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Sauce Boss offers bluesy music, spicy gumbo today in Largo

Expect a slide guitar. Expect a big man doing a boogie-woogie. Expect shrimp and habanero sauce, too.

The spicy multitasker from Tallahassee is coming to town. Bill Wharton, a.k.a. the Sauce Boss, will take the stage tonight at the Largo Cultural Center.

"I consider myself a musician first and a cook second," said Wharton, via cell phone from Tallahassee. "I've been a musician forever, but once I moved out of my mom's house, I had to figure out how to still have good meals."

For 19 years, Wharton has been cooking gumbo for his audiences. In that span, he has fed more than 150,000 people.

"I got the recipe from Kenny Neal (the Baton Rouge bluesman). It was his mother's," said Wharton, 60.

The last time Wharton was in Pinellas County was 11 months ago, during an appearance at Pinellas Hope in Pinellas Park. Through his 5-year-old nonprofit foundation, Planet Gumbo, Wharton performed his "Florida swamp-style blues" and fed the 250 men and women who were living at the homeless shelter.

Through Planet Gumbo, Wharton has been linking his work with the plight of the homeless by performing at shelters throughout the country.

Frank Murphy, the president of Catholic Charities who helped coordinate the program, recalled last year's appearance.

"I didn't know what to expect, and it turned out amazing," said Murphy, who considers the Beatles and ABBA more his style. "(Wharton) kept throwing stuff into the pot, and he stirred and stirred while people danced. I especially enjoyed the way he engaged all the people."

Included in Wharton's regular fan base are some Florida VIPs.

At the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee during inauguration festivities, Charlie Crist took the stage with Wharton and helped stir the gumbo. In 1999, Jimmy Buffett dedicated I Will Play for Gumbo to the musician-chef on his CD, Beach House on the Moon.

Wharton will perform original songs as well as traditional blues, including Walking Blues and Diggin' up My Potatoes.

"And for those allergic to seafood," the Sauce Boss said, "I promise to set aside bowls of gumbo, seafood-free."

If you go

The Sauce Boss

Bill Wharton will perform cabaret-style at 8 p.m. today at the Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show. For tickets, call (727) 587-6793 or visit www.largoarts.com.

Sauce Boss offers bluesy music, spicy gumbo today in Largo 01/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 5:51pm]
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