Blues Fest at Buckingham Bar…
We made it back to Seminole Campground from Key West and we were planning to sit back and relax after our adventures in Key West.
However, some friends we made here at the park, Pam and Vic, told us about a funky little tavern down the road a piece from us.
After they described the place and then told us they were having a Blues Festival there on Saturday we were convinced that we
would have to wait another day to relax…
We looked on the internet to see what we could find out about this place called the Buckingham Blues Bar. The website claims
that the Blues Bar is world famous and after reading the stories on the web about how the owner spent $80K to buy a run down
bar,some surrounding property and converted it into what it is today. It is now a funky bar with a beautiful outdoor patio/garden
area where a good sized stage can host bands for a wonderful outdoor concert experience…
Less than 10 miles from the RV park this Blues Fest was a no-brainer event to attend… We grabbed our folding collapsible chairs,
made the short drive to the bar, parked, and made our way to the gate to pay our $7 per person to enter. Now the bar is nothing
special as it would always be classified as a dive bar but I say that in a good way since we both love dive bars more than the
chains since the people you meet in them are sometimes way more interesting!!!
We made our way out back where the music had just started and discovered a fun and energetic band named Diddley Squat getting down…
The saxophonist was fabulous and made several forays into the audience to serenade several of the ladies in the crowd. Of the three
bands that played this day, we felt they put on the best show.
The next band looked to be a collection of many different musicians as several different musicians took turns at the mike to perform
some of their favorites or some of the original works. There were a few pickers that could flat out strum their guitars and a thin
elderly fellow that could play a mean trumpet… This cast of characters looked more like a group of people you might see at a redneck
convention but they could play some jazz…
The last band that we heard was called Harper and wasn't really a blues band but featured an Australian who blended western music
with aboriginal music giving it a unique sound. A cold front had just unfortunately made its way into this part of Florida and we
didn't stay too long to hear much of this unique music. Harper could play a mean harmonica and would make the drone of the digeridoo
go right to your core…
I first heard the digeridoo in my travels to Antarctica and New Zealand in 1999 and later on when Sharon and I traveled to Australia
just before we retired. The sound that this instrument makes is a unique a sound as you will hear. If you have never heard the
instrument played before do so and you will know exactly what I mean.
So if you are ever in this area you really need to check out the World Famous Buckingham Blues Bar. Why, they even have a beer
drinking mule named Bucky but if you want to see Bucky partake in an adult beverage you will need to buy an Amber Bock since that
is apparently the only beer Bucky drinks…
Posted by heyduke50 at 6:37 AM
Well your old friend, and host of Radio Gumbo on WSLR in Sarasota, recently took a, "too long in coming", road-trip out
to see one of his favorite blues performers, and, owner/proprietor of the Buckingham Blues Bar, in Buckingham, FL, Tommy Lee Cook.
Here's my report:
If you're a blues lover and ever in South Florida, you owe it to yourself to take the time to map out a trip to Tommy Lee Cook's
"world famous" Buckingham Blues Bar. Orlando's attractions and rides maybe good for some people, but for the blues fan,
the Buckingham Blues Bar, in rural Buckingham, Florida is for you. Where is Buckingham you're asking? Well, we're talking
"the left bank", or gulf coast side of Florida. I guess the most recognizable city nearby would be Ft. Myers, it's about a
two hours drive south of the Tampa Bay area. If you are coming from the north, once you cross the mighty Caloosahatchee River
bridge it's the next exit, and then away from the coast and off into the rural interior of "old Florida". Open pasture land
and fields with livestock, palmetto, palm trees, and banana plants line the two lane road on your trip away for that "other"
Florida. When you come to Buckingham Road, and the "town's" only red light, you have just about arrived, a right hand turn
and you are soon there.
The place is owned by Tommy Lee Cook, a musician, recording artist, businessman and downright "good ole boy", who has gotten
it all right with his Buckingham Blues Bar. Once described by members of various motorcycle clubs as being "the worst bar in Florida",
Tommy has transformed this once dilapidated bar into a blues "oasis" that shouldn't be missed. The place celebrates it's tenth
anniversary this year, and all the hard work and attention to detail Tommy has put into this blues joint (and continue to improve),
have surely paid off big time.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon for one of Tommy's famous "backyard blues fests", and after parking in the adjoining pasture,
we walked up to the entrance to the "backyard" where the music was smokin' hot already. Normally these backyard events feature
a local band followed by a national act, however today we were in for a real treat. The local band abruptly canceled, which
left the three-band-in-one ensemble collectively know as the Boys Of Buckingham to fill in. Also the "house band", this loosely
formed band of solid experienced local musicians, led by Tommy Lee Cook is a treat and crowd pleaser from the moment you walk
through the gate. With such a large number of musicians to trade-off on leading the group, three hour sessions with no breaks
are routine, as was the case on my visit.
The "backyard" is complete with a large fire pit area, wooden decks, a covered bar area and another covered area full of picnic tables.
The grassy area in front of the stage is packed with blues fans in lawn chairs and with people dancin' and shakin them "booties"to
the non-stop music. With the various native Florida trees and vegetation as a natural backdrop to the stage, it is one of the most
comfortable and friendly outdoor venues you'll find anywhere. Not far behind the stage, beyond the trees, is where Bucky
"the beer drinkin' mule" who is the official mascot of the Buckingham Blues Bar presides, did I mention Tommy Lee Cook also raises mules?
We went over and said howdy to Bucky, and couldn't help notice several empty beer bottles in the pail beside the fence. Bucky is
known to tip a few during these backyard events and I couldn't help notice a slight glaze to his big ole mule eyes as he tried
unsuccessfully to persuade me to give up my tall-boy.
A stellar band, Harper & Midwest Kind, followed Tommy's band, but on this particular day a cold front was moving into south Florida,
so, after hearing a bit of this excellent headline act, which by the way features an Australian lead singer/harp player who somehow
incorporates a didgeridoo into his blues act (and makes it work!), we checked out the bar inside, where in a couple of hours The
Boys of Buckingham would play another inside set. After a couple more beers inside, while listening to a great jukebox selection
(featuring CD's from Tommy's personal collection), we headed out for our trip back to Sarasota with great memories of this place,
and knowing we would soon be back again.
A great setting, a terrific mix of people, pure down-home blues, with a hint of southern rock thrown in, played by some the greatest
musicians "you've never heard of", and all presided over by owner/ proprietor, bluesman, Tommy Lee Cook. Check it out for yourself
Radio Gumbo Show WSLR Sarasota