Written by: Keith Wilkins

© copyright 2011 KAM Music Publishing. 

Florida has always played a major part in the national music scene, going back as far as the early 1960's. However, Tampa Bay has always seemed to be the heart and soul....The nerve center so-to-speak of the state when it came to the live music scene, giving birth to some great bands that had moved onto the national circuit.

When the national music scene was taken under siege by the British invasion of the 1960's, the Tampa Bay area music scene fired back with an explosion of bands themselves. Tampa Bay produced a huge number of talented and popular bands back in the 1960's. Bands such as: Rodney & The Mystics, The Rovin' Flames, The Surprize, The Tempests, The Tropics, Blues ImageThe Blues Cycle, Joshua Dyke, Koko...and many, many more.

The 1970's had it’s share of popular Tampa Bay bands as well. Bands like Southern Mother Trucking Company, The Hats, and The Sugar Beats all had a huge fan base. Another popular Tampa Bay band during this time was called Ruckus, a band that featured a young bass guitar player who would later be known to the world as Hulk Hogan. As big as the previously mentioned bands were though, none of them seamed to become quite as well known as The Outlaws... arguably one of the biggest bands to come out of Tampa Bay during this time. The late 1970's had also seen the birth of a hard rock band called Avatar. Due to legal reasons however, Avatar would eventually change their name. The new band name that Avatar would settle on was Savatage... and they were about to take the Tampa Bay area by storm in the 1980's.

During the 1980's, Tampa Bay started to become a huge hot bed of talent, peaking around the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's. During it's peak, it was getting hard to tell the difference between L.A. And Tampa Bay. With bands such as Savatage and Stranger achieving major record deals, this had opened the doors for other bands, both locally and nationally. Bands started traveling to the Tampa Bay area from other parts of the country, in hopes of having a better chance of getting discovered and signed to a major record label.

It was also during this time that Tampa Bay would give birth to a new genre and style of music... Death Metal. Death Metal soon became very popular in the local music scene. Whether it was from the common everyday average garage bands that were sprouting up all over the bay area, or the more experienced bands playing in the local venues, Tampa Bay was gaining some well deserved attention and recognition with this newer, much more heavier and much more aggressive sound. Before long, record companies started signing Death metal bands to their labels. Tampa Bay was producing the majority of the Death Metal bands, and the ones that weren't from Tampa Bay, they were coming here to record in such studios as Morrisound Studios in Tampa. This would soon earn Tampa Bay the moniker of: "The Birth Place of Death Metal".

Following on the heels of Stranger and Savatage getting signed, along with the birth and popularity of the local Death Metal scene around the late 80's & early 90's....The music scene in the Bay area simply exploded! Bands were forming all over this area, to the point where it started to seam like musicians were a dime a dozen. Bars & music venues started sprouting up all over, showcasing some of the best talent the Bay area had to offer in all forms of music, but especially in rock music. Some of the bands that made a big name for themselves in this area at the time were The McCarr Brothers and Momentum, Four in Legion, Blade, Multi Color House, Bleeding Hearts, Arazmo, The Damon Fowler Group, The Hazies, Deloris Telescope, Freaks Rule, DeeForce, Powersurge, Blackwell, and Men From Earth... just to name a few.

It was usually standing room only, no matter what venue or which band you went to see... the clubs and venues were always packed. Venues such as the Rock-it Club, ML Chasers, Alley Cats, Brass Mug, Killian’s, Bourbon Street... They all were hugely popular, and showcased a lot of great original bands. During this time, The only "cover bands" you would find would be either some house band, or some lounge act playing at a local Holiday Inn somewhere. This area was rich with "original bands". You couldn't go into a venue to listen to a local band that didn't play all, or at least mostly, original material. Most of the venues would only gig bands that were original. This area became so rich with original talent that A&R reps from all the major record companies started looking in our direction, heading down to the Bay area, and scouting all the local live music bars & venues.... just drooling at the possible prospect of being the first to sign the next big band.

