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Nelson Griffith


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Nelson Griffith
Series Title:
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (60 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Griffith, Nelson
Anthony, Otis R
Black History Research Project of Tampa
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
African American musicians -- Interviews   ( lcsh )
African American jazz musicians -- Florida   ( lcsh )
African American band directors -- Florida -- Tampa   ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Florida   ( lcsh )
African Americans -- History -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


Nelson Griffith discusses Tampa's African American musicians and bands, providing a detailed history of band names and personnel. Some of the more prominent musicians mentioned in the interview are Ray Charles, Bobby Felder, Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Zulema, and Donna Allen.
Interview conducted March 23, 1979.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.
General Note:
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 020799002
oclc - 436223989
usfldc doi - A31-00071
usfldc handle - a31.71
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COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


! Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida O ral H istory P roject Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00071 Interviewee: Nelson Griffith (NG) Interview er : Otis Anthony (OA) Fred Beaton (FB), Herbert Jones (HJ) Interview date: March 23, 1979 Interview loc ation: Hillsborough Community College Tampa, Florida Transcribed by: Kimberly Nordon Transcription date: March 31, 2009 to April 8, 2009 Audit Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Audit Edit date: April 20, 2009 Final Edit by: Christine Toth Final Edit dat e: May 8, 2009 [Transcriber's note: Recording starts in mid sentence.] Otis Anthony : g oing to interview Mr. Nelson Griffi th W hat's your address? Nelson Griffi th : 2314 Ten th Avenu e, Tampa, Florida. OA: Okay and today is March NG: Twenty third OA: Twenty third, 1979 and it 's twelve o'clock. M r Nelson Griffith has done some research assisted us in our res earch on black music in Tampa. He's talked with a number of people and he's now going to help us in terms of the history of black music in Tam pa. NG: Okay, thank you. Th e history of black music in Tampa has taken two phases O ne is the entertainment phase and the other is the educational phase and I'm g oing to touch on both of them. The first I 'll touch on will be the entertainment phase N ow we were able in our research to go back to the first band that wa s formed in Tampa that really p e r for med for pay, and that band was T he Jazzmen, and the band leader was an individual by the name of Blueshe Cook. The second band that was formed in Tampa was Fred Beaton : Excuse me did they give you did he give you a general date? NG: Oh the date for this band The Jazzmen was 1910. FB : Okay, good.


! # NG: T he second band that was formed as a result of T he Jazzmen's success was a group called T he Syn copators and T he Syncopators was under the direction of a Mr. Gramble Mingo and this was also during the early era between 1910 to 1920. Shortly there afterwa rd Banjo Boy Hawkins a prominent musician around Tampa formed a group called The Night h awk s. Now T he Night h awks has been the nucleus for the off shot for all other bands that will probably follow after this. Some of the members of T he Night h awks were people like Charlie Brantley later who formed the band call ed T he Symphony Seven no, Charlie Brantley had T he Honey Dippers T here was also Henry "Red" Clinton who formed a band later that was known as T he Melody Makers S o you can see that T he Night Hawks had some very prominent persons in it that later led to further band development or furthe r entertainment development. Now from T he Night Hawks, a group was formed called T he Florida Collegians N ow in this group T he Florida Collegians the later end of the group we h ad persons like Cannonball Adderley and Nat Adderley that played with them and then later they went on to Florida A&M University [Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University] as you probably already know and from Florida A&M they eventually went on their own, because FB : What was the reason why the group was named Florida Collegians ? Was it because they were in college or something or it's just a name they came up with? NG: I wasn't able to find out I think it was just a name they came up with at that time. FB : Okay. NG: The bandleader of the Florida Collegians was Je nnie B. Glover. Now from T he Florida Collegians there were several other bands formed bu t the main bands formed out of T he Florida Collegians was T he Honey Dippers and that was under Charlie Brantley N ow with in T he Florida Herbert Jones : Um, T he Florida Collegians were that band was that band done in Tallahassee or was that right here in Tampa? NG: It was here in Tampa. Florida Colleg HJ : It was those people that had gone to Florida A&M University that made up this band? NG: Some of them later went to Florida A&M University and returned at that time it was called Florida College Florida A&M College; it was called FAMC. Some of them had later gone to FAMC or a couple of them had gone OA: So would it be right for us to say that Cannonbal l Adderley and Nat Adderley grew up in Tampa, had their first musical experience in Tampa, or they moved here and had their musical experience? Do we know exactly?


