The 2018 Remix

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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.

 

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Legendary Tampeño Spreads “Marvellous” Christmas Cheer

imageThe 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 <raynap@sbcglobal.net> 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.

Tampa Catholic vs. Jesuit: An Unparalleled Prep Baseball Rivalry

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.

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The Works of Vandercar

 

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.

MacFarlane Park

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

I Remember Tampa: Thanks for Listening, Thanks For Sharing

970 WFLA AM Tampa Bay 5/23/13 Reblog

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.

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Remembering the New Wave Scene with Elio Lopez: Artist, Musician, and Tampa Native

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I recently spoke to Elio Lopez, an accomplished visual artist whose work can be found in galleries and libraries, on sidewalks and walls, and in number of other highly visible locations throughout the Bay Area. He’s been a very busy man throughout his lifetime, in search of ways to express himself, yet he continues to find ways to give back to the community and to share his talents through various worthy causes. But aside from all his accomplishments as a painter and his humanitarian efforts, he has always been an exceptional musician and songwriter. That is the side of Elio that I’d like to address with this installment of I Remember Tampa.

I have known Elio all of my life. We both grew up in the West Tampa area, about seven blocks from each other. It was our mutual passion for music that ultimately brought us closer together. In the early 80’s, we spent a great deal of time playing, writing, and sharing ideas, but eventually, we went our separate ways. I continued to write and record, never very eager to perform, while Elio embraced the spotlight. He loved the interaction with the audience. He fed off of it. He would go on to become one of the major contributors to the New Wave movement in Tampa. He had the haircut, the skinny tie, the black pointed tip shoes, and the sport coat with the collar raised. But more important than The Look…he had the sound down to a science, and the moves to go along with that sound. He had become the prototypical front man that he had always envisioned himself to be. And he was damn good at it.

I asked him to describe the musical climate in Tampa at the time…the bands he was a part of, the clubs that catered to his music, and some of the other artists that were popular at the time. I wanted to share those memories for the sake of all who were a part of this vibrant period of Tampa’s music scene:

“Let’s see…my bands that were pretty popular were “The Squares,” and “Small Population,” and finally, ‘The Reflex.” Zenith Nader and Headlights were also the better known local groups. Zenith Nader eventually became part of the Small Population until Jim moved to Atlanta to audition for The Producers and Dennis got married and moved to S. Carolina. I opened shows for ‘Berlin’ and ‘Wall of Voodoo,” (“I’m on a Mexican Radio”). Then I travelled with ‘Thriller,’ the show band. New Wave venues were the Buffalo Roadhouse, Ms. Lucky Club, Janis Landing, USF, and Scoundrels, all of which I played at regularly. At least on this coast. I can’t remember too many details right now about the east coast clubs and such.”

Those of you who have read my past entries know that Elio’s paragraph recollecting some of the details of our cities past is what this blog is all about: remembering that which made growing up here in Tampa a unique experience. But it doesn’t stop with the memories of people or places or events. What got this whole story started, was a song I asked him to send me….a song that Elio wrote towards the tail end of those colorful years. I vividly remember when he first introduced it to me. I couldn’t really hear all he was hearing as he strummed it. But once he was able to lay all the tracks down and pull all the elements together, it was obvious that he had come up with a winner. The studio recording of “Boys on the Block” that I’m linking my readers to was done after the New Wave movement had come and gone in Tampa, but the song itself represents that time period well, and it remains a pleasant reminder of the quality of music that evolved from it. It’s as good, if not better, than many of the hits of that era. And as is the case with all great songs, it still sounds fresh today.

I asked Elio to share the story behind the recording, and I will close with the details he was able to provide…great memories of a vital period in Tampa’s history:

“In the summer of 1988 I went into Hayes studio and hired John Urigh to produce 3 songs for me. Mr. Urigh was a top producer at that time who had worked with Prince, Joe Walsh, and a couple of other big stars whom I can’t recall right now. He played some of his productions and I was impressed enough to hire him. I played him 5 songs that day in which he chose the main song I wanted to do, (Had to Give Her Up), and rejected the other four. His reasoning was that the songs were too diverse.

I brought him several more songs at the pre-production meeting. He chose “All Those Flashy Girls,” and sent me back for more. I came back twice more exhausting my cataloge and he rejected everything. His reasoning was that I was too diverse and the A&R people wouldn’t know what to do with my music as they saw things in terms of marketing and sales, not talent or skills.

When I came in for the first round of sessions, (‘Flashy Girls’) I brought in the remaining songs and this song was on it. It was just in demo form and I was doubly embarrassed to present it because of that. The second he heard it, he wanted to cut it! I argued against it over and over, but he swore it was a smash it. So he gave us a basic direction on how he wanted us to arrange the song. When we got to it, (it was the last one cut), neither myself nor Watson & Watson could hear the song as a record, especially because we were cutting demos for much better songs. John was recording Debbie Gibson, (remember her?), in the next studio and he would pop in to see how we were doing. He listened to what we had and nixed most of it and told us exactly what he wanted to hear on the rhythm tracks. I was tired and left.

When I came back in the next day, Watson & Watson were excited saying they’d solved the issue. They had removed most of the stuff we had done. All that remained was the bass and synth pad #2, (me), drums, (Mark), and keyboard pad #1, (David). They’d added some horns hits, (which are there), and that high pitched keyboard that you hear during the prechorus. We played it for John and he approved it. When it came time to layer the vocals and the guitars, John had me play, (for what seemed to be 100 takes), 2 acoustic guitars, then the electric you hear, and finally after he’d nixed a slide solo, the final solo. It was then that I could hear the song.

Cutting vocals for this simple tune was also a difficult chore. Not the main part. To my ear, my lead vocal is too flat and boring, but he wanted that. It was doing the bkgrnd vocals that was hard. He opted for 3 part harmony rather than two part and we tried many variations before we decided on the product you hear now. Well that’s the whole story, except that when I shopped the songs, I actually got a small publishing deal on this one. I guess I’m not the best judge of my own work.”

Quite a story…quite a character. Thank you, Elio, for your contributions to the arts. You are a true Tampa treasure.

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BOYS ON THE BLOCK

Local Bands that Blazed the Trail

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.

The Trail of Local Rock and Roll

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Tampa’s Daily Double

http://www.tampanativesshow.com
http://www.tampapix.com
http://www.iremembertampa.com

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