Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The 23rd annual Will McLean Music Festival is March 9-11 at Sertoma Youth Ranch


Related News/Archive

Over the span of his 71 years, Will McLean endeavored to make people see his native state in an honest, emotional light. Through songs, stories and poems, he compelled listeners to consider the irrepressible beauty that lured the earliest settlers to Florida.

He also tried to warn them of a dire fate that awaited should modern-day residents fail to protect the state's precious natural treasures.

McLean's music dealt not only with Florida's rich history, but also with the people who lived it and the creatures that inhabited it.

Songs such as the plaintive ballad Hold Back the Waters recalled the devastating blow a 1928 hurricane dealt to the Everglades region. The rich, earthy Wild Hog served as a reminder of how dangerous and unpredictable pioneer life could be. And Osceola's Last Words offered a poignant look at the great Seminole chief whom few had ever considered.

Twenty-two years after his death, McLean's voluminous work lives on in the hearts of those who respect and want to become more intimate with the Sunshine State. Evidence of his legacy can be found each year at the music festival that bears his name, where protegees and peers gather to sing his songs and to pass around some of their own.

Dale Crider, a Gainesville singer-songwriter who performed often with McLean, and who is part of the musical lineup at this weekend's Will McLean Music Festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, said the Chipley-born singer embodied what he and many others consider essential to being a good songsmith: the ability to convey a story in a simple, straightforward manner.

"There is a real honesty to his music that draws the listener in," Crider said. "Every word he wrote sounded as if he had lived it himself."

Although revered by folk musicians and fans worldwide, McLean never achieved great fame or fortune during his lifetime. Shy and reserved, he rarely performed outside the state, preferring to remain in musical proximity with those closest to him.

However, that didn't stop McLean's songs from finding their way into the repertoires of numerous bluegrass, country and folk groups throughout the nation.

"Will's songs are pretty versatile, musically," said bluegrass mandolinist Red Henry. "I've heard Hold Back the Waters played a hundred different ways by a hundred different musicians."

A year after his death in 1990, McLean was awarded the prestigious Florida Heritage Award. He was posthumously inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1996.

Will McLean Foundation president Margaret Longhill said that although he probably would have been embarrassed to have a festival named in his honor, McLean would have loved the concept of the gathering, which includes two performance stages, plus numerous workshops for artists and songwriters.

Each year, festival organizers stage a contest for Best New Florida Song. The winners are presented during the Saturday program.

"I think that it shows how strong Will's musical legacy remains in our state," Longhill said. "There are so many young musicians who share his vision of Florida. I think he would have been proud of that."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or

Will McLean Music Festival

When: Today through Sunday. Performance times are from noon to 10 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Sertoma Youth Ranch, near Spring Lake in southeast Hernando County. From State Road 50, take Spring Lake Highway south to Church Road. Turn east onto Church and go to Myers Road. Turn south onto Myers, and the ranch will be on the west side of the road.

Admission: Weekend gate admission is $37. Daily admission is $17 today, $20 Saturday and $17 Sunday. Children under 12 are free. Camping hookups are $22; rough camping is $10.

Information: For ticket and camping

information, call (352) 465-7208 or visit

The 23rd annual Will McLean Music Festival is March 9-11 at Sertoma Youth Ranch 03/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 5:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75


    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the warm response from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute were proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  3. Three-hour police standoff ends, thanks to a cigarette


    TAMPA — A man threatening to harm himself was arrested by Tampa police on Tuesday after a three-hour standoff.

  4. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494
  5. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 139, collapses buildings in Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 139 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]