The Early Years of the Orange Blossom Blues Society

The Early Years of the Orange Blossom Blues Society

The Early Years of the OBBS

The Orange Blossom Blues Society is getting close to celebrating its twelfth anniversary! My, how the time has flown…  I’m going to take a few minutes and look back over the first two years for our growing enterprise. Join me for this little walk down memory lane if you will…
 
When Jeff Willey put together a new jam at Cafe Annie downtown, many blues fans and musicians who had previously only known one another from jams way back in the day or from on-line forums got to meet and play together and talk about how Central Florida ought to have an organized Blues Society.  “Big Willey” got that event started in August of 2004 and it wasn’t long before the event became ground zero for an effort to launch a real Blues Society. Some of the original conspirators included “MuDDfish Mike”, Edwards, Tim Williams, Jae Futch, Jeff and his sidekick on the Smokin’ Torps, Clay Cole, “Burnin’ Vernon” Miller, Rob Mola, and yours truly, “Bulldog Ben” Basile.
 
By the 3rd of November, Mike Edwards wrote to a contact at the Blues Foundation to inquire as to exactly what a new Blues Society had to do to affiliate. On November 10th, Tim, Burnin’ Vernon, Rob Mola, Jeff and Mr. Bulldog met before the jam, decided to actually “go for it” and passed the hat to try and raise enough cash to actually file. Mike Edwards and Jae were very much involved in these deliberations but both of them were out of town on that fateful evening.  It wasn’t long before Jae and her expert and volunteer legal consultants helped us get the papers submitted and approved; The Orange Blossom Blues Society was born on the most-auspicious day of November 16, 2004! The date was chosen deliberately, as it is the birthday of W.C. Handy, “The Father of the Blues!” Not a bad choice, if I do say so!
 
As many Central Florida blues lovers know, Jeff Willey is not only a fine musician, but an able promoter; Jeff had been hard at work for some time putting together the First Orlando Blues Festival. It worked out well that the chosen date of November 20th came around just as Jeff and the rest of the co-conspirators were able to get the OBBS up and running. The Fest was a huge success in so many ways; though a couple of hundred more attendees would have been nice, Wall Street Plaza probably couldn’t have held anymore! The crowd loved it, and some of the best talent Central Florida had to offer got to shine on-stage. The line-up for that top-shelf local event featured:
 
The Revival Band ~ “Burnin’ Vernon and Wild Blue Yonder
The Midnight Ramblers ~ Red Eye Express ~ funkUS
The Shaun Rounds Blues Band ~ Smokin’ Torps ~ Soul Cactus
The Houseshakers Reunion
 
Our fledgling Society made many new friends that weekend. And many members got started in that volunteer habit, staffing our information table and preachin’ the blues gospel to all who came anywhere near! Mark and Tommy McCoy made it to the Fest and many OBBS-folk who have become fixtures on the local blues scene were all over that show. Jann Childers was on the table for the whole day. Others, including Jerry Waller, Jim Mahoney, web designer Amado Ohland and Jim Manuel were volunteering and helping to launch committees around the time of our official birth and in those first few months of 2005.
 
The very first Election of Officers happened on December 6, 2004. Tim Williams was elected President; Mike Edwards became the General V.P.,  Jeff Willey the V.P. for Public Relations and Jae Futch got the nod as Secretary/Treasurer. Our Officers, Directors, members, friends and volunteers put in untold hours trying to “Preserve, Promote and Present” Blues Music. The first two years had many highlights and successes; it also had some tough times.
 
One highlight for many local blues-freaks would have to be Mark Hummel’s first Central Florida appearance; that show was at the now-defunct Smokee Tavern on March 3, 2005. Mark has played here just about every year since, but that first show was memorable indeed! The jams at S.T. and also at Oyster Bay in Casselberry had long and succesful runs. Those jams and the clubs which hosted them are long-gone, but those were some good times. It was at the Smokee where players like Paul Stott and JoAnna Hudson and a young Selwyn Birchwood first came into the OBBS fold; today there aren’t a whole lot of blues-folk who don’t know these fabulous artists. And there were so many others….
 
Another highlight would be the launch of the official newsletter of the Society, The Orange Blossom Special Edition. She debuted in June of 2005. The OBSE has only had two editors, yours truly and Zaida Zoller, who had the task of getting our journal into print and getting it out to the friends and members for over four years. Susan Bowman, a first-rate graphic artist AND killer bassist, handled the layout for the OBSE for many years as well.
 
