Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hometown Heroes

My friend, Jimmy LaFave, enjoyed tormenting me in any way that he could. Geography was his favorite.

"Why do you stay here?" he would always ask when he was in Tampa.

He used the term geographically challenged more than once introducing me on stage.

Sometimes I wonder. Of course it's too late now and it probably never mattered. There was a time, though, when I was encouraged from all sides to move to a location that would put me in a better situation to advance my music career. Nashville. L.A. New York. Austin. Atlanta.

Now, I have always boasted that Tampa has the finest audience in the world and I'll stick to that. The music business, however, has barely existed. Venue owners have struggled since I was a kid. No record label or recording studio has ever made the history books.

Oh, you have the occasional "hit record" that was actually cut in the area. Considering that this region has been rich with the most amazing musicians and writers that I have ever seen explains that. We can boast of a scrawny list of one hit wonders.

My dear friend, Benny Joy, is considered royalty in the world of rockabilly. He was certainly one of the best. His world in the '50's was the same. He spent time in Nashville, Atlanta and L.A. He was the first rockabilly singer to tour Europe. Some of his records sell for a small fortune today. Based on scarcity. He never had a hit. Elvis loved them, though, and told Benny more than once that he was planning to cut one.

Tampa was home, though. His mother was here. I don't know that he had any regrets. Not about geography.

The local radio station, the public radio station, my radio station plays some music from artists who hail from the area. When they do they're always referred to as "local artists." Everybody is a local artist fercrissakes! Somewhere.

By the time that Sir Doug moved to Austin and Jerry Jeff did a Playboy interview from a local bar and Willie made his home there, Austin began to take real pride in their heritage. Bumper stickers and t shirts began to announce the growing city as the "Live Music Capital Of The World." The local public television station began to produce Austin City Limits and soon the world of rock'n'roll musicians was beating a path to their door.

A couple of hippie entrepreneurs organized a little event that they called SouthBySouthwest and musicians, businessmen and fans flocked.

Meanwhile the public radio station in Tampa hosted a Lone Star Music Festival. I have tried hard ever since to imagine a station in Texas putting on a Sunshine State Music Festival.

Don't let this lead you to believe that I blame the station or anyone who works at the station for the inferiority complex. They inherited it. For all I know Kentucky is crawling with great music. Oh, wait- it is. 

There's no place like home.

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