A celebration of African-American Music Appreciation Month occurs every Friday night in June at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza as part of the “Free Fridays” concert series. Inspired by the dream of late local musicians Richard Baxter and Roland Burns, African-American Music Appreciation Month has been celebrated in Gainesville since 1998.
Kicking off this year’s celebration on Friday, June 6 is Little Jake Mitchell and The Soul Searchers, featuring old school blues and rhythm and blues artist Jake Mitchell. Mitchell is a veteran musician who includes B.B. King as one of his mentors, and who went on the road with James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and the Bobbie Blue Band. His first record was with Chess Records in 1957 on the same master tape as Chuck Berry. Mitchell’s band, Little Jake and the Blenders, was the first African-American group to perform at a Gator Growl celebration in 1960. In 1965, Mitchell performed at the Apollo Theater in New York. He recorded with Impact Records in Detroit, Mich., releasing the songs titled "Work with me Anne," "Not a Chance in a Million" and "I've Gotta Know." In 1975, he recorded "You Can Make It If You Try" with Newtown Records, the same label as Patti Labelle and the Bluebells. Mitchell also owned his own record company (Golden Hit Productions) in Detroit from 1966 to 1972. Mitchell now resides in Gainesville, Fla.
Along with Jake Mitchell (lead vocals), the Soul Searchers include Brian Stevens (trombone), Charlie Blade (saxophones), Hal Saylor (drums/vocals), Allen McCollum (bass), Tran Whitley (keyboards), Charles Henry (guitar) and Kenny Eunice (emcee/sound engineer).
African-American Music Appreciation Month at “Free Fridays” will also feature the bands Cool Corporate Cats (jazz/blues) on Friday June 13 and the De Lions of Jah (reggae) on Friday, June 20. Closing out the month on Friday June 27 is a Music of Bo Diddley Tribute as family, friends and former bandmates of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer commemorate the fifth anniversary of naming the plaza after the celebrated artist.
The 2014 “Free Fridays” concert series is produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. The concerts will play each Friday night this year from Friday, May 2 through Friday, Oct. 24 from 8-10 p.m. at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, which is located at 111 E. University Ave. To view the complete “Free Fridays” 2014 schedule, please visit the Cultural Affairs Division website at www.gvlculturalaffairs.org.