Henry Ford, industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, was born on this day in 1863. Ford maintained a winter home in Fort Myers, near his friend and fellow giant of American innovation, Thomas Edison.
Author Ernest Hemingway, born on this day in 1899, is perhaps the most famous former resident of Key West. Only one of his books, To Have and Have Not (1937) was set in the southernmost city, but Hemingway logged many hours perfecting his craft at his Whitehead Street home. An avid fisherman and boater, Hemingway enjoyed all that Key West had to offer.
Moses Williams (1919-1988) was born February 15 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He spent much of his life traveling, either in show business or working as an itinerant farm worker, which eventually brought him to Florida.
At the age of 11, he learned the harmonica, but it was his one-string zither, or “diddley bow,” that made him unique. The instrument was comprised of a broom wire tensioned upside a door with a tin can resonator, and played with glass bottle slide. It earned him nicknames like “Broom Wire Slim” and “Doorman.”
Moses was discovered by folklorist Dwight DeVane in the late 1970s, and appeared on the Florida Folklife Program’s 1981 double LP, Drop on Down in Florida, which was recently reissued by Dust-to-Digital. In addition to these recordings, Moses made several appearances at the Florida Folk Festival, schools, and other folk arts forums around the state.
His distinctive repertoire for the diddley bow consisted of both standards such as “Sitting on Top of the World” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and original tunes, most notably “Which Way Did My Baby Go” and “Apple Farm Blues.” Both of these songs have been included on the Florida Folklife Collection sampler CDs Music from the Florida Folklife Collection and Where the Palm Trees Shake at Night: Blues Music from the Florida Folklife Collection. Enjoy.
“Which Way Did My Baby Go”
“Apple Farm Blues”
Today is the birthday of Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972).
City Island Ball Park, renamed Jackie Robinson Ball Park in 1990, was built circa 1915. Daytona Beach was the first city in Florida that allowed Robinson to play during spring training in 1946 when he was a member of the Montreal Royals of the International League.
Both Sanford and Jacksonville, citing segregation laws, refused to let Montreal play an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, parent club of Robinson’s Royals. Daytona Beach agreed to the game, which was played on March 17, 1946.
As a result of the resistance by Jacksonville, the Dodgers moved spring training to City Island Ball Park, and in 1948 built Dodgertown in Vero Beach. Jackie Robinson Ball Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed each year on the third Monday of January, near Dr. King’s birthday (January 15, 1929).
Dr. King led and participated in countless demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement. Two films from the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida contain footage of Dr. King from demonstrations in St. Augustine, Florida, and Selma, Alabama.
Don Grooms was a favorite among fans of Florida Folk, and appeared regularly at the Florida Folk Festival. Although he was born in Cherokee, North Carolina, Grooms spent much of his life in Florida, and taught journalism at the University of Florida. He received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1996 for his songs filled with wit and dry humor inspired by Florida and Native American life. In addition to live performances, which often found him on stage with like-minded artists such as Chief Jim Billie, fiddler Wayne Martin, and Will McLean, he recorded some his best-known songs on the 1980 album Walk Proud My Son.
In honor of his birthday, here are some recordings of Don Grooms and friends from the Florida Folklife Collection.
“Walk Proud My Son”
More Info: Catalog Record
“Chicken Bone Special”
More Info: Catalog Record
Eartha M. M. White was a humanitarian, businesswoman and philanthropist from Jacksonville. She created educational opportunities and provided relief to African-Americans in northeastern Florida. White helped found several organizations and institutions, including the Clara White Mission, Mercy Hospital and the Boy’s Improvement Club. She was designated as a Great Floridian by the Florida Department of State in the year 2000.
Sir Charles Atkins, also known as Professor of the Blues, has been letting us know that “the blues is alright” since he first sat down at the communal piano in his dorm at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. Atkins is a notable performer, recording artist and teacher. He’s toured the country and shared the stage with multiple groups including the D and B Romeos, who he joined at the School for the Deaf and the Blind, and the Blues Boys. When he’s not playing out live or in the studio, the Professor of the Blues teaches the Blues Lab at Florida State University. In addition to teaching at FSU, Atkins also participated in the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program (1995-96). Charles Atkins was awarded the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 2002 for his musical accomplishments and willingness to share his knowledge and experience with others.
In honor of his birthday, please enjoy two selections from Sir Charles Atkins’ appearances at the Florida Folk Festival:
“Key to the Highway”
For more information about his life, upcoming performances and discography, visit the Charles Atkins homepage at http://www.downhomebluesband.com
Saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was born September 15, 1928, in Tampa, Florida. He attended college at Florida A&M University, and taught music at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.
In 1955, Adderley moved to New York, and began a successful career as a performer. He led groups that included his brother, cornetist Nat Adderley, as well as many other notable musicians such as Bill Evans, Milt Jackson, Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones. As a sideman, he appeared on classic recordings such as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
Cannonball Adderley died from a stroke in 1975, and was buried at the Southside Cemetery in Tallahassee, Florida.