This year began with a great deal of hope and excitement for Tampa’s “unofficial” theme song. After being blessed with a generous donation, I was able to fulfill a decade long dream to complete a studio recording of “I Remember … Continue reading
Tampa’s unique history is relived through this passionate rendition of “I Remember Tampa”, as interpreted by James Marvell, former singer for 60’s chart busting group, Mercy. James is a Tampa native who grew up in Ybor City. His dad, Sal, was a renowned barber in Tampa, and one of his young customers back in the 60’s was Mike Baluja, the songwriter who composed “I Remember Tampa”. This is the second Tampa themed song that the two artists have collaborated on. The first was Marvell’s “Tampa, The Perfect City for Me”, which was produced by Baluja. They share an unparalleled love for Tampa. James recorded his version at Dreamlab Recording Studio, where owner, Michael Chauncey, remastered and added harmonies.
I recently completed a rewrite of “I Remember Tampa”, which I began working on earlier in the year. I wanted to create a keepsake for everyone who visits during Super Bowl LV. The original version of the song addresses a love for Tampa from the perspective of someone who has either grown up here, or has spent a substantial amount of time here, and laments the changes that have occurred, idealizing the past…longing for qa Tampa that no longer exists. The “new” version is more “for the moment”…written from the perspective of someone who visited Tampa, and fell in love with the city, the way she is right now. Gone from the refrain is “I’m a Tampa Native”, and in its place, “I’m in love with Tampa.” It addresses the visitor’s desire to keep coming back…frequently. The pics speak for themselves, describing why Tampa is so appealing…so lovable. They were all downloaded from VisitTampaBay.com. I also used some video that a friend of mine shot a few years ago. As a matter of fact, it was the year that the Republican National Convention was held here, so you will see a short clip that references it. I uploaded several versions of the song, with varying lyrical ideas. They are all available on the I Remember Tampa YouTube channel I created.
“This love affair was meant grow, this endless bound, now, don’t you know.”
I’ve written many songs, but this one will always have a special place in my heart. It’s the greatest gift that I can give back to Tampa for all the special moments and memories she’s given me.
I Remember Tampa
Available online at…
Amazon Music: https://www.amazon.com/I-Remember-Tam…
Written and Recorded by Mike Baluja
Executive Producer: William Epps
Creative Director: Mario Nuñez
Recorded and Produced at Paris Recording Studio
Owner and Sound Engineer: Eric Maldonado
Arranger and Bass Guitar: Kevin Pagan
Drums/Percussion: Luis Alicea
Trumpets: Luis Chafalote
Piano: Yassel Pupo Alonso
Guitar: Levi Lopez
Lead Vocal: Mike Baluja
Back Up Vocals: Mario Nuñez
Back in 2010, I wrote a song called “Invisible”, which was my attempt to create an awareness of and empathy for, the rapidly growing homeless population throughout the nation, and in particular, throughout the city of Tampa. Fast forward to 2019, where we find homelessness an inescapable social malady that, no matter how hard we try, we can not ignore. Where once, the harsh reality was mostly contained within certain areas of downtown, now, it has spread to every major intersection, convenience store, interstate crossing, city park, and more. It hurts to see them…it hurts to ignore them…but it must hurt far worse to be them.
The artist, Renato Rampolla, whose photographs are featured in this video, has done an exceptional job of capturing the despair, the hopelessness, and the devastation that the homeless deal with every minute of every day in their lives on the streets. Ron’s 18 month journey into their dark world is a very interesting story, and his book, Dignity No Matter What, is a riveting look into their lives; complete with captions, in their own words. For more information on how to obtain a copy, visit his website at:
All proceeds from the sale of the book go to a local, hands-on charitable organization called, Blanket Tampa Bay. You can also find out more about them through Ron’s website.
It’s been quite some time since I blogged anything, so in an effort to reaclimate myself with the process, I will write something short and sweet about my newest remix and pictorial video of I Remember Tampa, featuring alternate images memorable places and people from this city’s past. All pics were downloaded from the Tampa Natives Facebook page, but they probably originated from varied individual posts. Hopefully, you will enjoy this upbeat version of the song.
The following story I’m sharing is about Tampa music legend, James Marvell: his background and his upcoming Christmas Special:
Story by Our Generation’s Raymond Napolitano <email@example.com> permission granted to re-print article-see photos
James Marvell to feature Branson in his Christmas Special
Watch “A Marvelous Christmas Special” now!
Florida: Ybor City’s own James Marvell has been spelling his name wrong all these years. He should have dropped the last ‘L” and paraded himself around as the marvel that he is. I spent a fair amount of time listening to this smooth talking musician/promoter/salesman, watching all the YouTube videos of him from across the decades, looking at the photos and clippings he has sent me and continues to send me, and have bubbled over with fermenting thoughts about this enigmatic local legend.
He doesn’t tell anyone his age, but he likes telling the story about how he was on The Mike Douglas Show with the group Mercy. You remember them don’t you, they had that iconic hit Love Can Make You Happy, the one that was in the Top 10 at the same time along with Elvis, The Beatles, Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra. Here’s how James told it: “I was on The Mike Douglas Show with Don Rickles. There I am, down in the cellar getting ready for the show, as a 19-year old kid. There’s Don Rickles and in my mind I didn’t really quite understand that he was this insult guy. So there I am and they’re fixing me up and all that and he hands me a ball with a lot of bumps on it—you gotta remember I’m a young guy—and he says: ‘Here man, this reminds me of your face.’ I’m thinking, what a downer state of mind this guy has put me in you know, but because I didn’t know any better, little did I know, he liked me.”
