Southern Exposure Music and Heritage Festival

Ryan Dettra reported to Historic City News that Stetson Kennedy, Florida’s most beloved civil rights author, will be hosting the inaugural Southern Exposure Music & Heritage Festival at Alpine Groves Park on Saturday, March 28th, beginning at noon.

The festival will feature the best in old time music, country, bluegrass, folk and blues. Activities for the entire family will include storytelling, cultural exhibits, a barn dance, old Florida vendors, antiques, petting zoo, activities for children, crafts and southern cookin’.

County music legend and Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin will headline the event, and crowd favorites such as bluegrass innovator John Cowan are sure to impress.

Also appearing will be local acoustic blues performer Willie Green, the legendary Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and the poetic David Dondero. Additionally, Frank Thomas and Stetson Kennedy will perform together combining storytelling with folk music.

Tickets to the Southern Exposure Music & Heritage Festival can be purchased at the gate the day of the event. Prices are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, and children under 12 are free.

Gates open at 11:30 am, with the music and activities beginning at 12 noon. The park closes at sundown. Proceeds from the event are to benefit the Stetson Kennedy Foundation.

Alpine Groves Park contains 54.5 beautiful acres in northwest St. Johns County adjacent to the St. Johns River. The site is located on the William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway (State Road 13), a magnificent winding roadway defined by a majestic
canopy of oak trees following the St. Johns River’s eastern shoreline. Alpine Groves Park is located at 2060 State Road 13 in Switzerland.

Biographical information for performers:

Stetson Kennedy

Stetson Kennedy is an award-winning author and human rights activist. Kennedy is also known as a pioneering folklorist, a labor activist, and environmentalist. He is the author of the books Palmetto Country, Southern Exposure, The Jim Crow Guide, The Klan Unmasked, and After Appomattox.

Kennedy was one of the pioneer folklore collectors during the first half of the twentieth century. As a teenager, he began collecting white and African American folklore material while he was collecting “a dollar down and dollar a week” accounts for his father, a furniture merchant. He left the University of Florida in 1937 to join the WPA Florida Writers’ Project, and was soon, at the age of 21, put in charge of folklore, oral history, and ethnic studies.

After World War II Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. While undercover in the Klan, he provided information – including secret code words and details of Klan rituals – to the writers of the Superman radio program, resulting in a series of four episodes in which Superman battled the KKK.

A founding member and past president of the Florida Folklore Society, Kennedy is a recipient of the Florida Folk Heritage Award and the Florida Governor’s Heartland Award, as well as an inductee of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. In addition to his passion for folklore, Kennedy has become friends with many literary giants including Erskine Caldwell, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jean Paul Sartre.

Charlie Louvin (Louvin Bros)

The term “living legend” gets thrown around quite a bit, but it actually applies to Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin. The magical harmonies and depth of feeling found on Louvin Brothers recordings of the 50’s and 60’s inspired a new generation of musicians, firmly establishing the Louvins’ stature as one of the most influential duos in country music history.

The Louvins scored their commercial breakthrough in 1955 with the top ten hit “When I Stop Dreaming.” They toured in 1955 with soon-to-be superstar Elvis Presley as their opening act and became members of the Grand Ole Opry. From 1955 through 1962, the Louvin Brothers churned out 12 hits on the Billboard country chart, including “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” “You’re Running Wild,” “Cash On The Barrelhead” and “Knoxville Girl.”

Charlie’s solo career began in 1964 with the top five hit “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” and he followed it with six Billboard-charting singles from 12 Capitol LPs.

John Cowan Band

Bluegrass. Newgrass. Rock N’ Rollgrass. True innovators defy easy categorization and John Cowan is the ultimate innovator. His ability to move easily between music styles and blend and bend genres into creative new forms has made him one of the most significant voices in acoustic music over the past thirty years.

After making a name for himself as one of the most in-demand vocalists in the early 1970s’ music scene in Louisville, Kentucky, Cowan rose to fame when he became the lead singer for New Grass Revival. He and bandmates Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn introduced a new generation of music fans to an explosive, experimental brand of bluegrass. After inspiring and entertaining fans for nearly two decades, New Grass disbanded in 1990. Cowan immediately gave chase to his creative muse, following it with a series of critically acclaimed albums as the John Cowan Band.

David Dondero

Few songwriters have experienced and expressed the sinking depths and uplifting optimism of humanity like David Dondero, and his ability to shine a light on the human condition is inspiring. Dondero is best known for his narrative tales of America. Having spent most of his life on the road, Dondero uses his staggering lyrical talent to paint tales of life in the US of A through clever word play and sarcastic humor about some of life’s most sensitive subjects. Simple Love is a poignant collection of songs woven with sentimentality, contempt, humor and lust.

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

This is a family-based act, comprised of fingerstyle guitarist Reverend Peyton, his wife and washboard player Breezy Peyton, and drummer/brother Jayme Peyton.

With just acoustic guitar, the occasional dobro, a minimal drum kit and the always reliable washboard, the trio concocts a rousing, hyper and authentic brand of Blues that sounds like what might come out of the backwaters of the Mississippi delta. The band’s raucous shows have become the stuff of legend, with Breezy wearing clean through stainless steel washboards, the Reverend furiously picking like his strings are on fire, and Jayme firing up the tempos with his kick and snare drum.

Frank Thomas

Born and raised in Clay County, Frank Thomas’ songs and stories reflect his strong Florida heritage, history and an obvious love for the land and its people and critters. Thomas got started nationally in the 40’s as front man with The Arkansas Travelers playing rhythm guitar. He later returned to Florida and performed extensively with his wife, Ann.

Thomas has written over five hundred songs, most of them about Florida. He has recorded nine albums including Cracker Nights, Florida Stories, Bingo!, Spanish Gold, and Just Another Day.

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