Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Hooper: Celebrate 'Florida-bred' pop music

This may not come as a surprise to you, but I grew up with some strange quirks.

For example, every Christmas my uncle sent money orders to me and my siblings, and I always cashed mine, went to the bookstore in downtown Tallahassee and purchased The World Almanac and Book of Facts.

Millennials, ask your parents: "What's an almanac?"

Then I would spend days digesting trivial information, largely focusing on the almanac's write-up of Florida. Growing up in the state's capital city, I developed a native pride and got thrilled when the state's population growth moved it up in the rankings.

This "Florida fervor" grew even more one weekday afternoon when I tuned on the Mike Douglas Show. Douglas' afternoon talk show was based in Philadelphia, but he always found his way to Miami for a week of shows, and on this episode, he introduced KC and the Sunshine Band to the nation.

The group's infectious dance beats, the slick moves of the funky horn section and the spirited vocals of lead singer Harry Wayne Casey proved electric, but the fact the group hailed from Hialeah excited me most.

I soon began to focus intently on anyone or anything that allowed me to boast about being a Floridian. I laid claim to almost every pop culture star who had a connection to my state. Clearly, it was long before crazy news items turned Florida into Flori-DUH.

On the latest episode of my WEDU television show, That's All I'm Saying, I get the opportunity to delve a little deeper into this long-time obsession. Author John Capouya, Tampa Bay Times pop music Jay Cridlin and radio personalities Veronica Alfaro (WQYK-FM 99.5), Miguel Fuller (WPOI-FM 101.5) and Mason Dixon (WRBQ-FM 104.7) joined me for an exploration into what I like to call "Florida-bred" music.

The show airs at 8:30 p.m. tonight, 1:30 p.m. Sunday and again at 2 p.m. Monday. And yes, I'm guilty of a bit of self-promotion.

However, I absolutely love the musical stew the Sunshine State has given us. Capouya, who's book Florida Soul comes out next year, shared anecdotes about how a lot of the state's R&B stars rose from Florida's popularity on the famed "chittlin' circuit," yielding such stars as Ray Charles and Sam and Dave.

The Miami-infused soul eventually evolved into the Caribbean-flavored sound offered by the Sunshine Band.

Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine soon came along and their influence can still be found in some of today's music from acts like Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull and Flo-Rida.

In fact, one of the discoveries we struck upon during the show is your typical wedding reception DJ relies a lot on Florida flavor.

Meanwhile, Southern Rock sprung from North Florida hubs, giving us gritty grooves from the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Molly Hatchett and Tom Petty.

In between those two geographic genres, you can find even more: Tampa's death metal, Orlando's boy bands and some cool country acts. Not to be overlooked: Pasco's Bellamy Brothers, Plant High's Stephen Stills and Polk County's Gram Parsons.

One amusing side: Some of the best Florida-bred songs — Charles' Georgia On My Mind, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama and Pam Tillis' Maybe It Was Memphis are about other places. And the guy who sings most about Florida's laidback style, Jimmy Buffett, was born in Alabama.

Take a spin through my Florida-bred music playlist on Spotify.

In the end, my panel and some other local music aficionados helped me rank the state's top 10 music acts. You can tune in to see how Charles rated against Nash and if the Backstreet Boys beat out *NSYNC.

So why do I remain fascinated with Florida-bred music after all these years? Well, no matter how many natives rise to fame, it's often lost in a wave of wacky news that Florida always seems to yield. I don't begrudge those who chronicle the state's crazy escapades in books and stories, and I don't even mind the Sonic commercial that infers that Florida is like another planet. Trust me, I'm laughing with them.

But as someone who has spent his entire life in this beautiful, often under-appreciated state, I gravitate towards the good we've borne because it reminds me we're more than just a string of glaring goofy headlines and embarrassing political gaffes.

If more people took that approach, we could do a better job of preserving what truly makes Florida great — and make our state even better.

That's all I'm saying.

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