St. Augustine’s very own Music Hall of Fame! It wasn’t the first good idea that Dave Kosciolek and Walt Kulwicki ever had — and we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last — but it was one that was long overdue and left most of us who have been involved in the St. Augustine music scene shaking our heads and wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Dave Kosciolek heads up Indigo Planet Records and is the publisher of Narrow Magazine. He explains that the city’s vibrant and thriving music scene sparked the light bulb moment that led to the SAMHOF. “St. Augustine is the oldest city in the USA and has a rich music scene and history,” says Dave. “Whenever I visit a new city, I always try to learn about the city’s music and arts scene prior to arriving. It only made sense that St. Augustine — a city of about 12.5 square miles in physical size, with over 100 music venues, more than 1000 artists, and live music somewhere every day and night — should have its music history recognized.”
Walt Kulwicki has been a performer for 45 years and was afraid that many of the talented artists based in St. Augustine would look elsewhere if there was a lack of support in their own hometown. “I played my first gig in town in 1993 and performed weekly for over 25 years,” he explains. “I’ve never seen so many talented people and great venues anywhere, and I realized that we needed to recognize these people and their contributions both locally and around the world.”
But, while light bulb moments appear to be instantly illuminating, they usually take some time to shine, and SAMHOF was no exception. Dave Kosciolek had tried unsuccessfully to generate interest for a local music hall of fame back in 2017, but it was serendipity that brought him and Walt together for a chance discussion during which they both realized they shared the same dream for the music scene in St. Johns County. They then brought the idea to Jim Stafford with Eclipse Studios, and the St. Augustine Music Hall of Fame was born.
At a ceremony and concert back in October, the Music Hall of Fame honored its first inductees. The inductees for SAMHOF 2018 were Gamble Rogers, Don Oja Dunaway, Bob Patterson, Elizabeth Roth, The Driftwoods, The Red River Band, Those Guys, John Westbrook, The Folksters, and The First National Rotagilla.
One of the most recognizable inductees, James “Gamble” Rogers lV was a Florida musician and storyteller who began performing in the 1960s with artists like Will McLean and Jim Bellew. Rogers died a hero while trying to save a drowning man in Flagler Beach. He was awarded the Kiwanis Award for bravery, the Carnegie Award for heroism, the NSA Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 1998, was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Bob Patterson’s achievements are numerous. He’s been a Florida Folk Festival artist for over 40 years and an FFF Legacy Performer from 2006-2009; co-founder of the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival; author and co-founder of the Florida Storytelling Guild; 2011 recipient of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation’s Mother Earth and Fellow Man Award, and plenty more.
Once upon a time, Don Oja-Dunaway was a surveyor living in Atlanta, Georgla. He credits the late Gamble Rogers for bringing him to our part of town back in the late 1960’s. Although he performed at various venues in St. Augustine, most of us will always associate Don Oja-Dunaway with the Milltop Tavern. How many times did we climb those stairs, order our beers, sit with our friends at our favorite tables, and look to Don to entertain us: to cheer us, comfort us, make us laugh and, sometimes, give us hope when we needed it most. Thank you, Don. A true community treasure.
Elizabeth Roth has been a resident of St. Augustine since 1985. She is a vocalist, guitarist, composer, songwriter, teacher, musical therapist and entertainer who studied both classical guitar and voice at Stetson University in DeLand, graduating in 2006 with a BA in music. Writer Peter Guinta once said about Roth, “If Phoebe Snow had a love child, and that baby was raised by Tracy Chapman, it might sound like this woman.”
Eric Searcy, Gabriel Valla, Elisabeth Williamson and Lon Williamson are The Driftwoods, one of our most beloved Florida bands , playing everything from Bluegrass, Swing and Jazz to Country, Traditional and and Oldtime music. Everyone plays and everyone sings! Because The Driftwoods are known for incredible diversity in the range of music they play, you’ll probably hear some pretty obscure tunes along with all your old favorites.
The Infamous Art Shill and the Folksters – with Nigel Pickering, Kenny Hodges and Paul Champion – began playing professionally in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and helped launch the Tradewinds’ reputation for stellar music back when the bar was located on Aviles St.! The Folksters performed on Late Night with Johnny Carson and released an album on the Mercury Record label. After their split in 1963, two of the members, Pickering and Hodges, went on to become part of Spanky and Our Gang.
THE FIRST NATIONAL ROTAGILLA BAND
Their love of playing hard-driving music, along with a penchant for comedy and a talent for making their audiences laugh, earned The First National Rotagilla Band the nickname, “The Marx Brothers of Rock.” Rotagilla traveled extensively, performing in cities across the United States and Canada, and shared billing with other notable musicians & comics, including Mel Tillis, Firefall and Cheech & Chong. Like so many other St. Augustine-based artists, The First National Rotagilla Band also headlined regularly at the Tradewinds.
Originally a duo consisting of founding members Chris McVey and Walt Kulwicki, Those Guys have, over the years, incorporated a variety of talented musicians to round out the group. And what a group! Even though “Those Guys” have traveled all over the country, they remain a staple on the St. Augustine music scene and have been playing regular gigs here for over 25 years! So put on your dancing shoes, grab a friend or two and go wherever Those Guys are.
THE RED RIVER BAND
A festival of any kind wouldn’t be a festival at all without the Red River Band! If you’ve ever been to Rhythm & Ribs, the Blue Crab Festival, St. Ambrose Fair or the Cathedral Festival (to name just a very few) you’ve probably heard their music and kept time along with them by tapping a toe or two. it’s kind of hard not to! Lori and Jonny Pellicer gave live country music a kick-start here in St. Johns County more than 25 years ago when they formed The Red River Band. Featuring classic and new country, rock, gospel and bluegrass, the band has opened for such superstars as Loretta Lynn, Bo Diddley and Sister Hazel.
John Westbrook was a popular St. Augustine musician who was born in St. Johns County and attended St. Augustine High School, St. Johns River Community College, FSU and Florida Atlantic University. John sang in the choir at Grace United Methodist Church, played piano and guitar, and was a regular performer at the Tradewinds, along with Jimmy Buffet, Gamble Rogers and many of the other 2018 SAMHOF honorees.
Each of the inductees have an incredible repertoire, and their influence on the community at large has been great. The future goals for SAMHOF include working toward a “physical home” for the Hall of Fame and recognizing and inducting every worthy nominee.