Kicking off this year’s “Free Fridays” concert series on Friday, Aug. 7 is Little Jake Mitchell and The Soul Searchers, featuring old school blues and rhythm and blues artist Jake Mitchell.
Mitchell, who now resides in Gainesville, Florida, recently travelled to England along with Soul Searchers Charlie Blade and Tran Whitley to co-headline the Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender Festival. Mitchell is popular in England where his recorded music is often played in UK northern soul dance halls.
According to “Free Fridays” coordinator David Ballard, “We are very lucky to have an R&B artist of Mr. Mitchell’s talent and reputation living in Gainesville. He is a consummate performer with an excellent band that annually draws one of our series’ largest audiences.”
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.
Along with Jake Mitchell (lead vocals), the Soul Searchers include Brian Stevens (trombone), Charlie Blade (saxophones), Doug Meyers (trumpet), Hal Saylor (drums/vocals), Allen McCollum (bass), Tran Whitley (keyboards), Charles Henry (guitar) and Kenny Eunice (emcee/sound engineer).
“Free Fridays” was delayed this year due to the closure of the Bo Diddley Community Plaza for renovations. The City of Gainesville has purchased a mobile stage which will be placed in parking lot no. 10 at the corner of Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest Second Street in downtown Gainesville. This is the same location that the Union Street Farmers Market occupies on Wednesdays and is across the street from the Southwest Downtown Parking Garage. The public is encouraged to bring chairs, as there is no existing seating at this temporary site.
The 2015 “Free Fridays” concert series is produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. The concerts will play each Friday night this year from Friday, Aug. 7 through Friday, Oct. 23 from 8-10 p.m. at Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest Second Street in downtown Gainesville. To view the complete “Free Fridays” 2015 schedule, please visit the Cultural Affairs Division website at www.gvlculturalaffairs.org.