I’d like to thank 970 WFLA’s AM Tampa Bay and their crew, Jack Harris, Tedd Webb, and Corey Dylan for reblogging I Remember Tampa yesterday. It was in May of last year that I originally posted the video on YouTube. In early June, it started skyrocketing in views after Jack mentioned it on his morning show and posted it on his blog. Since that time, it has been seen over 24,000 times, and that number has been steadily climbing every month. I’d also like to thank Dan Perez for posting it and identifying the sources of all the pictures on his wonderful Tampapix website, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this month. And, of course, I’d like to thank The Tampa Natives Show and its hosts, Mario Núñez, Sally Núñez, and Steve Cannella for inspiring the song through their efforts in preserving Tampa’s rich history, and for believing in my work enough to embrace I Remember Tampa as the show’s theme song. Last but not least, I’d like to thank all the fans and followers of these programs and sites for taking the time to view, comment on, and share the video. I know all this activity stems from our mutual love for this city. Something tells me that this video has only scratched the surface of potential views, and that as long as it remains archived throughout the web, future generations will gravitate towards it and keep coming back when they want to reminisce about the experiences here in Tampa.
Do you remember what local bands rocked your world when you were growing up? How about the bands that actually went on to regional or national recognition? They were the trailblazers of the local rock scene…the one’s that provided the live entertainment at our night clubs, civic centers, auditoriums, weddings, and high school dances. The most prominent from my generation were Blues Image, Mercy, and White Witch. Some lesser known, but equally vital, local acts included Pieces, Bacchus, Rock and Roll Circus, Joey Ray and the Ritual, Circles, Strut, and a host of others that elude my feeble memory at the moment. These bands not only entertained us, they inspired us well. On a personal level, they were the ones that influenced my decision to devote my life to songwriting.
And let us not forget the radio stations and discjockeys that had a hand in developing the market. Stations like WLCY AM and WQSR FM, and DJs like Tedd Webb and Rick Randall, also helped to pave the way for the growth of the local music scene. I know that all these trailblazers helped to make Tampa what it is today…a continually growing hotbed for musical talent and up and coming artists who are producing work that is making its mark throughout the world. It was in honor of the early pioneers of our local music scene that I wrote the song “The Trail of Local Rock and Roll”. And if I left out anyone in the video I’m linking you to now (and I know I did), please forgive me. It was not intentional, and I would certainly appreciate any comments reminding of other great artist from the Bay Area that I may have forgotten about. My objective was to pay tribute to everyone, in general, that helped make Tampa’s music scene what it is today.
Christmas in Tampa was special for many reasons, but perhaps the most memorable of them, for me, was the West Tampa tradition that revolved around a stretch of Braddock Street about two to three blocks long. Every year the residents would go all out in decorating their homes for the holidays. Many of the families within our community and throughout the surrounding communities would pile up in their cars at night, ride on down to Braddock Street, and slowly coast by the lit up homes, enjoying the magic that was created in the spirit of Christmas. Some would park, and just walk up and down the block, enjoying the Christmas carols ringing gently through the air, congregating with friends, and stopping in so that their kids could personally say hello to Santa, who would always make an appearance at some point during every evening leading through to the 25th of December. Those precious memories are engrained in the hearts of so many Tampa natives. It was a time of simple pleasures, and the Christmas lights on Braddock Street were as pure, simple, and pleasurable as anything I can remember.
Growing up in West Tampa, there was a learning institution that had nothing to do with formal education, yet some of life’s most valuable lessons were learned there. The name of that institution was West Tampa Little League. In fact, you might say that some kids got their first opportunity at on-the-spot career training there, be it as a future player, coach, umpire, politician, or entrepreneur. One of those kids was a boy by the name of Mark Beiro. He was a few years older than me, and although I can’t say that I knew him personally, it was almost impossible not to know of him. He had one of those vibrant personalities that made him stand out in the crowd. And that personality would ultimately find a place to come alive and thrive in when Mark discovered his true calling, which happened to be behind a microphone. I can remember anxiously approaching the fields on Saturday morning, and hearing him announcing the player’s names with an emphasis and precision that immediately validated each child just for participating. His play by plays made us all feel like we were in the big leagues. He made the games special through the passion he displayed for announcing. And the rest is history. His voice would lead him from the fields of West Tampa to the Tampa Jai Alai Fronton, Professional Boxing, Battlebots, and various radio programs. Through the years, Mark has continued to make a name for himself in the world of broadcasting. This Thursday, he will be a guest on The Tamap Natives Show for the second consecutive week, sharing his memories of growing up in Tampa. Don’t miss your chance to get to know one of Tampa’s legendary personalities. Call in, live, and say hello to Mark Beiro.
Pictured here is one of the greatest assembly of servers in the history of fine dining. I’ve often compared this picture to that of an elite professional baseball team from the past. It has all the essential characteristics (including a few members of legendary stature) that you might find in one of those classic team shots on an old baseball card or in a collectible program guide. Tonight, one of those legends, Joe Roman, joins many of his former teammates, including my father, Miguel, at that big 5 Star Restaurant in the sky. Joe was a true Hall of Famer, not only in the service industry, but as a husband, a father, and a friend as well. He will be remembered by many as the singing waiter and Ambassador at Tampa’s historic Columbia Restaurant. But I will always remember him as a warm, loving godfather, who did his best to make me feel special whenever he’d see me. Coincidentally, his passing comes right before the holidays. Back in my younger years, the December 24th gatherings at his home in Ybor taught me my first lessons on what it meant to revere Christmas and Family. God bless you, Joe, and may your soul rest in everlasting peace.
Dan Perez has assembled and documented a wealth of information about the city of Tampa, and has made that information accessible through his very colorful Tampapix.com website. There you will find an endless stream of photos depicting life as it is and was in nearly every community that makes up this great city. You’ll find yourself being thoroughly captivated, entertained, and amused by the stories and pictures he’s posted. Stop by today, and browse through this amazing labor of love. It’s a virtual landmark that you’re sure to visit time and time again.
I remember anxiously waiting up on Friday nights for the end of the local news broadcast on WTVT Channel 13. That’s when my favorite program would air…Shock Theater. I would fight sleep in order to watch the scary double feature which might include classics such as Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Dracula, etc. My love for these films still lives nearly 50 years later. Here is a video I put together featuring many of the monsters that entertained me then and now. Just click on the “Monsters in the Closet” link above the photo. Happy Halloween.