I get the feeling that James Marvell has spent a lifetime of people liking him, whether he was aware of it or not, throughout the various sectors of a career that went from garage bands to country music to pop stardom, then back to country music with a stint as a jewelry designer for country stars, to gospel show promoter and eventual gospel music singer and songwriter.
When Marvell gets going on a subject, he comes at you with a steady barrage of ideas. He even wrote a jingle for Our Generation Magazine, recorded it and sent the music file to myself and publisher Bryan Gilchrist. It’s that tenacious determination to keep you thinking about what he’s telling you or showing you that makes him both endearing and eternally youthful in spirit.
And why not. His father Sal, a local barber, lived to be 103, cutting hair almost to the very end. In fact, YouTube the video of Sal at 100 years old joining his son to perform James’ song Tampa, the Perfect City produced by Mike Baluja and you’ll feel the loving respect and genuine gratitude they have for family and the city they both love. Sal & Marvell even made it into Music Tampa Bay’s 96.7 FM Hall Of Fame Museum in 2016 as the first inductees ever.
James Marvell’s story starts out like many other musicians’ stories. His mother Emily got him a guitar at about age 12 and encouraged him to play. Along the way he got guitar guidance from various talented adults, then, “because I also enjoyed country music,” James would hang out at The Deep South, a honky tonk on the corner of Armenia and Rome, listening to Johnny Bare, who happened to be the uncle of country music icon Bobby Bare. By that time, James and his pal Buddy Good had grown their hair way down, as was customary for young people back in the day. They’d wear cowboy hats and whenever Bobby Bare came to visit his uncle he’d see these two long-haired cowboys and tell them how cool they looked. So James and Buddy moved up to Nashville and became country music’s first real outlaws, at least in image. While part of Mercy, they figured they’d do their own thing and went off as a duet, The Country Cavaleers managed by John Centinaro who also managed Mercy. They were out on the road with folks like Ernest Tubbs and early Hank Williams Jr, drawing young crowds with their looks while simultaneously preaching an anti-drug message. Tampa radio legend Tedd Webb recalls “Long Hair & Country didn’t sound like this until then.”
Well, you know how the music business goes. Sometimes you have to get a day job to keep yourself afloat. Somehow this marvel, Marvell, started designing jewelry. Before long it caught the attention of some of country’s greatest stars, including Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe and Willie Nelson. That took him to Branson, Missouri. Here’s another turning point story from James: “I was being blessed abundantly, selling jewelry left and right. So there I am in Branson with the Willie Nelson Ozark Theater, it’s like a 1500-seater. The Johnny Minick Family, a gospel group, they were kinda just gettin started, would drive in from Arkansas on the weekend and they’d get like 20 people. Something moved on me to try to help them with that work. I pushed and promoted and before long that created theater worship, filling the house. Branson gave me the idea that maybe that was the kind of music that was coming. I loved it so much I recorded a song around ‘93 titled, Only Christian Country. It became the theme song of the International Country Gospel Music Association.”
And it’s been pretty much gospel ever since. Go on YouTube and track down Marvell’s versions of Best Thing God Ever Made, Prophecy or any of the other gospel and country hits he’s had and your ears will thank you, as will your soul. Spend some time online with the marvelous James Marvell, a homespun gentle man with a legendary history and visions of a brilliant future.
Top stars including Branson favorites are joining James Marvell on his Christmas TV Special. Artists include The Blackwoods, Terry Wayne Sanders as Barney Fife & Grandma Beulah, Johnny Cash’s sister Joanne, Jerry Presley, Kevin Shorey, Heart To Heart, Donna Cunningham, Russ Loniello with a Dean Martin Tribute, America’s Got Talent Top five finalists Voices Of Glory are back by popular demand and others will appear on A Marvelous Christmas directed by Roy Young. Search it out in early December for a most enjoyable viewing experience.
2015’s first baseball matchup between longtime rivals Tampa Catholic and Jesuit ended with a 6-4 victory for the Tigers. The brisk evening was highlighted with a crab pasta fundraiser hosted by the home team Crusaders. On hand to cover the event were Tampa Natives Show host, Mario Núñez and Brian Dery, along with his assistant, Jacob Rush, of Triple Knot Productions. Enjoy some exciting live action clips intermingled with interviews from Peter J. Mulry, John Tamargo, and Mike Baluja. As you will see, it was a magical evening, filled with fun, special moments, and a friendly completion that has endured for over six decades.
This is a video I put together using some pictures that 2 friends shot in the mid 2000’s when they visited Lewis Vandercar’s home in northern Hillsborough County. The soundtrack was composed using Sony Acid Loops. The following passage was taken from a blog entry I found online called Miami Memories.
Vandercar once said: “Many people think what I do is ridiculous, but not intelligent people. Most people are fearful and they don’t enjoy life because they’re afraid to take a change and do what they want. So intelligent people admire your courage.” It’s a shame Miami no longer attracts the Vandercars of this world.
Florida Forever Yes, I remember and I love the city of Tampa, but I feel that same love for the entire state of Florida. In this song, which was written in the summer of 2005, I try to recognize a … Continue reading
Tampa’s historical landmark is the home of many memorable moments, including a few generations worth of birthday parties, family picnics, political gatherings. and community festivals. Click on the title above to view its beauty, and enjoy a song written with … Continue reading