Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Flora-Bama Extravaganza or The Frank Brown International Songwriters' Festival

Gulf Shores, AL     High:  69    Low:   57

We're talking about the 28th Annual Frank Brown International Songwriters' Festival, held all over town here in Gulf Shores, AL and the surrounding area. The festival is usually held in early November and this year it's from Nov. 8th thru the 18th.....We're talking about over 200 songwriters coming from all over the U.S. and the world to multiple locations in Perdido Key, Pensacola FL, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores, AL. Many of the songwriters are multiple award winners, many are up and coming writers trying to make it in Nashville. Many of them are here FROM Nashville. They are here to pitch their songs, to see fellow musicians and renew friendships made over the years here in Alabama. They are here to make connections, to have a good time, share their stories behind the inspiration for their songs and share that with you. Most of the venues where the musicians are playing are free, some of the places have a nominal cover charge.

You want to hear some famous award winning songs that have won Grammy awards and other multiple awards from the songwriters who wrote them? They are here. Sparky had a hard time choosing some of the most well known, there were so many.  A lot of the writers are country music based and may not be known to you if you don't follow country music...But here's a very short list of some of the accomplished songwriters:

Sonny Throckmorton--From 1976-1980, there were only three weeks when one of his songs wasn't on the charts...He has written FIFTEEN #1 country hits...

Will Nance--wrote #1 Brad Paisley smash--"She's Everything", on the multi-platinum 2007 CMA album of the year...George Strait has recorded several songs that Will wrote...

Wood Newton--wrote "Bobbie Sue" for the Oak Ridge Boys, and "Riding With Private Malone"..He's written several more songs that won BMI awards for being played over a million times. He has two songs in the new movie "The Last Ride"--a movie about the last three days of Hank Williams' life.

Billy Dean--Eleven Top Ten singles over 18 years, numerous BMI awards....

Brett Jones--Fourteen Top Ten records, seven #1's....Most recent hit is Billy Currington's "That's How Country Boys Roll"...

We have a whole book full of talented songwriters and their bios and when they play, you gotta have this to figure it all out! We got this from Lulu's, the restaurant in Gulf Shores, that Jimmy Buffett's sister owns. The bartender gave it to us...Inside is a handy dandy chart of all the venues, times, and artists...

It was hard to decide where to go last night!  We decided to go to the Flora-Bama....A big, sprawling, Gulf Coast landmark that bills itself as a beach bar/oyster bar and America's last roadhouse. It's located on Perdido Key, Pensacola, FL. They say you can have a millionaire sitting next to a biker, and we don't doubt that! Last night, we were sitting just feet away from Kenny Stabler, who used to be the left handed quarterback for the Oakland Raiders years ago and was the league's MVP.  The "Bama" as locals refer to it, serves a special drink called the "Bushwhacker"....They have lots of bands that can play on several stages, so its a huge entertainment draw in the area, with entertainment featured just about every night.

We paid a 5.00 cover charge for general admission to a couple of stages at the "Bama", but then decided to pay 5.00 more each to go to the "Listening Room", where we parked ourselves for the rest of the night to hear some fabulous entertainment from some of the songwriters here for the festival...Sparky tried to take photos, but they came out so poorly, she couldn't use them...But picture this....the Listening Room is an intimate setting of bar tables, booths, and a small center stage. The room is dimly lit. It's cozy and quiet, no talking during performances, and you'll be admonished if you do. That was very much appreciated....The performers interacted with the audience very personally and the entertainment was wonderful! We heard some of the folks mentioned above...Will Nance was terrific along with Steve Williams in their session,  Rusty Budde, and Red Lane are getting up there in years, but were still wonderful in theirs...Sparky doesn't know some of these old country songs, but Eldy does, and he just loved their music. You really had the feeling you were experiencing the history of country music by sitting in this cozy room and listening to some beautiful guitar playing, great story telling and lyrics that made you get tears in your eyes. It almost feels like song writing is a dying art, when you listen/read to a lot of what's being written today.

We heard some great women play...Donna Slater, Elaine Petty, and Ronda Hart were terrific! Those gals had some pipes, let me tell you!

One of the more disappointing sessions, was with Sonny Throckmorton. He got up on stage, forgot the lyrics to his own songs, appeared very wasted and gave up almost at the start, cracking jokes the rest of the session. He was quite the comedian, so it wasn't a total disappointment, but when it's your first time in the area to hear some legendary songwriters, it was a bit of a disappointment to see he wasn't up to his game....His buddies held their own, despite him..  Rock Killough was a delight on the keyboards and guitar. Rock has three songs on Sammy Kershaw's albums and has done vocals, played guitar or harmonica with Hank, Jr., and Merle Haggard.

We really enjoyed our first visit to the Frank Brown International Songwriter's Festival, or FBISF, as it's known. We hope to visit more venues this coming week to hear some more wonderful songs and see the writers. It was so cool to see the OTHER side of a successful song hit, the songwriter who made it possible. What was also wonderful to hear was the songwriters' voices themselves--they deserve to be heard, most of them have wonderful voices. You wonder why they aren't as well known as the recording stars are. It was great to hear the stories behind the songs, too....A wonderful experience and we are so lucky to be here to enjoy the music and the writers.....Stay tuned--ha ha-- for more down the road....


  1. I hate it when people yak when a musician is playing. Defeats the purpose of going to the venue. Go to Dennys! Talk all you want!

    *Sounds* (get it?) like you had a pleasant evening.
    Will tune in.
    *rolls eyes*

  2. A great evening you had for sure, nice to able to experience the other side of the where the songs came from.

  3. You two sure find fun things to do!!!

  4. Yay. I am so glad you had a good time at the Bama. The listening room experience sounded incredible. Now you might want to ask one of the locals about going on the "bushwacker tour." Those Alabamans sure know how to party.

  5. Did you plan to be there for this?? If not, you have great luck!! Sounds terrific.