Feb 5, 2021 - News

A look at Florida's soul music tradition

The Sam & Dave horn section perform on stage in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Photo: Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Florida might not be known for its music history as much as neighbors to the north, like Tennessee, but we’ve got soul.

  • In honor of Black History Month, University of Tampa professor and non-fiction author John Capouya recommended a few artists to check out from his book, "Florida Soul."

Why it matters: The impact of soul on Black history, Capouya says, was two-fold:

  • “It inspired African Americans with messages of unity, empowerment and hope."
  • "It exposed, by its success, Black culture to a vast audience who had no idea what Black people were about and probably had some terrible ideas about Black people."

Some of the biggest names:

  • Everyone knows Ray Charles, but you might not know he grew up in north Florida. He went to Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, had his first gigs and wrote his first songs in the Sunshine State.
  • Sam & Dave recorded their biggest hits like "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Coming" in Memphis but met in Miami, where Sam Moore grew up. Their messages of unity, respect and empowerment helped launch soul music into the mainstream.
  • James and Bobby Purify, of North Florida, had hits "I'm Your Puppet" and "Shake a Tail Feather." James died of coronavirus complications on Jan. 22 in Pensacola.
  • Lavell Kamma a.k.a. "Mr. Knockout" grew up in Jacksonville and made his name headlining the Chitlins circuit around the state. He played once for 100 hours straight in Ft. Lauderdale on a dare, earning his band the name "The 100 Hour Counts."

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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