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I met Gamble Rogers around 1972 when he was a regular at the Tradewinds Tropical Saloon in St. Augustine. Now I will tell you, he captured my heart and imagination from the first until the last time I saw him. Little did I know he would have such an impact on my music for the rest of my life. I was playing bass in a rock band called Bittersweet in those days and encouraged by Jack Mentzel, I started my first songwriting efforts. I was also promoting small shows. Fate would have it that I would move my family to San Francisco in 1974 leaving all that music and Jacksonville behind. While in San Francisco for 1.5 years, I heard John Prine solo, Jimmy Buffett with a guitar player, Leon Redbone, Stan Getz, George Harrison, Skynyrd (another story in itself) and many more and I bought my first Martin guitar. My buddy Rick Hasbrouck and I jammed many night together and I continued to write songs-family and friends said they were pretty good. But….I was homesick, so in spring 1976, I quit my job, moved back to North Carolina and worked for a short time at my Dad’s country store-CULTURE SHOCK!
After a few months, we moved back to Jacksonville hoping I might get my job back at the Naval Aviation Depot. Meanwhile, I had a little money from the sale of our house in California and I started thinking about promoting a show. Every show I had seen in San Francisco seemed to be a sell-out so why not. I though Gamble would be a great place to start so I contacted Charlie Steadham at the Blade Agency in Gainesville. We put together a show with Gamble opening for the Earl Scruggs Revue at the Jacksonville Civic Auditorium for Jun 27th, 1976. It was a Sunday night and it looked like there was very little competition. Not long before my show, Jacksonville’s Jet Set, the biggest agency in the South booked the Charlie Daniels Band and J-Giles into the Jacksonville Coliseum on the same night as my show. I don’t know that that’s what killed my show, but it sure didn’t help. (Later that summer, Jet Set lost $250,000 on The Who at the Gator Bowl which practically ended Jet Set) Both of my acts were great, but I wound up with 500 in attendance instead of the 2000 I needed to make a profit and lost $7000! No reflection on Mr. Scruggs, but I still think most of the 500 were there for Gamble because he was on fire and they were totally into what he was doing. I asked Gamble if I could record the show on my reel-to-reel and he said sure. His performance and the recording turned out to be great.
Well, with the huge loss, I tucked my tail under and thanks to Dan Taylor and other kind club owners, I began to make my living playing acoustic guitar and singing my few songs and those of John Prine, Jimmy Buffett, John Denver, Willie Nelson and many others. I got to know Gamble and actually do some festivals with him. It was BC (before computers) so I managed to find out where Gamble was playing and booked myself in the same places, usually with a Trio to even come close to the show Gamble did by himself. It was eight years later before my first burn out from playing 200+ nights a year before I took a breath and once again became an engineer. I have not stopped playing since that time. What would have happened if I had made money on my show-more promotion? No music career? Talk about roads taken and not taken! Many years ago I put Gamble’s performance from my show on a CD and have enjoyed it tremendously. I have also donated the masters to The Gamble Rogers Foundation and I hope Charles will release the music on CD for you someday. Now for many years we have gathered to remember our hero Gamble on the first weekend of May as we will May 4th and 5th. As Paul Harvey would say “Now you know the rest of the story of the $7000 Gamble CD”!
Well, 2010 is almost over-hard to believe. It just flew by-guess I must have been having fun! In 2009, I made a decision to try and play mostly in my home state of Florida for 2010 and it turned out to be the right decision. Heck, the rest of the country wasn't beating my door down anyway and Florida stepped up in a big way-the best gigs I've had since the college tourning days in the '70's & '80's! Fun places to play, great audiences-I even made a little money along the way. Highlights were many but I'll just mention a few. The historic Eustis Theater in Jan; the Sarasota Folk Festival and Will Mclean Festival as a featured act in Mar; new CD release party and Gamble Fest in April; several gigs with my Cowboy Orchestra-always a treat; featured performer at the famed Florida Folk Festival in May; many wonderful Songwriter Circle's at European Street Cafe with some great talent; the Broward County Folk Club & Sailing Squadron in Sarasota in July; Bob Nite with Grant Peeples, Central Florida Folk Club and Olivia's in Aug; White Springs Folk Club and the Larimer in Sep;the Lake County Folk Fest in Oct; Barberville and Eustis Folk Club and Riverfest, Ormond Beach in Nov; and the Gamble State park memorial in Dec! I also got to hear a lot of great songwriters this year! And those are just the highlights-there were other great happenings as well. Now I want more, more, more!!! Happy Holidays Ya'll -see you on the flip side for more of the same!!
The decision to leave the commercial radio audience sure has been a good one! Thanks to my Ipod, I can listen to my friends and favorites without BS of commercials and people who can't sing without auto-tune.And Pandora is sooo.. cool! Life is good!