! $ NG: Well in here I can tell you that N ow on Cannonball and Nat their father was one of t he original founders of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity here and they were they used to live here and they moved T hey were living in West Palm Beach and they came to Tampa and he help ed found the chapter Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and they were they got thei r formal education, you know here in Tampa then they left here went to Florida A&M University. And I think what happened here was that Cannonball and Nat were very domina n t in the group T he Florida Collegians and it the name Florida Collegians had some synonymous with them being in it and being students in Florida A&M but I haven't been able to determine, you know just what the situation has been there with them I f I could get a chance to run up to Tallahassee I believe I could find out what the sit uation was there. Now l et me see if I can give you some of the members the persons that were a part of T he Florida Collegians so that you'll be able to see how T he Florida Collegians turned out to be the nucleus of some of the other bands that came a bout. FB : Where ver you can give us a generalization that's good. NG: Now T he Florida Collegians was formed in the 1930 s B etween 1920 and 1930 or to the middle 1930 s we had T he Night Hawks with Banjo Boy Hawkins being the bandleader, and that was when Charlie Brantley and Henry "Red" Clinton got to be members of N ow in the middle thirties [1930 s] T he Florida Collegians were formed and some of the members of T he Florida Collegians where did that I had a list of them. Okay, the members of T he Florida Collegians was Walter B. Wa tson Jack Simmons, Henry "Red" Clinton, Jennie B. Glover, Charlie Brantley, Otto Graham Andy "Gump" Martin. Now a lot of people know Andy "Gump" around here ; he recently passed last year [1978] and he played his horn right up until he was about seventy seven years old. And he later formed a band also that was call ed T he Jamsters now right following T he Florida Collegians Andy "Gump" Martin formed this group The Jamsters; he left T he Florida Collegians and formed h is own band. And they played simultaneously along with T he Florida Collegia ns when I say simultaneously I mean in time, and that was during the ti me of the middle thirties [1930 s] going into the late thirties [1930 s] when they had T he Florida Jamsters. Now I was not able to find out who was some of the members in T he Florida Jamsters but I was able to find out that Andy Gump was the bandleader. Now from the personnel that was a part of T he Florida Collegians additional later personne l that came into m embership of T he Florida Collegians was Frank Sh erman now you'll hear this name again Frank has been very domina n t in the music development. Bobby Feld er, who is now living in Washing ton D.C. and has a group called T he Blue Notes out of Washington Bobby Feld er is extremely famous in the n ortheastern section of the United States now, and he also formed a band as an off shoot from T he Florida


! % Collegians called T he Symphony Seven A nd at that time Kenneth Nurse s tarted playing with h im and when Bobby Feld er left T he Symphony Seven Kenneth Nurse took it over but Kenneth Nurse took it over as a result of Bobby Feld er having been drafted into the A rmy, having to fight in World War II When he returned from World War II, he took over a s band director at Booker T. Washington Junior High School. Now that will show up in the educational end of it. And when he took over there he was band director there for a period of about two years ; then he got the opportunity to form an organization or join an organization in Washington D.C ., and he left and went to Washington D.C. and later formed this band called T he Blue Notes. FB : So would it be fair for us to say that Bobby Feld er is from this area ? NG: Oh defi n i t e ly T his is his hometown Mr. [Michael] Rodriguez taught him. FB : All those that are from this home town, I would just say that because that way we know we won't get it wrong O kay, from the general area in Florida, we'll just say that they're from Florida. If t hey 're from Tampa we're going to say they're from Tampa NG: Okay Well, now, Bobby Feld er is a native of Ta mpa. Walter B. Watson is a native of Tampa. Jack Simmons a native of Tampa Red Clinton is a native of Tampa in fact his wife now Miss Gladys Clinton is living at 1907 Cherry Street, and sh e is still alive here in Tampa. Jennie B. Glover was from Tampa Charlie Brantley was from Tampa everyone knows Charlie Brantley is from Tampa Otto Graham also from Tampa Andy Gump is from Tampa Fred Sharman qui te sure a lot I mean Frank Sh e rman A lot of people know Frank Sh e rman J unior and all of them. The y live right round here off of Columbus Drive here in Tampa N ow, Bobby Felder i n fact some of the Felders are still living her e in Tampa now. And he returns to Tampa every year during the Christmas holidays and he brings his band to play ; for some reason or other we always manage to get him back. Johnny B. Ne i l, also a member of T he Florida Collegians N ow Fran k Amarro was a member of T he Florida Collegians A ll of these individuals that I'm talking about here was born here in Tampa and they received their formal education here in Tampa. Otto Graham played bas s. Jack Simmons and another individual now he was not from Tampa bu t he came here and was part of T he Florida Collegians fellow by the name of Cotton Kirk He was about five feet one [inches] and he 'd hang around on Central Avenue all the time E ventually Cotton Kirk broke away from T he Florida Collegians and formed his own band and he called himself Cotton Kirk and the All Stars T hey jived around down a round the Central Avenue area of Tampa for quite some time never doing anything real pertinent ; he'd just pick up individuals from various bands and that's where he got the name the All Stars from because he found out he could use individuals from any band and they'd sit down and talk things over and have a couple practice sessions and go out and make some money.


! & And then there was ano ther vocalist that played with T he Florid a Collegians by the name of Clarence Jolly E ventually Clarence Jolly went with Charles Russell and he also teamed up with Rufus Beach a m Rufus Beach a m had a band called T he House Rocker s. W ell then Jolly left T he Florida Collegians and teamed up with Rufus Beach a m t his was taking place in the forties [1940 s] and the early fifties [1950s] and they formed th e band called T he House Rockers; played down round in the Savoy Club and up and down Central Avenue and the Peppermint Lounge and the Apollo Theater across the street in front of the Lincoln Theater for a lot of y ears in the late forties [1940 s] and early fifties [1950s] E ventually Rufus Beach a m got out of it and his son took over and formed a band that later ca me about in the seventies [1970 s] a round seventy two [1972] up until the present da y His son's name is Rufus Beach a m also and his son formed a band called Plum Nasty ; they live out in Port Tampa. Now you all probably heard of Plum Nasty well that's an offshoot of The House Rockers. Now since that time, Rufus Beach a m has performed with his son under the name of Plum Nasty. They have done several engagements around and he still does performances occasionally but not nothing as domina n t as he used to be. G etting back to some of the individuals that was in T he Florida Collegians as you can see Charlie Brantley and Red Clinton are these two individuals live d right next door to each other; they both formed their own band. Now Red Clinton f ormed the band called T he Melody Makers, Char lie Brantley formed T he Honey Dippers. Now T he Honey Dippers was made up of a unique individual it had at least one unique individual in it and that was Mr. Michael Rodriguez He joined the Honey Dippers, he had been off to college at Michigan State and Florida A&M University, had finished his master s degree in music and he came back home and he teamed up with Charlie Brantley H e played with Charlie Brantley all the way through the late thirties [1930 s] into the mid forties [1940s]. OA: Okay when we talk about these bands are we distinguishing between what kinds of bands or we talking about jazz bands NG: Well OA: Or we talking a bout NG: During that time in the twenties [1920 s], thirties [1930 s] and forties [1940s] you know they were playing swing music. The only band that was domina n t in jazz was the first band, Blueshe Cook and the Jazz m e n ; they played a lot of jazz. But during the twenties [ 1920s] and the thirties [1930s ] th ey were playing the music of that era. OA: And that' s called what now? NG: Swing.


