Florida bluegrass in the 1980s had its own distinct flavor. Back before the internet gave everyone a chance to hear and see music from all over the country at the click of a mouse, styles percolated in their separate regions without a great deal of cross-pollination.
Florida is a long way from everywhere, and it takes a full day to drive its length. When you say the name, most folks think of Miami and south Florida with its Little Havana vibe, and tourists, or snowbirds who winter in the area, or retire there from colder climes. Or they may think of the Keys, with their low key, happy-go-lucky spirit. But the rest of the state, including the gulf coast, is more middle America, with a working class population who live simple lives for the most part.
Bluegrass in the Sunshine State was a bit like an island environment in those days. Not many touring bands made it deep into the state, and festivals typically featured the big Florida bands. American Bluegrass Express was a popular draw, featuring young Marty and Tim Raybon and their father, and Red and Murphy & Co, which was Murphy and Red Henry’s group before they moved north. These artists, and others, influenced a generation of local pickers, keeping the aggressive, mildly rowdy Florida sound going.
One such group that was steeped in this music is HWY 41 South, who hail from Palm Bay, located about halfway down the eastern coastline. All five members are Florida natives, and have been playing together as a group this past ten years. They are just now set to release their first recording, which mandolinist Mark Horn tells us they just never had gotten around to doing until now. The band is in high demand throughout Florida and Georgia, and they are dropping a debut single this week to bluegrass radio.
The single is one that old timers may remember from Ernest Tubb in 1968, called Destination Atlanta G.A. Written by Bill Howard and Bill Hayes, it had also been cut by Cal Smith the year before. It’s one Mark recalls his Uncle Bobbie Horn singing in his dad’s band when he was growing up, and he gives his best ET impression on the HWY 41 South rendition.
In addition to Horn on mandolin, HWY 41 South is Donnie Harvey on banjo, Dave Beaumont on guitar, Clint Dockery on fiddle, and Tammy White on bass. All five members share in the singing duties. Wayne Benson is the guest mandolinist on this track.
Destination Atlanta G.A. is available now to radio programmers at AirPlay Direct. The song will be included on the band’s debut album, Alternate Roots, which will be obtainable soon from CD Baby.