Who can forget all the good times at The Alley in Sanford for the last eleven plus years? They’re still helping to keep the blues flame burnin’ bright. That fine venue opened its doors in 2005 as the OBBS was just starting to hit its stride. Blues 4 Hire, featuring Selwyn Birchwood and Jody Hudson played there, as did Stoney and the Houserockers, our own Mike Edward’s smokin’ hot band King MuDDfish and just about any other top-shelf blues band you can name.
 The fund-raiser at Virgin Records Mega Store at Downtown Disney was a very cool and very badly-needed event. Jann Childers helped to get many of our bands booked there. Soul Cactus, and Omado Ohland’s jazz-blues fusion band were among them. If I may be allowed a personal note, it was very nice to play that event with Jann. The crowd was very responsive and a fair chunk of change was garnered for the relief of those knocked flat by Katrina and Rita.
 
The Blues at the Rock series at the Hard Rock LIVE at Universal was a good undertaking. Though it had a relatively short run, it did provide five killer evenings of top-shelf blues. Catfish Charlie, the Jann Childers Blues Project, Big Rick, Blues Crew, Teague Stefan, King MuDDfish and funkUS were just some of the fine local bands that had a chance to tear the roof off the joint at the Hard Rock while we had that going on.
 
Our second Annual Business Meeting was held at the Elk’s Club on Primrose; that was the first-ever OBBS event for future-Present and newsletter Editor Zaida Zoller. The officers elected in that conclave on November 13, 2005 were: Tim Williams, who began his second term as President; Mike Edwards continued as V.P.; and Jae Futch stayed in the ever-important Secretary/Treasurer slot.
 
By now Jeff Willey was off the Board of Directors but he was still promoting some killer events. His second and final Orlando Blues Fest was held on November 19, 2005 and had one hell of a line-up: how about the Smokin’ TorpsSarasota Slim, Beautiful Bobby Blackmon and the B-3 Band, Lucky Peterson — with his Dad, James, no less — and Little Charlie and the Nightcats batting clean-up! I sure hope you didn’t miss that. The rain did little to dampen our spirits that fine Saturday. The OBBS signed up three new members and made a TON of friends; there are active members still on the roll who first learned of our existence from this event. Something I’ll always remember from that weekend: hanging out with Little Charlie and taking his band back to OIA the next morning in my taxi. And, no, I didn’t charge ’em a dime!
 
2006 was only our second full year of existence. It had some highlights too — and one unspeakable tragedy: the murder of OBBS Founding Member Tracy Bennawit. Tracy’s life was cruelly taken on the 24th of June of that year. As many of you remember, Tracy helped to design a tee shirt for us earlier in 2006 but we had not produced any of them, opting instead for a simpler one. We decided to run her design for our Members’ meeting which was held at Oyster Bay on August 19th. The sale of the shirts with her design raised a modest amount of money to benefit Tracy’s then-fourteen year-old son. I don’t think anyone who was there that summer day will ever forget that.
 
On the musical side, the last three installments of the “Blues at the Rock” series made 2006, a more-than-fine year for us. The first-ever local appearance of harp-god Jason Ricci came in November. McWells hosted that show.  (McWells has since been sold; the Freindly Confines at S. Orange and Gatlin now occupies that space.) Many, many gonzo blues shows were held at McWells over the years, most notably with super-promoter and Past-Pres Zaida Zoller. The George Linson Stage at McWells stayed pretty damn busy for quite a while. The IBC competition from this year just happened at Friendly Confines; that brought back some memories. The place still looks very much like it did “back in the day” as the biggest change after the sale was the addition of a thousand flat screen TV’s.
Some other artists who played at McWells in our early years include Bird Dog Bobby, Mark Hummel and Brevard County’s Austin Pettit Band with Debby Boyer. Gary Ingber also graced the stage at McWells; Gary didn’t make a whole lot of appearances in Greater Orlando after that show. There is now a relief fund for Central Florida musicians that was started in Gary’s name. More about that in a future post.
 The year 2006 was also notable for another reason; it was the year the society got approval to operate as a non-profit, tax-exempt entity. Tim, Jae, Mike Edwards and Zaida worked tirelessly to get us to that milestone.
 Next in this series of the history of the OBBS, we’ll cover many other, more recent events, including the Ladies of the Blues series to benefit the Gary Ingber fund, our Blues in the Schools program and much, much more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this feature. If it helped you recall some good times and good friends from our first couple of years, that would not be a bad thing. Labor Day is right around the corner, with those crisp days (and nights) of autumn not far behind. As we draw closer to our twelfth birthday, I hope you will resolve to “jump in with both feet” and participate in your blues society. The mission of the OBBS is “to Preserve, Promote and Present” the blues. There’s a role for you to play in carrying out that mission.
 “Bulldog Ben” Basile
©2011, 2016 Benjamin Lawrence Basile
Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue is As Good As It Gets

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue is As Good As It Gets

The best I can remember, I first visited Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue back around ’85 or ’86… Not exactly sure. What I know for sure is that I’ve gone back about a bajillion times. And I’ll be going back many, many times more.