Along with the A&R scouts coming down here from all the major record labels to tap the well of talent Tampa Bay had to offer, Independent record companies started popping up all around the bay area as well. And the ones that were here already...all of a sudden had a much larger pool of talent to wade through. Some of the local independent record companies (just to name a few) that were prominent in the area include: Blue Heart Records, BSP Records, Concrete Cargo Music, Deep Cut records, and Little Leaque Records.

Along with the record companies and the saturation of bands came a demand for recording studios and rehearsal space as well. New ones started popping up, and old ones started getting much more business then they ever could have hoped for before. Some of the local recording studios (just to name a few) that were here were: Anything Audio, Atlas Recording Studios, Axium RecordersBay Sound Recording, Morrisound Recording, HouseQuake Recording Studios, Labyrinth Studios, Infinity Studios, Panda Productions, and Slam Studios.

Rehearsal studios were popping up as well, but couldn't keep up with the high demand. Their was such a high demand for the limited rehearsal space that the air conditioned storage units started advertising rehearsal space for bands in the media. Public Storage (or PS for short) was one of the more popular ones that would actually advertise as rehearsal studios...believe it or not. The local media started also writing editorials about the problem of bands using storage spaces to rehearse in that weren't air conditioned. The news media was actually publishing public service announcements in the papers and on TV, warning about the dangers of practicing in a non air conditioned storage unit. Some of the more popular rehearsal studios were: Apple rehearsal Studios, Circle Rehearsal Studios, Northern Lights Studio 18, and Atlas Rehearsal Studios.

Of course with the explosion of the local music scene, came the need for talent management. Management was a "necessary evil" in most musicians eyes, but in an area where original musicians and bands were a dime a dozen, they needed an edge. Local management companies were more then willing to fulfill those needs, and in return, scoop up the rewards. After all, back then there was no internet which meant no MP3, no downloading of music, no myspace or facebook, no websites period. There wasn't even public email yet. So self promotion back then was extremely hard to pull off successfully...especially in an area that is bursting at the seams with other talent that was potentially your competition. In order to make it big, bands needed management & promotion. Not to mention that the bands had to work their ass’s off to get a following. With no internet back then to get the word out about your band and music, you had to "pay your dues" by using flyers and gigging as often, and at as many places, big or small, as you possibly could. Hiring a management agency would take some of the work and stress load off of the band, and was an outlet to get your name, and demos, in the hands of A&R Reps on the national music scene. Some of the local management agencies (just to name a few) that were in the area were: Chrystallis Management, Keith Collins Management, Capstone Music Group, and Steele Management.

Tampa Bay became so much of a music oriented area, that even other professions were trying to capitalize on it. Area Attorneys even started advertising themselves as "Music Attorneys" in order to get more business.

Another outlet that was available to help the local music scene at the time was the organizations like the local branch of the "AFofM" Musicians Union (American Federation of Musicians), and the "Florida Musicians Association".

The support for the local music scene and the bands in general from the print media, radio stations and the record stores was phenomenal! Most of the record stores at the time had separate sections in their stores that were reserved for selling albums solely released by unsigned local artists. Record stores like Specs Music & Video, Peaches Music & Video, Bananas Records & Tapes, Ace's Records, Vinyl Fever, Vinyl Museum, and Asylum Records & Tapes all were great supporters, and featured local artists & bands in all their stores.

The local instrument stores were doing their part in helping all the great talent as well. Seminole Music & Sound, Paragon Music, Bringe Music, Music Mart, and Thoroughgood all played a huge part. Many of these stores would constantly feature on site performances by the local bands. Bleeding Hearts would perform on several occasions at both locations of Seminole Music & Sound,and would pack huge crowds each time.

Record stores and instrument stores weren't the only great supporters of the local bands either...the scene was being highly promoted on the airwaves as well. Unlike most other parts of Florida, Tampa Bay was one of the only areas where local radio stations were setting aside pockets of precious air time in order to showcase our great talent in the form of an hour or so of playing nothing but songs from local artists. These stations would also broadcast in-studio interviews and performances with local artists & bands as well. 98ROCK had their "Tampa Bay Rocks" show, hosted by Jeff Zinda from 9:00pm - Midnight on Sunday nights. WMNF 88.5 FM had their "Local Music Show" hosted by Ron Boyko on Thursday nights from 11:00pm - Midnight. The now defunct 95ynf also did their part in promoting the local music scene as well.