! OA: Swing. NG: They were playing swing music. Uh, now Mr. Rodriguez was a keyboard player playing keyboards organ, piano ; at that time those were the two domina n t types keyboards and he played keyboards for Charlie Brantley and the Honey Dippers With in the band Charlie Brantley and the Honey Dippers we had another individual that was real domina n t in music ; his name is M anzy Harris N ow Man zy was not a native of Tampa he came from Gainesville A nd later Man zy formed hi s own band called Mombo Combo, and he used to have talent shows at the Elks Lodge that was on Constance Street right behind the Cozy Corner, which was on Central T he Elks Lodge was there and on Wednesday nights they would have these talent shows. And he bumped into a person on a talent show that was sing ing one night. Otis, you know him very well ; his name is we call him Bob Jackson, and later Bob Jackson turned out to be Man z y Harris taught Bob Jackson to play piano and organ; he found out that he needed one. B ob Jackson and Man z y Harris got to be a team and they worked with each other for years right up from the middle forties [1940s] all the way into the late sixties [1960 s] they worked together on and off. But in the mean time Bob Jackson became proficient enough that he ventured out on his own and now Bob was the first person to put together a female singing group and that group was T he Miraclelet te s as you probably already know with Cynthia Anthony, Jackie Williams and Br enda Hilliard. That later each of those individuals later went their own different ways, and Brenda ended up singing with T he L a vell e s that turned out to be a recording artist with RCA ; then she went on to sing the lead for Faith, Hope and Charity, which she is presently doing now. Anyway, Bob also wor ked with a lot of other bands. He worked with the group called Charles Russel l and the Kings Now Charles Russell came about as a result of having been in The Symphony Seven. T he Symphony Seven was formed from T he Florida Collegians A nd Bobby Felder, being a member of T he Florida Collegians after he returned from college had formed this band T he Symphony Seven A nd Kenneth Nurse was also a part of it ; when Bobby Felder left the Tampa area Kenneth Nurse and Charles Russell took over the band T he Symphony Seven and Charles Russell eventually left T he Symphony Seven in the late fifties [1950 s]. He left T he Symphony Seven and formed his own band called Charles Russell and the King s Well playing with Charl es Russell and the Kings was Chico Arenas and Charles Kennedy and they played with him for a while. In the mean time Mr. Rodriguez who would be playing with T he Honey Dippers formed a band out in Middleton High School he was the first band director t hat Middleton ever had and he formed a band out there called T he Sharps and Flat s, b asically to play swing music and to do a lot of his original com a lot of his original numbers that he was writing compositions A nd members of that band, the original Sharps and Flats a lot of these individuals ventured out to go on to play music that would carry them into the professional end of things. Now some the original members of T he Sharps and Flats


! ( were : Donald Young, Eugene Green, Ellis Moore, Earl Blanche t, James Nei l, Evert Miller, Walter Hendrix, James Watkins A nd then there was the second group that followed them: Elgin Ellis, myself Nelson Griffith Charles Kennedy Charles Phillips and Willie Wall ace From that group The Sharps and Flats th ere were several bands formed. Now Willie Wall ace was not a native of Tampa all the other individuals were natives of Tampa. Willie Wall ace came to us from a town on the East Coast I can't remember the name of it but later he formed his o wn band called The Love Bones. And they started working with Jo h nny Taylor Candice Dayton and Clarence Carter R ight now he's recording trumpet player for RCA, and he's working out of California. I've had occasions to meet with him an d talk with him several times. He played in T he Sharps and Flats along with me Charles Philips is in New York City now and he is working as a PR [public relations] man for MCA Records out of New York. Now Charles Kennedy, he went on to New York H e was responsible for taking the group The Bar ons to New York with Jerome Dobby; now he took them there in the late sixties [19 60s] and early seventies [1970 s]. He took Brenda, Jerome, Zulema, and Albert, to the north and got them an audition with various record companies and tw o or three different record companies pick up on them and did some additional work with them. Chico Arenas was also part of that group. E ventually he decided to come back home and he did. From The Sharps and Flats you can see that there were several bands that was formed a nd individuals actually ventured out on their own and made it. Now, at the same time The Sha r p s and Flats the original Sharps and Flats were formed there was a group that was real domina n t in music in th e Tampa area from the late 1940 s all the way into the early sixties [1960s] right, 1960 or sixty one [1961] was wh en the group began to decline. And the name of this group was T he Skyliners. Now T he Skyliners also had individuals that had played in the Florida Collegians and you can see now if you take the Night h awks going in to the Florida Collegians, from the Florida Collegians you had various person s to branch off and form their own group A nd one of the prom inent persons in T he Skyliners was Frank Sh e rman he was the band leader He was a trumpet player. Now also Frank had played with Charlie Brantley and the Honey Dippers and in that band with Charlie Brantley and the Honey Dippers and Mr. Rodriguez and Frank Sh e rman was two pertinent people that went on to make it extremely big O ne was a pe rson we referred to as Ray Charles they called him R.C. at the time. And I was fortunate enough to my mother and Ray Charles and Frank Sh e rman were all real good friends when I was a little boy T here was a trumpet player teaching me to play trumpet when I was about four or five years old I never could remember his name and last night in researching this information I found out it was Frank Sh e rman.


