Our group leader, Laura, led us down a
winding dirt road just wide enough for a car that looked like
the scene of some B grade horror movie. As the road petered out
we saw a small, cinderblock building with a huge bonfire blazing
behind it. Instead of being slashed by a monster at the end of
the road, we reached one of Tallahassee's best-kept-secret fun
spots, The Bradfordville Blues Club.
|Patrons gathered around bonfire
behing the club
The building and location is nothing fancy
and once you enter the club, you know you have arrived at an
authentic juke joint. Few are left anywhere and perhaps less
than a handful remaining in Florida. This is the kind of place
where the Blues, America's authentic music, was born. It rose up
in the Mississippi Delta as the sound of a people crying out for
justice and fair play and finding its outlet only in the music
of the Blues. Eventually, it gave evolved into Jazz and Rock and
|Highway signs at Bradfordville
Blues Club reminicent of the Mississippi Crossroads
Robert Johnson supposeldy sold his soul to the
devil in exchange for being a great Blues player
The state of Mississippi has designated 185
points as important enough to rate a Blues Maker. Only 13 are
out of Mississippi and Bradfordville Blues Club is the location
of the only one in Florida. The club began in 1964 when Allen
Henry, Jr., his wife Marion, and his sister Inez Henry Haynes,
opened the original club on the property. It was called the C.
C. Club, The Henrys, an African American farming family, had
hosted baseball and musical events here on weekends. It later
was renamed the Bradfordville Blues Club under the ownership
Gary and Kim Anton.
Some really big name stars have played the
C. C. Club and the Bradfordville Blues Club like Little Milton,
Jimmy Rogers, Bobby Rush, James Cotton, Carey Bell, Bobby Blue
Bland and scores of other top notch Blues bands as well as
musicians who play the music that grew out of the Blues like
Zydeco and Jazz.
The night we visited, Johnny Sansone was
rocking out a fantastic mixture of Blues, Zydeco and New Orleans
style music. Johnny Sansone has won so many awards it is hard to
list them all. He was nominated for seven 2012 music awards,
Including The Blues Music
Awards, presented by The Blues Foundation, Song of the year
winner for Contemporary
Blues Male Artist,
Album of the Year,
in 2013 Best Harmonica
Player by New Orleans Best of the Beat Awards for
Once It Gets Started, his
The Night the Pie Factory Burned Down was nominated for song
of the year and he was nominated for best male contemporary
Blues artist by Blues music foundation awards,
Best Blues artist , Best
Blues Release , Song of the year, At the Offbeat Best of the
beat awards 2013.. Pretty impressive. Listening to him for just
a few minutes lets you understand why.
|Johnny Sansone and band on stage
night he was joined by a local favorite, Bill Wharton, the Sauce
Boss, who as the name suggest makes a mean hot sauce as well as
plays a hot washboard and guitar. I sampled his sauce and it was
a spicy as his music.
Gary Anton told us a little about how he
came to lease the Bradford Blues Club. "It was in ‘92 or ‘93
that Dave Clayton began managing the club; Dave really put it on
the map. He had some really big name players here. When we got
here Inez (Inez Henry Haynes one of the original Henrys family)
was almost 90 and could not remember who played here."
He talked about the earlier history when
the Henrys had a log cabin with a piano and would sell shots.
There was a popular baseball team called the C. C. Saints who
played here. Folks would sit out here all night long. Some big
names, Andre Dawson and some big names from the Negro League
played out in the field. He brought the past to life making us
visualize generations of Henrys, some of them still agrarian
farmers and some college professors at FAMU.
He explained about the Chitlin' Circuit
where Black musicians would circulate around the country and
play the clubs. "This was on the after-hours circuit. There were
three clubs downtown that were high-brow: I mean ties, dressed
to the nines. Mostly Black patrons but I talked to some white
folks that were out there too.
After the shows the rumor is some of these musicians
would come out here and sit in with whoever was playing. I
talked to two people who said that B. B. King, Ray Charles, Fats
Domino and Chuck Berry all played here during that time."
He continued, "When Dave was running the
club. He started the tradition of painting and naming the tables
for the bands that played here."
You can also see on the walls hand painted
autographed plaques of other musicians who played here. The
kinds of bands that make you tap your feet and join the swaying,
weaving, bouncing dancers on the floor. The lighting and
atmosphere all blend into making this a true blues club. That is
why, when Dave could no longer make it work, Gary and Kim knew
they needed to step in and keep the tradition alive.
|Dancers go all out at
Bradfordville Blues Club
During the band break, we all went out back
to stand around the fire. Musicians and patrons all gathered
there. Ernestine Fryson
was busy in the little wood hut frying her fish with a secret
recipe she won't divulge. It evoked an earlier time.
|Ernestine Fryson cooking her
If you visit Tallahassee, this is a "must
visit." As Gary describes it, "It's all about music… It's a good
more about the Blues:
American Roads and
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