The radio dial wasn't the only place you could find Bay area talent showcased....tv was lending a helpful hand as well. There were several cable access shows that were dedicated to showcasing local bands and clubs, for example: "Trax" & "Dave's Garage". "Dave's Garage" was A cross between the "Tonight Show", and "Wayne's World". "Dave’s Garage" would feature local bands performing in the studio, as well as conduct Interviews with the local talent.
Probably the longest lasting, and more popular of the TV shows was "The Mike Pachelli Show". This show was hosted by local Tampa Bay musician, Mike Pachelli, who fronted the band, "The Mike Pachelli Group". The TV show aired In the 80's and 90's. Pachelli hosted his television show on the Warner Bros. Affiliate WTMV for 10 years on Friday and Saturday nights in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Orlando market. The program boasted a 14 million cumulative audience. Mike would often have guest musicians from the local Tampa Bay area, as well as national artists, jamming on the show in between skits, interviews, and showing music videos.

The publicity didn't end with just the radio stations, TV stations, or record stores either. The print media was covering the bay area as well, in the form of both fan & trade magazines. Tampa Bay had plenty of print media coverage in locally published magazines such as: Thrust Magazine, Players Magazine, Focus Magazine, JAM Magazine, and Creative Loafing. Creative Loafing (which is still in existence today) was more of an eclectic, alternative newspaper itself. They featured more then just the local music scene in there newspaper, however, they did their fair share of covering the local music scene. The other four magazines were purely dedicated to the local music scene, complete with editorials, interviews, show schedules, band press releases, album reviews, and musician classifieds. The local music scene became so huge that even the bi-weekly, 100 page Jam magazine wasn't enough, so once a year the publisher of JAM magazine would publish a special edition magazine called "The Florida Music Directory". This special addition of the magazine was a nearly 200 page, who's who in the local music business. It was by all practicality, a trade magazine that offered descriptions and contact information of everyone in the Tampa Bay music industry. it listed not only the local bands & artists, but also Contract Songwriters, Promoters, Agents/Managers, Radio Stations, Music Attorneys, Sound/Lighting, Transportation, Venues, Video Production, Media, Record Companies, Distribution, Recording/Rehearsal Studios.....and much, much more.

Tampa Bay played host to several large scale events during this time as well. 98ROCK started the popular, annual multi-day event & concert known as "Livestock" back in 1990 to showcase both national and local bands. Also there was Tampa Bays own music awards show known as the "Bay Area Music Awards".

As the mid 1990's started coming to a close, the music industry on a whole started to take a drastic turn, on many levels. Much like Tampa Bay gave birth to Death Metal back in the 1980's, another U.S. city, Seattle Washington, had given birth to a newer genre of rock called "Grunge". By the mid 1990's Grunge Rock had managed to cement their foundation strongly into the national music scene, and the record industry decided they wanted to start looking in Seattle instead of Tampa Bay for the next best thing. Due to this, the local music scene started to slow down and become stagnant during the late 1990's and throughout the 2000's. A&R reps started ignoring the Tampa Bay area and the local music magazines started going out of business. With the record executives no longer looking in our direction for either our talented bands, or even our style of music, the local music scene started to slow down. Eventually the local clubs started changing their attitudes and policies regarding "original" bands, simply wanting nothing but predominantly "cover" bands instead. Clubs that were once very popular started to close down, and fans started getting increasingly uninterested in the local live music scene as a result.

In the early 2010's, the Tampa Bay started to see a definite resurgence in the local music scene once again. Plenty of popular and very talented bands in the area started to form, both “cover” and “original”. Local music fans started getting more excited about the scene as well, and the local media started showing the scene some attention once again.

Whether or not the local music scene will ever thrive once again, like it once did before, remains to be seen...only time will tell. It will all depend on the overall stability and health of the music industry on a whole. However, with the advent of the internet & multi media devices out there, the chances of any U.S. music circuit having the successfully thriving music scene that Tampa Bay or any other city has had in the past, is slim.

 © copyright 2011 KAM Music Publishing

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