Jimmy Pedigo did many things well as a musician, enough to find a niche in any genre.
He had played guitar and jazz piano, and wrote and sang songs. His gentle sense of humor entertained crowds, just as his peace-loving demeanor invited them onstage to dance.
Mr. Pedigo found his greatest success in ska music, a peppy mix of jazz, rhythm and blues rooted in Jamaica and called a precursor to reggae. He was an original member of Magadog, Tampa's best-known ska band in the 1990s.
Magadog drew hordes of young people to events, many of them wearing black and white checks and skinny ties, porkpie hats and mod suits. The group toured with the Toasters, a nationally known ska band, appeared on the NBC science fiction show seaQuest DSV and had a song played on MTV.
Mr. Pedigo wrote many of the songs, which he sang in a clear tenor voice at the keyboards with a prominent horn section keeping tempo.
"Magadog came along at a time when there was no real strong neo-ska revival, and I believe they were on the vanguard of creating that," said Laura Taylor, the development director for Tampa community radio station WMNF-FM 88.5. "I don't remember any other ska bands making the impact in the Tampa Bay area or in the Southeast that they did."
Mr. Pedigo was one of three members of the group founded in 1993 by Tampa musician Ed Lowery.
"Magadog started off as a style project," said Lowery, 44. "We never had any serious idea that the band would take off to the extent that it did. I would say we were slackers, working odd jobs and playing music."
The 1990s were a good time for the upbeat nature of ska as counter-programming to the darker rock music of the time.
"People were definitely looking for something more positive and upbeat than the grunge era," Lowery said. "And it seems to work well in Florida, with the tropical oasis."
Before the ride was over, Magadog had opened for the Skatalites, the Toasters and the Pietasters.
The group more or less disbanded for nearly a decade, regrouping about five years ago. Mr. Pedigo sold chocolates at Macy's in the Countryside Mall. He lived in a Clearwater apartment with Metro, a tabby cat, surrounded by instruments and electric cords and peace signs.
"There was nowhere to walk in his house because of his amplifiers and his pianos and his guitars and his CD collection," said Martee Halloran, 57, his sister.
James Eric Pedigo was born in Clearwater in 1963, the youngest of three children. By the sixth grade, he was doing magic shows and playing the piano.
He was outgoing and popular at Countryside High, but made a point of never taking himself too seriously. Expected to wear a tux for a photo honoring him as student of the month, Mr. Pedigo showed up as Count Dracula.
Wampum Org, his first band, took after early 1980s groups like Talking Heads and XTC, playing in a handful of Ybor City bars that catered to punk and new wave music.
"He was extremely creative," said fellow band member Drew Farmer, 48. "The lyrics he was writing, even back when we were young, were just so brilliant."
At age 19, during his second year at St. Petersburg College, Mr. Pedigo contracted encephalitis. While he recovered, aftereffects continued to revisit him in seizures, his family said. On occasion, they interrupted his performances with Magadog.
"If it happened, the band would make sounds like all of their instruments were going flat," his sister said. "They would say they were having 'technical difficulty' and crowd around him."
His domestic routines were equally important. Mr. Pedigo recycled before most others thought about it, doted on nieces and nephews and relished Sunday dinners with extended family. He never married but enjoyed a long friendship with the late Vicky Standley.
In recent months, he remained optimistic that he would recover from lung cancer, his second bout with cancer over the last few years.
Mr. Pedigo died April 23 in Woodside Hospice. He was 50. His funeral service at First Presbyterian Church in Safety Harbor drew a standing-room-only crowd.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.