band from Pinellas), Labyrinth (John's and my band), Your New Neighbors (Vince and Rick), Zenith Nadir, Phobia, Lefty, The Headlights, Triple-X Girls, and Keith Kollins Krunch.
   Naturally, there are hundreds more bands whose memory has faded with time, or whom I simply didn't know originally. All readers are, of course, encouraged to send me a letter with any memories of local Tampa Bay acts remembered fondly. ---Nolan

"Florida's Famous and Forgotten"
For the Florida music junkie, the finest publication on this subject is "Florida's Famous and Forgotten", an illustrated encyclopedia of rock, soul, and dance music in Florida from 1955 to 1985. This comprehensive guide with hundreds of photos is a work of art by Robert ("Kurt K.O.T.O.") A. Curtis. Visiting his book's web site at www.kingoftheoldies.com can attain ordering information.

My sordid past...
   To recoup once more for the uninitiated, The Hats were formed in the late '70s out of remnants of [sci-fi movie club] The Andromeda Society and served as the primordial ooze of Blade. Blade was basically a heavy-metal cover band and we played in bars. We didn't change the world, but we had a great time. After numerous personnel/artistic changes, it wound up ironically resembling The Hats again by 1989, soon after which it was dissolved.
   Common to both groups were Matt Drinnenberg, Corey Castellano, Scott van Sickle, and yours truly. Particular to The Hats were all the above, plus Michael A. Smith, and on an honorary level, Scott A. Gilbert. During the '80s, Blade's vocalists included John Lewis, Matt Drinnenberg, Doug Deal, and for a short time, a young man named Chris, whose last name has unfortunately escaped me. There were several drummers, and at one time a second guitarist, Harry Hanna. For a brief period we performed as Sniper.
   Small Talk was formed by Bebe Williams in the mid-'70s. I knew Bebe (pronounced "B.B.") from his comics/collectibles store "Loube's Nostalgia", one of the coolest places on the planet. I joined Small Talk as their lead guitarist around 1976. We were not a cover band, the music was entirely original and written by Bebe. To my ears it was a strange hodge-podge of folk, underground-psychedelic, and retro-pop. I had a blast. Small Talk continued to play well into the '80s after I'd left to form Blade.
   There are very few ancient photographs that survive of me playing live (there are reputedly pix of me and Bebe at the Lowry Park music shell circa 1976, but I've never seen them---pix of the Hats/Blade/Sniper are slightly less rare). Extant cassette tape recordings are even harder to recover in playable condition. ---Nolan
   From Rick Sousa: "Our live band was called Your New Neighbors (Vinnie Blesi, Adam Floyd, Rick and Steve Sousa), but Vinnie, John Blesi and myself did a bunch of garage/studio stuff as 'Bad Astronauts.' We did do a show for a WMNF benefit at the Friday Morning Musicale, too. Other places to hang were the Ms. Lucky club, where we'd see the Headlights and The XXXgirls."

"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.