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St. Petersburg's attention turns to next vote: city ditty

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that the city elections are over, it's on to more serious matters: voting on a city song.

The city, which doesn't have an official song, put out a call in September for musicians to send in songs about St. Petersburg. Judges have winnowed the offerings to three finalists.

Now it's the public's turn to pick the winner.

People can vote for one of the three song finalists until midnight Monday at The winner will be announced Nov. 14 at Ribfest in Vinoy Park.

Song contestants were required to e-mail a digital recording of their song and sheet music with the lyrics, melody and chords. Professionally scored music wasn't required.

The music also had to be relevant to St. Petersburg, and no profane, obscene or objectionable content was allowed.

Thirty-one songs were entered, ranging from "folksy, beach bar tunes to rap and reinterpretations of classic '70s music," the city said in announcing the finalists.

The songs were judged on content and musicality, not the quality of their performance. The judges were Cody Clark, a vocalist, guidance counselor and magnet recruiter for Gibbs High School's Pinellas County Center for the Arts; Ginger Gadsden, morning news anchor for CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10; Dave McKay, WQYK-FM 99.5 morning show host; and Paul Wilborn, the Palladium Theater's executive director.

The three finalists are:

Carry Me Back to St. Petersburg, by Charlie Souza and the New Tropics, which tells a story of leaving the city for Hollywood, experiencing a major earthquake and realizing there's just no place like home.

Souza said the song was recorded in 2006 and he's changed some of the lyrics from the one on the Web site to better reflect St. Petersburg.

"A lot of things about St. Petersburg inspired me while I was in Hollywood," Souza said. "I feel guilty that I didn't put more lyrics in there about the city. It's more of an autobiography tune as recorded."

I'm Off to St. Pete, by Bob and Bruce Jacobs, cousins who contrast life in Bob's Tampa Bay with Bruce's "grittier" New York City life. Bob Jacobs said they wrote the song 10 years ago and re-recorded it in July before hearing about the competition.

"What's interesting about this is, five years ago my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary,'' Bob Jacobs said, "and guess which band we had perform? Charlie Souza and the New Tropics. And now we're competing."

Life's Sunny and Sweet in St. Pete, by Jeff Arthur, a sixth-generation St. Petersburg native who celebrates the city as a great place to raise a family. Arthur, a musician who has a jingle-writing company, wrote the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fight song, "Hey Hey Tampa Bay."

"I'm happy I was picked because I know this place so well, and have been such a proponent for this area," Arthur said. "Not just for its beauty but because there's a lot of really incredibly creative people here. It's a great city."

The city's Web site says only one vote is permitted per computer. You don't have to be a resident to vote.

Wilborn said he spent about two hours going through the songs. The judges weren't given the names of the artists."

"There were a few good ones," he said. "And there were a good number of them that were not as good. Let me just say that diplomatically."

Many songs were beach-oriented, he said. He focused on songs with lyrics that best represented St. Petersburg. For instance, a rap song was one of his favorites musically, but others had better lyrics.

Andy Boyle can be reached at or (727) 893-8087.

To hear the three finalists, go to

St. Petersburg's attention turns to next vote: city ditty 11/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 8:49am]
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