Following are short bios and videos of our seven outstanding song contestants in the recent RiverFest, beginning with our winner, John Stephens.
JOHN STEPHENS Melrose, FL
I teach private music lessons at my studio in Gainesville and at my home in Melrose. Music was always part of my life, starting with piano, then guitar and later I attended FSU school of music. I play in Gainesville and the surrounding area with my friend Jon Rhoads as Moondog and sometimes as a four piece group. I grew up in Palatka and lived on the St. Johns River. The Santa Fe River has special significance to me. I live in Melrose and fish and spend time on Little lake Santa Fe where the river begins. Like a lot of folks in this area, I have visited and enjoyed the many springs that feed into the river and as a boy have enjoyed fishing and swimming on the river. This song represents my personal connection to all the many lakes and rivers that we are blessed with and how much they mean to our everyday lives and survival. This song is an attempt to express that.
“Roll Santa Fe Roll”
NORMAN FLEDELL Alachua, FL
Working 42 years in the horticultural plant industry. A graduate of U of F. I have a strong interest in native plants, birds, rivers, and local history. The song was written to be an anthem to raise support and awareness to preserve and protect the Santa Fe River forever.
“Santa Fe River Anthem”
ALAN HEIGHT Reddick, FL
I’m Alan Height, Florida born and raised with a little Cherokee blood flowing through my veins. I love Florida and most likely will be laid to rest in her soil. I’m self-taught on the acoustic guitar, inspired by my father. I have been writing poetry since the age of 18 and began writing song when I learned my first 3 chords. In 1995, 10 of my songs were recorded in Nashville with me singing, backed by a studio band of notable musicians. Writing is one of my greatest passions and when I put music to the words they come alive. ‘All Year Round on the Santa Fe,’ merely states the Santa Fe River is a wonder and you can enjoy its pleasures all year round. It doesn’t only have to be a sunny summer day. Note; This is the basic acoustic version of the song, 02:17. If you want to be more creative there is plenty of room for more instruments, back ground vocals and instrumentals.
“All Year Round on the Santa Fe”
CECILIA JONES, High Springs, FL
Local acupuncturist that has no formal musical training. I just love the river and have sung most of my life in school and church settings. I grew up playing at Rainbow Springs and on Blue Run in the 50s and 60s. When I moved into the Gainesville area in 1977, the Santa Fe River and her beautiful springs became my new river home.
GINA LAMONT, Tampa, FL
MAMA GINA feels most at home when she can feel the earth beneath her feet and taste the freedom of the open sky. She is a Bard, singer/songwriter, fearless storyteller, and wanderlust. With down-to-earth, bluesy vocals, a bit of humor, and straight-ahead, rhythmic, acoustic guitar, djembe and frame drum, she tells the true stories that fall into her head and heart. She often sings of her spiritual connection to the natural world, and of our responsibility to nurture both the mundane and the magical. When she is not performing, you just might find her camping in the woods seeking inspiration from the earth beneath her feet and that vast, open sky. The Santa Fe River and its entire eco-system is so beautiful. It’s a place that has the potential to deeply touch and heal us. It is vital that we protect and nurture the sweet, slow Santa Fe River.
BUD O’DONNELL Fort White, FL
Fort White resident Bud O’Donnell is still a widely ignored poet, songwriter and playwright who publishes daily Twitter posts entitled Daily Twaiku by Buddyo (Tag Bud O’Donnell 3) and publishes a songs and commentary webpage wtfers.com. This song was inspired by the proposed fracked-gas pipeline under our Santa Fe River and by the hardworking and valiant efforts of the OSFR team opposing this dire threat to our river.
“Don’t ya be harmin’ our Santa Fe”
ELI & BILL PERRAS DeLand, FL
The many inspired lyrics given to and interpreted by Eli, combined with Bill’s bluesy finger-style guitar playing create a very uniquely modern take on true Americana music in its purest form. Receiving much recognition for their tightly woven musical creativity, they humbly remain true to their personal values. They speak out with strong heartfelt lyrics, accompanied with a soulful genuine pentatonic voicing, against social injustices, corporate greed, and daily follies in everyday life. They can grip your heart, search your soul, change a mindset, or softly strike a funny bone, all the while leaving the audience with a sentiment for the common good we desire in all mankind. Eli & Bill have opened or shared the stage with many nationally recognized entertainers, and are regulars at many Florida folk music venues and festivals while frequently travel beyond the Sunshine State with their songs and stories. Several years ago, Eli & Bill Perras took a canoe trip along much of the Santa Fe River and found the beauty beholding, so being avid songwriters, especially songs about Florida people; places; history; and culture, there was no way they could resist writing of this Santa Fe experience.
“Santa Fe River Watlz”