At the time I made that first killer visit to this Mecca of Florida barbecue, the Lee Rd. location was it. (If you haven’t been there, that’s just west of where Lee Rd. begins at Hwy 17-92.) I didn’t know that one day Bubbalou’s would have five locations. Or that they’d all be way bigger than the original one. And that people from every corner of the Orlando metro area would come to love their chow the way I did.

I prefer cafeteria-style service at barbecue joints, as you tend to have your dinner in front of you faster that way. That’s the system at Bubbalou’s. But their staff will be table side several times while you’re chowing down even though they’re not actual wait staff. You can tip at the time you order. They tend to fill up for lunch and because seating consists of picnic tables, you may be enjoying your selection with friends you haven’t met yet. But that adds to the charm of the place. And they feature a decent beer selection.

I’ve had five or six entrees, all told. I tend to order my faves over and over so it’s true that there are things on their menu I’ve never tasted. Some of my “stand-bys” that I’ve had a thousand times would include the Pulled Pork Sandwich, The Ribs and the Catfish Dinner. I recommend them all. If you opt for a sandwich, you can go with a bun or the grilled garlic toast you find at many barbecue restaurants; yeah, I know that “authentic” barbecue should come with plain white bread, but that is the one thing about old-school barbecue that I really hate. Give me the not-authentic garlic toast every damn day of the week!

Let me say one more thing about the catfish; it’s been consistently good and I go that route fairly often because catfish is not on the menu at most barbecue joints. So that’s one of the reasons I go to Bubbalou’s often.

Their sides are killer; there are many from which to choose. I especially love the collards and the black-eyed peas. But all the ones I’ve had are top-shelf.

I’ve been to four of the five locations; have not made it out to the Apopka store yet. Give me a little time. I’m not out in the UCF area that much, but the Alafaya location is huge and has a full bar and a substantial patio. You can play bean bag toss after dinner and they feature live music on weekends. I’ve visited that one four times in all; its vibe is quite different from the others. And, yes, you’ll see plenty of UCF kids there. Both as patrons and crew.

If you’d like to wrap a train trip around your lunch or dinner, the Altamonte Springs location is the way to go; it’s within easy walking distance of the Altamonte Sun Rail Station. I’ve gone that route and it was a lot of fun. In fact, they have a train rider special but you’ll have to show your Sun Rail pass.

They are family-friendly too. I’ve always seen every kind of diner on my visits. Check them out whether you’re with family, friends or “flying solo”, as is my usual custom.

You’ve gotta love Bubbalou’s. Five great locations. Top-shelf barbecue and very yummy sides. Fast service from an efficient and engaging crew. What’s not to like?

Bubbalou’s accepts most credit cards. American Express is not on that list, however.

I am not going to list the addresses of the five locations here. For that, I recommend their site. To see the locations and their fabulous menu, just follow this link.

 

Fave Fotos: When Seagulls Attack!

Fave Fotos: When Seagulls Attack!

I love this photo. Took it at Cocoa Beach a few months ago. Once in a while an amateur shutterbug like me gets lucky. Maybe in life it really is all about the timing.

Hope you like it. By the way, the main reason I’m doing this blog entry right now is that I’m jonesing to get to the beach but can’t. Heavy sigh…

Hope you’re doing alright. See you at the beach sometime.

 

Bulldog Ben, land-locked again

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Fave Fotos: A View of Orlando’s Lake Eola Park

Fave Fotos: A View of Orlando’s Lake Eola Park

Here is a foto I like especially. Lake Eola Park is probably the most recognizable spot in all of Orlando. It’s certainly a fave hang out for denizens of Central Florida of any age, shape or race. It’s  most definitely a “top ten” spot for people watching. A steady flow of walkers, joggers and moms pushing strollers. Beaming lovers, holding hands.

I love to take photos there. I love to take pix of birds. And tranquil nature scenes.

No shortage of birds of all kinds there. You can see plenty of ducks, swans, herons and Ibises.  For this nature-lovin’ dog, it’s like an afternoon at the zoo without paying an admission.

Plenty to like about Lake Eola Park. Big playground on the east side. Easy walking distance to all the cool shops and eateries in the Thornton Park area. The amphitheatre where I’ve seen a lot of free shows over the years. The Mindi Abair concert sponsored by WLOQ Radio back in the day–it doesn’t get any better than that!

So, back to the subject of photos, I’ve taken many shots at Lake Eola over the last 30 years or so. This one is a real favorite. I loves me some ducks! And any tranquility-promoting scenes from nature. Beautiful setting. Good photo. Wonderful memories.