! ) I remember Ray Charles very well in fact he lived in the same house with us and the house was located o n the corner of Boulevard and LaSalle, right where the Central Li f e Insurance Company is right now. That's where FB : Okay. NG: w e all lived in that same house. It was kind of like a rooming house M y mot her had just come to Tampa and she was renting on e of the apartments in there. And Frank and Pepper, the bas s player for R ay Charles was part of that unit also. He lived in that house also. So from there Ray Charles went on and formed his own band H e went to New York, he broke away from them ; he and P epper left here and he stopped singing under the name of R.C. and started using his actual name of Ray Charles E ventually you know he speaks for himself ; he's now one of the most pertinent and prominent blues singers there is in the nation. Now as I was saying T he Skyliners formed in the late forties [1940s] all the way to the early sixties [1960s] S ome of the members of T he Skyliners were Frank Sh e rman the b andleader, Evan Hill George Hughes Jo h nny Manning N ow Jonny Manning was the bass player H e is still living now and he lives at 1908 Walnut [Street] I would suggest that if you talk with him he could give you even some more information that I may not have picked up in my research I didn't get a chance to see him last night. All righ t, then there was Lonn ie Williams, and there was a young lady also by the name of Tiny Williams she was an extremely powerful vocalist S he was one of the first premier vocalists in the area A nd the keyboard player was a young lady by the name of Kitty Wa shington Kitty eventually went on to become a soloist keyboard playing around here in the Tampa area now; her name now is Kitty Daniels and her son played with a group The Montereys The Mighty Good and Strong, and now he's a trumpet player for Tra ma And she also has another son named Keith Bouyard, who's an alto sax player and a keyboard player who played with The Montereys and The Mighty Good and Strong also. So the two of her sons now are still in to entertainment and she's in entertainmen t als o. She has recorded for T K Records out of Miami ; they've done a couple of albums on her Kitty plays such clubs in the Tampa Area as Hawaiian Village she was at the Page too for quite some time she was at Big Dadd y's, which is Level Three now. She's v ery dominant round in the area. S he's not popular that much among the black people but she is making a good living for herself and she was the first black female to join the musicians union, Uni on 720 in Hillsborough County. A nd I would say that since her there has probably only been one other female that has joined that union and that would be J er i Pilter who was the music teacher out at Young Junior High School ; she's a keyboard player also and so she has joined the Union. But those are the only t wo black females that the records will s h o w that are members of Union 720 here serving this area. HJ : What's the fee for those to join?


! NG: Oh the fee is about a hundred and thirty five dollars but the benefits is tremendous. The thing about it is the benefits for whites you know are extremely good, but for black you know black people we can play in the b l ack clubs and never have to worry about a union representative coming in to asses s your union dues or fees but it hadn't been like that with Kitty. Kitty has been playing the clubs where the union representatives see her and they want her to be a part of the you know what the situation is, so she has been a part of it. Now Tiny Williams, as I said was a extremely strong keyboard I mean vocalist and she had a brother that played in the band also and his name was Lonnie Williams A nd we had Richard Allen Richard was a trumpet player and he also was part of the Florida Coll egians, but he only played with Florida Collegians just for a little bit. Fletcher Davis played saxophone and right now, we had a fellow that was the first dancer and singer you know entertainer that came out with that group in the Tampa area H is name w as Dirt Gibbons and D irt is now still working here. He's managing the Soul City Boston Bar for Doc Cast el ano Doc Cast e lano is the person th at put T he Skyliners together. H e is the only person that is a non black that had some outright dominancy in blac k music in the Tampa area. He put in a lot of time with these persons, he bought them all the equipment he provided them with places to practice, he obtained booking agents for them, he booked them on engagements where they played with a lot of name acts a lot of these individuals had played with the big bands like Stan Kenton and things of this sort. F or instance Richard that was one of the reasons he left the group Kitty was called on several times to play with some of the big bands when she would come to town I mean when they would come to town T hey would need a keyboard player and she was an extremely good piano and organ player so they would call on her. Later during the time that T he Skyliners were formed there was a group called Ernie C al and Ernie C al formed his band The domina n t individual in Ernie C al's band was an individual that a lot of people know around here by the name of Zeke; he played alto saxophone Zeke's name really is Ernie Van n. And he played with Ernie C al for a long tim e and then he left Ernie C al and went to Charles Russell and the Kings. And Charles Russell and the Kings played right along during the time T he Skyliner s were in existence. And when T he Skyliners broke up each individual went their own way A nd the p erson from T he S kyliners that turned out to be real domina n t in music, as I said was Kitty Washington Daniels and she is d oing an extremely good job now. If you ever get a chance to, you ought to go by and catch her wherever she be. If you pick up the ne wspaper you'll see where Kitty is ; when she moves from one club to another her followers follow her. That's why the people book her and the type people who follow her spend money A nd she is one of a few in fact I would say right now she's probably the only black female artist that you can walk up and say "I 'd like to hear Somewhere Over the Rainbow. She'll write it down : "Mr. Otis Anthony would like to hear Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It will be coming up in the next five songs. Do I have


