A celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month occurs every Friday night in June at the Bo Diddley Plaza as part of the “Free Fridays” concert series. Inspired by the dream of late local musicians Richard Baxter and Roland Burns, African American Music Appreciation Month has been celebrated in Gainesville since 1998.
Kicking off this year’s celebration on Friday, June 7, is Little Jake Mitchell and the Soul Searchers, featuring old school blues and rhythm and blues artist Jake Mitchell. Mitchell is a veteran musician who includes B.B. King as one of his mentors, and who went on the road with James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and the Bobbie Blue Band. His first record was with Chess Records in 1957 on the same master tape as Chuck Berry. Mitchell’s band, Little Jake and the Blenders, was the first African American group to perform at a Gator Growl celebration in 1960. In 1965, Mitchell performed at the Apollo Theater in New York. He recorded with Impact Records in Detroit, Michigan, releasing the songs titled "Work with me Anne," "Not a Chance in a Million" and "I've Gotta Know." In 1975, he recorded "You Can Make It If You Try" with Newtown Records, the same label as Patti Labelle and the Bluebells. Mitchell also owned his own record company (Golden Hit Productions) in Detroit from 1966 to 1972. Mitchell, who now resides in Gainesville, Florida, is also popular in England where his recorded music is often played in UK northern soul dance halls.
Along with Jake Mitchell (lead vocals), the Soul Searchers include Brian Stevens (trombone), Charles Steadham (saxophones), Doug Meyers (trumpet), Rob Rothschild (drums/percussion), Lavelle Whitfield (drums/percussion), Allen McCollum (bass), Tran Whitley (keyboards, back-up vocals), Bruce Brashear ( Hammond B3 organ), Charles Henry (guitar, back-up vocals), Levi Griffin Jr. (guitar, back-up vocals) and Kenny Eunice (master of ceremonies).
African American Music Appreciation Month at “Free Fridays” also features Fast Lane (funk, soul, R&B) on Friday, June 14; The Shakedown (blues, rock) on Friday, June 21 and De Lions of Jah (reggae) on Friday, June 28
The entire “Free Fridays” 2019 schedule may be viewed at www.freefridaysgnv.com. The Bo Diddley Plaza is located at 111 E. University Ave. in downtown Gainesville.