From the mangrove mazes of the 10,000 Islands, to the sawgrass flood plains of the Fakahatchee Strand, the little speck on the map that raised me is quite a land of inspiration. Southwest Florida is definitely “one-of-a-kind.” Nowhere on earth feels like this, and I couldn’t think of another place that I would rather call home. It could be the wildlife of the Everglades somehow blending with the salt air of the Gulf that gets me. Maybe it’s the sunsets and magnificent birds of the coast that inspire all these songs. It might be the hot, humid climate we have nearly year round, or is it the almost unbelievable folklore of this land of opportunity and its rich history of frontiersmen spirit that draws so many artists, authors and musicians to write about what we most affectionately call, “paradise”?
Over the years, many songs and books have been written about the splendor and the spirit of South Florida. John Anderson, a Florida native, wrote the famous ode to the Glades, “Seminole Wind,” in 1991, when he joined forces with legendary country music producer, and ex-Marco Islander, James Stroud. Charting over 40 singles in his career, Anderson writes, “Way down south in the Everglades/ where the black water rolls and the sawgrass waves/ the eagle flies and the otter plays in the land of the Seminole.” There is no overlooking the fact that he had to be inspired to write such a classic ballad.
Harlan Howard wrote in his 1961 classic, “Everglades,” recorded by the Kingston Trio, “Where a man can hide and never be found/ and never have fear of the baying hounds/ gotta keep moving and don’t stand still/ if the skeeters don’t get you than the gators will.” That song has been covered by everyone from Waylon Jennings to me, Gator Nate, and if I had to guess, I bet bands will still be playing Howard’s ever present, “three chords and the truth,” long after we’re gone.
Authors like Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall have all penned novels predicated on facts AND folklore surrounding our area. Using Florida as a base for fictional stories has become somewhat of a subculture. With titles like “Sanibel Flats,” “The Mangrove Coast” and “Everglades,” Randy Wayne White has perfected a genre of the “Florida style fable.” Taking cues from veteran Florida author J.D. McDonald, White brings in real people and places to solidify the narrative of the otherwise made-up tales.
Over my “third-of-a-century” here in SW Florida, It has been brought to my attention that we have myriad talented local and regional musicians who use the “wild-life” of the coastal corridor as a pallet for their artwork. Raiford Starke, AKA “The Human Jukebox,” has been writing, recording and performing original rockin’ country music with a Florida flair for over two decades. Songs like his live show favorite (now gone viral with a new video), “Girl From Immokalee,” and “Gentle Breeze” are taken from life experiences in “paradise.” When I asked him what it was about this place that drew him in, he said, “Out in the Everglades, it’s like a frontier, with laid back, earthy type people and a down home attitude.”
Other local bands have adopted their own twist on Florida music. Marco’s own, Sheffield Crew, has given their sound an identity by mixing the styles of Reggae, Hip-Hop, Punk, Ska and Rock into somewhat of a “musical island gumbo.” “With such an eclectic group of people in this area, we try to search out and incorporate different styles into our music,” explains Sheffield Crew guitarist, Danny Iaconelli. How could I forget all these cultures culminating in our “little slice of heaven?” From the Native Americans to the Spanish explorers, and from the Caribbean transplants to our Latin American neighbors, there are so many different groups of folks with their own ways and their own music. Local blues balladeer, and fellow “Florida cracker,” Jack Shealy, (of the band Red Dirt Mojo) spoke, “Through music you can capture the essence of our rich local color, roots and the nostalgia of our southern Florida upbringing.”
“There is only one Everglades,” multi-generation native songwriter, J Robert, said in regards to the inspiration of his “Flo-ribbean” style of music. He has mastered the fiddle and the steel drum, as well as written and recorded many original songs about the lore of the outdoors, releasing them on his locally grown record label Mangrove Music.
Since this “tweaks” issue is on the inspiration of our land, I thought I would come up with a short list of natural and man-made places, close by, that have inspired songs, stories and art. Now of course I can’t promise that if you go the words will flow, but I can do my best to set you on the right track for inspiration.
At the foot of the Goodland Bridge, at the northern tip of Cape Romano, at the dam on US41 by Port of the Isles, at Turner River south to Chokoloskee, at Marco South Beach for sunset (best in the world), at Rookery Bay/Henderson Creek to the Gulf,at the Bay City Walking dredge in Collier/Seminole State Park, at The Barron River, dockside dinner at Camellia Street, at the top of the SS Jolley Bridge on a morning stroll (now legal). If there are any other awesome places of intrigue that I overlooked, please let me know. I’m always looking for that perfect view of “paradise.”
It is obvious to me that there is just something about these islands and lowlands we call home. Could it be magnificent waters of the Gulf of Mexico to our west? Or is it the endless fields of green to our east? Might be “somethin’ in the water.” Good chance nobody will ever quite know, exactly what it is that makes this land a “paradise,” but few would disagree with the notion that there is a magnetic-like attraction to the natural beauty of our “neck of the woods.”
Nate Augustus is a native “Florida cracker” and a singer/songwriter from the Marco/Naples area. His band, “Gator Nate & The Gladezmen” and his “One- Man-Band” can be seen at many local venues. He has released multiple albums on his record label “SwampSong”. For more info on Nate and his musical doings, go to www.Gladezmen.com or facebook. com/NateAugustus His latest CD “Gator Nate Augustus-Only Child Family Band” is available on CDBaby and Itunes.