! "+ any other requests, ladie s and gentlemen ?" You name the song she'll play it. And that's one of the reasons why she is so popular in the area now. Now as I said as a result of T he Skyliners we didn't have very many off shoots of other bands fr om The Skyliners. The bands that seemed to have been the feeder bands to create other bands were bands su c h as The Sharps and Flats, and T he Florida Collegians. The Florida Collegians were kind like the forerunner of the n ucleus of some of the individuals that went into The Sharps and Flats. Now, we 're going to kind of cross here a little bit into the educational end of it and show you how a lot of this stuff tied in educationally h ow these bands came about. Now The Sharps and Flats was a band that came about strictly as a result of Mr. Rodriguez's educational efforts and from his OA: Tell us about h is inspiration NG: Yeah. OA: This instrument. NG: Okay, now from his efforts he was able to put together a band like I said The Sharps and Flats that later led into The Monterey s and The Dolls. The members the original member s of The Montereys and The Dolls were Ben Clark, Isaac Guess Henry Hart, Irving Hart Lonnie Jones, Wendell Robinson Now all these individuals at one time or another but all of them are from Tampa Wendell Robinson now is a mathematics teacher and he is writing music for he's an indepen dent music writer and he's been very successful in writing musi c. He's writing lyrics for T K Pro duction 1 pause in recording NG: favored o ther groups that wasn't successful and now he's playing with Tra ma. And as you know Tra ma having b een once a part of The Monterey s has sig ned a recording contract with T K Productions T hey have released one album and another one will be coming out pretty soon. Now The Monterey s did several recordings while some of the individuals in Tra ma was in the band, and their s was released on NGC Label. NGC Label is a label that was put together here in Tampa and was distr ibuted by Matchfield Records ; it was also distributed by TK Production and was distributed by out of California C apital Records. The Monterey s never did really get a real good solid strong hit but they turn ed out to be a good support act for bands appeari ng in the area as well as around the country, a nd was booked by some other more powerful booking agents for tours for California, for Mexico, Canada and things of this sort. Now the original members of The Dolls were Jeri Slamkins, Miriam Moins Constance Beal, and Rosetta Baldwin Those were girls that actually got The Dolls started. Now Judy Henry whose mother and father now run a place in Tampa called Barbecue King !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Part of TK Records


! "" down on Main Street, also sang with The Dolls, during the time she was in col l ege at Florida A&M University. Jeri Slamkins left the group and Constance Beal and Rosetta Baldwin left the group. Then we picked up two other individuals that were in Tampa, Florida : Sietta Sneed, who is married now to Gregory Douglas, whose mother ow ns Betty's Restaurant; and Sheryl Pil cher P i l c h e r Sheryl now S ietta Sneed was a vocal major at Florida A&M University Sheryl Pilcher is a vocal and piano major at Florida A&M at the time we picked them up A nd Miriam had been with the group from the beginning and she majored in I think it was psychology at Florida A&M University S o we had a totally professional group here. Those were the original re cording artists for The Dolls. The recording numbers went extremely well was the number that had been done by The Beatles called "Something Zulema di d the number when she was with T he Lavell e s; they did it over and The Dolls did it and th at number went extremely well. Now it went to number thirty six, the hig h est it got on the Soul Chart. As a result it netted the organization in the neighborhood of about thirty five, forty thousand dollars that was gross. The net out of it didn't turn out to be so pleasant. (laughs) OA: I understand. (laughs) NG: Then, as a result of The Monterey s coming about, we had another group that was called The Might y Good and Strong. Those were the brothers, sisters, cousins, relatives of indiv iduals that was in The Monterey s The Might y Good and Strong was composed of Keith Bouyard whose mother is Kitty; Charles Daniels also whose mother is Kitty ; Gregory Griffith, that's my brother ; my sister, Ruby Baker; Andre Walker w ho is a distan t cousin of mine; Ricky Pringly his name is really Ja mes Pringly, he was the drummer; Lawrence Hi res, who was the trombone player and I think that was all of them oh yeah, and what is Tulsa's full name? FB : Everybody just calls him Tulsa. NG: I know ; that's his middle name. Randolph Randolph "Tulsa" Hall. Okay those were the original members of The Might y Good and Strong and eventually The Might y Good and Strong broke and was put in to The Monterey s. They were taken out of The Monterey s when they finished college in 1972 and went on to form their own group called Trama. They wen t to New Jersey, and formed Tra ma. Upon returning from New Jersey they picked up a female sing er by the name of Donna Allen. Now Donna, as you already know had danced to third in the world as a dancer on Soul Train 2 along with Willie Current and she's an extremely good entertainer in terms of dance movements and as a singer she developed into a real good singer. So that was how we got to the present time where we are now with Tra ma, The Montereys and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 Soul Train was a television program that ran from 1971 to 2006. Many popular artists performed on the show, which also featured an in studio group of dancers who danced along during the performances.