It’s been too long. Heading back soon.

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Our Olympic Athletes Can’t Get Coffee?

Our Olympic Athletes Can’t Get Coffee?

I just can’t believe this. Oh my God! No frickin’ java for our Olympic athletes? Well, even though it’s hard to take in, this incredible story is true. I’ve found Mother Jones to be a reliable source of news on the internet. And it’s  Mother Jones that came up with this mind-blowing scoop. I can’t face the morning without at least one scoop.

It seems that Coca-Cola is the villan here. You can get lots of Coke at the games; but not one cup o’ Joe. Not a good state of affairs. If I were one of our intrepid olympians, I wouldn’t stand for it.

To get the complete low-down, follow this link.

Someone needs to notify the American contact for the I.O.C. right now! It’s time to kick some ass! God, this kind of thing sets me off!

Well, I’ve got to end this rant and get percolating; if I don’t get my second cup, I’m gonna hurt somebody!

 

Bulldog Ben, reaching for the scoop

 

© Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Baseball and Softball Will Be Coming Back to the Olympics

Baseball and Softball Will Be Coming Back to the Olympics

Note: Bulldog is really enjoying posting this one on the first full day of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Being the hard-core softball fan that I am, it was good news that the International Olympic Committee had decided to bring back softball and baseball to the Olympics. Back in 2005, the IOC voted to scratch these two quintessentially-American sports; that took effect for the 2012 games. It’s awfully good to see that mistake remedied; when fans all over the world watch their teams swing away in the 2020 Tokyo games, it will be the first time since 2008. In baseball, South Korea took the gold that time around, edging the Cuban team 3-2. The US came away with bronze by beating team Japan 8-4.

On the softball diamond, Japan took gold, besting Team USA 3-1. Earning silver was, no doubt, a huge disappointment for the Americans, especially since there was no hope of redemption in the 2012 games. The contest coming in four years in Japan should be memorable, to say the least. By the way, the Aussies came away with bronze in those last Olympics before the plug was pulled; no need to google it!

I’m going back to watching the last few minutes of a Beach Volleyball contest airing right now; it’s the USA vs. Australia. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Details about the IOC decision to put softball and baseball back in are here.

 

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

April 30, 2016 Rollins Tars vs University of Tampa Spartans

Set Your Sail for The Old Fish House in Cocoa Beach

Set Your Sail for The Old Fish House in Cocoa Beach

Note: this review of mine was originally published awhile back on a well-known travel site. Not a new review but I liked this place then and I still do!

 

There are so many chain restaurants in every American city and they certainly seem to be thriving. I try to patronize as many “unchained” establishments when I can. I think the Olive Gardens of the world will do fine without my dining dollar.

The Old Fish House Restaurant is one of those authentic, local places that I love to find when I’m travelling. I walked through the door about an hour before closing on a Friday night and immediately loved the unique design and decor. It’s been said before that there’s an inverse correlation between the money spent on the dining room and the quality of the food in most places. The Old Fish House in Cocoa Beach ain’t the Ritz, the furnishings are dated and just a wee bit tacky but their food is absolutely first-rate.

I started with the Buffalo Shrimp and found them to be near perfect. It’s easy to over-cook shrimp or to turn up the heat a bit too much on the buffalo sauce, but this appetizer was just what I was looking for. The breading was just the way I like it as well. It’s way over-done at so many places.

For my entree I went with the Catfish sandwich; they serve it broiled or fried. I went for the latter and can’t think of a single thing I would have done differently if it were my place. A fish sandwich can be prepared and served a jillion different ways, their approach was straightforward and worked quite well for me. I’ve had my fill of soggy fish drowned in Tartar sauce, overly-toasted sub rolls and mediocre cole slaw at so many seafood houses, but there was nothing to not like at the Old Fish House. My sandwich was paired with New Potatoes and some very-good slaw. Watery or too-sweet slaw can be such a downer! The chef did come out for a table-side visit. That was a nice and unexpected touch.

The prices were a bit higher than I expected at first but not excessive for the quality of the food. The service was adequate. I was a bit miffed when I had to ask for Bleu Cheese dressing for my Buffalo Shrimp but serving it with wings is not a given anymore, so the expectation that it would come out with my shrimp was probably unrealistic.

I loved my first visit to the Old Fish House Restaurant and will definitely dine with them again the next time I’m in Cocoa Beach. They are known for their all-you-can-eat offerings and although there’s nothing I can tell you about that from my visit, I just might have to visit again soon and bring my big boy appetite with me…

Bulldog Ben Basile

The Old Fish House Restaurant
249 W. Cocoa Beach Causeway
Dial 321 799 9190

 

Photo credit: Benjamin Lawrence Basile