Vocalist Rodney Justo, 71, expects to be flooded with memories when he takes the stage downtown today.
The longtime Tampa resident and founding member of the Atlanta Rhythm Section got his start in the music business playing in the house band at the Clearwater Municipal Auditorium in the early 1960s. At the time, the venue, demolished in 1973, was renowned for bringing in big names including Neil Sedaka, Fabian and Roy Orbison, who eventually invited Justo to join his band, the Candymen, which in large part led to the creation of Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1971.
"It all started just down from where we will be playing, at the end of Cleveland Street,'' said Justo, during a phone interview before a show in New York with the Georgia Satellites. "My friends and I would grab a bite around the corner and head on in to play. I've always loved Clearwater.''
Atlanta Rhythm Section is the headliner for Clearwater's Blast Friday, the family-friendly street party produced by Ruth Eckerd Hall on the Road and held on the last Friday of each month in the Cleveland Street District. Other acts performing include the blues band Ellie Lee and Blues Fury of St. Petersburg, and Feeling Groovy Band of Tampa.
Justo, who left Atlanta Rhythm Section in the mid-1970s, took a hiatus from the limelight and continued playing music only part-time while he worked for a beverage distributor and raised his children in Tampa. In 2011, he rejoined the Atlanta Rhythm Section, whose lineup recently has included Justo, Dean Daughtry (the only other founding member), Justin Senker, David Anderson, Steve Stone and Jim Keeling. "The plan for (Blast Friday) is to give our fans the obvious. This includes Imaginary Lover, Champagne Jam,'' said Justo. "And we will play the songs the way they should be played. It doesn't matter where we are, or how big the crowd is, we always play with integrity.''
Blast Friday will also include food trucks, vendors and free activities for the kids. The first 100 children 12 years and under to arrive will receive a free Winter plush toy, courtesy of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Inside the Capitol Theatre from 5:30 to 7 p.m., bingo will be held with players having a chance to win tickets to upcoming shows.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.