! "# N ow one band that had this unique way of getting started was a Mr. T.J. Simpson who was band director at Blake High School. Now we going back to the time where The Sha rps and Flats had been formed. Mr. Simpson on the other sid e of town formed a band called T he Simpton es; he named it after him self. And he had some of the members of that band was Ruben Howard, Chico Arenas Nathanie l Tucker, and I can't remember some of the other persons, but he had some extremely good drummers in that band. This was what was unique about that band was that he h ad some girls in it in the later years and Zulema played with that band. She played keyboards with that band and she also played trumpet, with the band in the later year just before the band Mr. Simpson stopped working with them. Now from the Simptone s we had another group that developed, but they developed themselves at Florida A&M University. They were students under Mr. Simpson and they went to Florida A&M University and they started the ir own band. Now they picked up one person that ha s started out with The Monterey s years ago when The M ontereys were really known as T he Astros ; his name was Sylvester Pinkly, all right. Sylvester turned out to be the trombone player in a group called T he Devastations. Howard Carol the Carol Brothers from West Ta mpa th ey grew up right in the West Tampa area right out there in the projects and they formed a band Go vantes W hat does what was G ovante s? OA: Don't know. NG: I wanted to find out before (noise in background) OA: Oh okay. Go vant es, Govant es, G o vant es. I remember that name. NG: Escalante Govantes OA: That's right, Escal a nt e G o vantes. NG: Okay Escal a nt e G o vantes was a trumpet player Carnell Carroll was the original drummer Howard Carroll was the bas s player Sylvester Pinkly was the trombone player now he had played with The Monterey s for a while and with T he Astros. And the sax player they picked him up from Florida A&M University, I don't know exactly who he was. S o they had and their guitar player was n amed Billy McCull ough And Billy McCull ough is from Tampa ; he lives out on Hannah and Thirty Second Street now. So all the individuals in the band was from Tampa, with the exception of one ; that was the saxophone player. So T he Devastations went on to be a n extremely powerful group T hey did tours with George Simon, they put out several recordings and they are now s till in existence in the same ve in and fashion as the other bands around town.


! "$ Now there have been several bands that have managed to make th emselves pretty domina n t in Tampa. O ne of them like I say was Plum Nasty ; another one now that is doing very well is Unlimited Power. Now along the educational aspect of things in the musical development in Hillsborough County the most dominate individual was Mr. Michael Rodriguez and Mrs. Ruby Aaronton and Ms. Willie Belle Cook. Those three people were the persons that spurred either vocal or instr umental music on in Hillsborough County from an education point of view. FB : Is Mr. Simpson in tha t group? NG: Oh yeah, I forgot Mr. Simpson. I would have gotten to him and there's no way I could talk wi thout touching on Mr. Simpson. Okay now, Mr. Rodriguez was the very first band director in Hillsborough County ; he work ed at Booker T. Washington Ju nior High School as a Spanish teacher I n 1944 the school year of 1944 to 1945 they built Middleton and he was transferred to Middleton as a full time band director. Now, while he was working at Middleton h e taught music at Carver, Booker Washingt on, and Middleton High School. He was the band director for the entire c ounty and those were the only black schools in Hillsborough at that time, you know. And so he taught music there A t the time he was teaching at these schools he taught Mr. Simpson. He also taught other persons that was kind of domina n t Ollie Hunter He didn't teach Mrs. Cook, but I do know he taught Simpson and Ollie Hunter. And Ollie Hunter and Simpson played an important part in music in the later years. Now Mr. Rodriguez worke d at Middleton and developed that was during the time he started developing The Sharps and Flats. Bobby Felder was a member of the group that Mr. Rodriguez taught during the early years of the forties [1940s] forty [1940], forty five [1945] In turn Bobby Felder came back from college, he was drafted A nd then he got out of the service and came back to Tampa and took over as band director at Booker T. Washington Junior High School. At that time they had Don Thompson, which was the vocational school, bu t they did not have a music department there. L ater Don Thompson was abandoned and they discarded it and they built Blake High School in 1954 and fifty five [1955]. Mr. T.J. Simpson took over then and Mr. Simpson and Mr. Rodriguez were the two band dire ctors for Hillsborough County. N ow at Booker Washington Bobby Felder left Booker Washington in 1950 and Baby Gray took over. Gr a y Dickson was his name ; they call him Baby Gra y H e took over as band director for Booker T. Washington Junior High School and he played an important part in helping to develop some of the students B ut he was only there a year and in turn he left; he got in to some trouble and ended up being convicted and served some time in prison for possession of drugs. At that time they hired a young lady by the name of Mrs. Birdie Sullivan her name was Birdie Jones at that time S he eventually got married ; her name was Sullivan then divorced and married again ; now it 's Simpson. And she worked as band director from


! "% 1954 to 1957 The n Mr. Beard took over at Booker T. Washington from 1957 up until integration And at Blake High School no w, in 1955 Mr. T.J. Simpson who was a student of Mr. Michael Rodriguez came into being and he took over at Blake High School as the first band director that Blake High School had. At the same time Mrs. Willie Belle Cook took over the chorus at Blake High School and she taught some of the singers such that we know now like Brenda Cynthia Anthony Zulema Jackie, and Albert. All of these indivi duals have since gone on to do something dominant in music. Now Mrs. Cook was later transferred to Young Junior High School during the when Blake was closed down as a high school in the lat e seventies [1970 s] she was transferre d to Young Junior High Schoo l. In the meantime Mr. Rodriguez was still at Middleton High School and they closed Middleton and Blake the s ame year and made both of them j unior h igh schools. H e has remained at Middleto n as the band director. He's been there from the time the school was built and he is the only person that was there in music education. Now during the time Mr. Rodriguez was at Middleton we had Mrs. Ruby Aaronton who was the first female band director in Hillsborough County but she did it on the elementary level. She taught instrumental music at College Hill Elementar y School, which is now Lockhart [Elementary School ] She was the first female to teach instrumental music and she kind of fed Mr. Rodriguez and fed Booker T. Washington S he was the feeder school for Booker T. Washington, for Blake High School and so she had a good working relationship. She was really in c h oral music but she started an instrumental program based on the recommendation of Mr. Simpson. And she talked it over with Mr. Rodriguez and the y felt that it was a good idea. So she s tarted out working with them Some of her students I don't know who they were I do recall that she started instrumental music because the years she started instrumental music I was in sixth grade at College Hill Elementary School. Now Mrs. Aaronton later left College Hill Elementary School and went to Middleton and she developed that super aid number one chorus that Middleton had. At the same time Blake Mrs. Cook was over at Blake developing good chorus Now, later, in the late sixties [1960 s] they built Young Junior High School and they built Just [ Elementary School] N ow at Just Just did not have a band. Mr. Simpson took the students from Just because J ust was a result of having the j unior high school over t o Blake. Blake was a junior/s enior h igh s chool and then it split and it became a high school and Just was bui lt for the junior high school. And in turn Mr. Simpson did the job of both H e took the junior h igh school band and the s enior h igh s chool band and combined them together to make them one good solid band H e was very domina n t in the West Tampa and Port Tampa area with th e students and then Mr. Rodriguez and Mrs. Aaronton was domina n t on the Belmont H eights side of town. Now later on after Young was built and Just was built Fred Bean to ok over as band director at Young J unior High School A t the same time Walter Beard now was at Booker


! "& T. Washington Junior High School H e was feeding individuals to Beard was primarily was feeding Bla ke and occasionally some of the students were going to Middleton ; and Bean practically all of his students went to Middleton. And now the choral directors at these schools Mrs. Cook had to also take on choral music for Just and Blake but it wasn't the same on the e ast side of town. Mr. Rodriguez only had to worry about picking up individuals from feeder schools like Booker T. and Young, but Fred Bean was feeding him and the choral music kind of took a topsy turvy situation Mrs. Cook had to handle all the choral music on the West Tampa side of town, but on the east s ide of town the choral music was handled at Young Junior High School by Olivia Carmichael who turned out to be one of the most prominent soprano singers that have ever come of Tampa. She went to Bethune Cookman College and she got her degree in choral music and piano at Bethune, and she went on to sing with the she sang at the New York Opera Ho use; she did a tour there for I think about eight months. And then she came back home and sta rted teaching choral music at Young Junior High School, and she was the first choral director they had there A nd following her was Ollie Hunter. Ms. Hunter no following her was Ollie Hunter, and Ollie worked there for a while. Now Ollie was a student of Mr. Rodriguez and if I remember correctly she was a student of either Ms. Aaronton or Ms. Cook I can't remember exactly which one it was. And then Ollie Hunter left there and Ms. Cook took over at Young Junior High School and Ms. Cook Ms. Aaronton and Mr. Rodriguez worked out an extremely strong program for the e ast side of town and they worked together up until the point when Ms. Cook died. And Ms. Aaronton retired but she continued to work with Ms. Cook on a one to one basis whenever she needed her and when she passed away Sheryl Pilcher took over the choral music at Young Junior High School S he came from Plant and took over the choral musi c at Young Junior High School. Now really what had happened was when Blake and Middleton wa s turned into junior high s chool s and Mr. Simpson passed away the band director that took Mr. Simpson's place was what's his name ? O ver at um Turner. Turner, who s at Plant Junior High School now Ms. Cook did not go to Plan t to teach choral music; they took Sheryl Pilcher and Ms. Cook went on t o Junior High School to teach. So Sheryl Pilcher taught music at Plant High School until they dropped the course and Turner had been working with Simpson at Blake. Now near the end of years at Blake they gave Ju st a band a j unior h igh school band; they hired a band teacher for it. And that band director that they hired for Just High School was Turner. OA: Okay, do you know his first name? NG: I think it s Walter. R ight now he's at Plant High School. Now they hired him to teach mus ic at Just Junior High School. W hen they hired him to teach at Just he taught there I think for a year and then Mr. Simpson died. Now most people another unique


! "' thing about Mr. Simpson H e always signed his name as T.J. Simpson and most people did not know that that name stood for Thomas Jefferson. OA: To this day I did not know that. NG: Yeah, it s Thomas Jefferson Simpson and he never would. He might sign his name as Thomas J. Simpson but he did not like the name Thomas Je fferson. OA: (laughs) NG: He just he didn't like it ; he used to tell us all the time that he didn't. So Turner and Mr. Simpson worked extremely close together and when Mr. Simpson passed away Turner took over the band there and Sheryl Pilcher took the choral end of the music and they went to Plant with it and it turned she ended up at Young Junior High School, he's still over there. Mr. Rodriguez is still at Middleton. Now another thing about Mr. Rodriguez too you know he had the first band to m a rch in the Gasparilla parade. In 196 weren't you in that band? F B : Yeah. NG: What year was that? FB : That was NG: Sixty seven [1967] or sixty eight [1968] ? FB : Sixty eight [1968], I think it was. NG: Okay and it s 1968. I knew it was of the two. He was in the band, the first band to march in Gasparilla W ell then what happened was they had a meeting with the FB : This was Middleton High School. NG: Yeah, this was at Middleton They had a meeting with the band dire ctors. Proff and Mr. Simpson had pushed it T hey was mad because they would not let a b lack band into the Gasparilla. So they had a meeting with the Gasparilla officials and the Gasparilla officials said "Okay, we'll put a black band in there." And Proff and Mr. Simpson agreed to it. Ins tead of seeing in other w ords they got trapped into a situation. Where they say, "We will put a black band in," i t was going to be either Middleton or Blake. So they Proff said "Fine, al l right then we'll go get our bands ready." Uh uh a band. T hey wer e so glad to get it instead of pushing for two they got one. So they tossed a coin, and Middleton won the toss, so Middleto n got it. That year Middleton w en t in the next year Mr. Simpson had Blake in see they 'd let one band in each year. And that's what OA : Oh, they never worked together?


! "( NG: They (inaudible) FB : First chance we went was sixty seven [1967]. Cause Blake was the next year, then in my senior year I think both of them went. NG: I think there was o ne time where both bands went. B u t it was I mean it started a hassle like I don't know what. And then you know they was really smart about that. They put the band FB : We wasn't even on T.V. NG: No, they put the band in the parade route was all set up and everything put them in and they went they started this they told th em they was going to lead the parade. So it was unbelievable for Mi ddleton to lead the parade and p ut them in thirty five minutes before the parade actually started. Middleton band had marched all the way through the entire parade route and was out of it. FB : We was out of it w hen the parade started. NG : And then the parade started. So Proff then turns to Mr. Rodriguez. (all laugh) FB : (laughs) Cold blooded. NG: (l aughs) Yeah it was cold blooded. FB : Racism a ffect s every part of our lives NG: Mr. Rodriguez in turn went and warned Simpson. W ell Simpson already had fine d word had been gotten to him. I mean it was buzzing all over Tampa. So he told Simp what was going on; so Simpson when they got ready to mak e the parade line up surely enough they had them out front. H e said "I been at the tail end. They put me right in front of the pirates. So I'll be at the tail end so you'll see me. So, they jacked it around a little bit, so they put him between the Bo y Scouts and the Marines and they didn't put him all the way back by the pirates cause they knew the little children was going to want to watch and stay to see what it was. So they put the pirates ; band in front of the pirates A nd so, I think the year that both of them went in both bands had pretty good positions. FB : That was in seventy [1970]. NG: Yeah, so really that's HJ : (inaudible) that one time the bands were back behind the horses


! ") OA: The horses driving FB: T hat was in seventy [1970]. NG: Yeah, you know it s been (inaudible) FB : That was in seventy [1970] we was behind the float, pulled by horses NG: Yeah so they did a few things. So you can see that now another thing too D uring music education they had a band called during the time of the D epression, they had several bands called the WPA [Wo rkers Progress Administration] B and and there was a man named Ralph Duty H e was an older gentleman ; he was the director of the WPA band. Now the WPA bands were formed to give musicians work. And every Sunday, every Saturday and every Sunday they would get together they were street bands, marching bands and Mr. Duty would get them together and teach them some marches and stuff like that and they are marching through the communities pla ying their horns and stuff like this and they paid them. I t was something for them you know how the WPA situation was and they paid them T hey also had another director by the name of Mr. Spencer. I wasn't able to determine what Mr. Spencer's first name i s A unique thing about the WPA band is that Robbie Gardner who is now one of the assistant superintendent s of public schools of Hillsborough County little short Robbie Gardner played in those bands, he played trumpet. OA: Wow, that's heavy. NG: Robbie Gard ner played trumpet in those bands N ow he can probably tell you who what 's Mr. Spencer's first name. I wasn't able to find that out. Now that 's as much as I have been able to come up with right now I hope this will be of some he lp to y all. If you got any questions you'd like to ask me in relationship to some of the things that I have talked about I'd be glad to elaborate on it OA : (inaudible) NG: If you can read this. OA: Is it possible for her to hold on to those papers? NG: Yeah she can hang on to them. OA: When we get the transcripts together, we'll give you a copy of it. NG: Okay. OA: Personally I want to thank you cause that's a gold mine right there. That's a hell of a lot of research there. We wouldn't have done anyth ing better than that. This


! "* NG: Well then you'll find that when you talk with these people like Manz y Harris and Red Clinton's wife and Charlie Brantley's wife and all of those they will OA: Wait a minute I want to excuse me, I want to say who you w ere interviewed by interview by Fred Beaton, Herbert Jones, Shirley Smith, and Otis Anthony, interviewing Nelson Griffith NG: I also would like to add to this that the information that I picked up in my research was obtained from Frank Sh e rman, Dirt Gibb ons Mr. Michael Rodriguez, Mrs. Gladys Clinton, who is the wife of Red Clinton, Bob Jackson, and some of the knowledge some of the things that I put in there was I knew myself and there was one other person. Did I mention Manz y Harris? Manz y Harris and yeah those are the persons that I talked to. end of interview

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Griffith, Nelson.
Nelson Griffith
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (60 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Interview conducted March 23, 1979.
Nelson Griffith discusses Tampa's African American musicians and bands, providing a detailed history of band names and personnel. Some of the more prominent musicians mentioned in the interview are Ray Charles, Bobby Felder, Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Zulema, and Donna Allen.
Griffith, Nelson.
African American musicians
v Interviews.
African American jazz musicians
z Florida.
African American band directors
African Americans
African Americans
x History.
7 655
Oral history.
2 local
Online audio.
Anthony, Otis R.
Black History Research Project of Tampa.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
4 856