Tampa Bay's history as a "professional" music scene can be traced as far back as the 1910's with the formation of the American Federation of Musicians-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter in 1919. However, the music scene in Tampa Bay didn't really start to kick into gear until the 1930's. During the 1930's and 1940's there was a huge blues movement that formed in the Tampa / Ybor City area, specifically in the Central Ave. district. 

Before relocating to Chicago, blues legend Tampa Red grew up in the area known as "The Scrub". It was also in this area during the 1930's where Tampa blues musician, Charlie Brantley, first learned how to play from a local musician known as "Piccolo" PeteBrantly would eventually become a member of the Florida Collegians, which was a group of various professional musicians based in Tampa.

Before relocating to Chicago, blues legend Tampa Red grew up in the area known as "The Scrub". It was also in this area during the 1930's where Tampa blues musician, Charlie Brantley, first learned how to play from a local musician known as "Piccolo" PeteBrantly would eventually become a member of the Florida Collegians, which was a group of various professional musicians based in Tampa.

As the local Tampa blues scene continued to thrive during this time, several venues in the area would feature live music regularly... places such as the original Cotton Club owned by the Joyner family, located on Central Avenue. There was also Club ChiffonCharlie Moon's Pool HallJohnny Gray's Bar, and The Blue Room owned by Watt Sanderson. All of these places featured local musicians, as well as various national acts. 

It was during this time in 1944 when Charlie Brantley formed his rhythm & blues band, Charlie Brantley and his Original Honey Dippers. The band not only became extremely popular in the Tampa Bay area, but throughout all of Florida as well. 

 Outside of the strong blues scene that was highly evident in 1940's Tampa, there was other significant events taking shape in the local music scene as well. It was during the 1940's when the Tampa Symphony Orchestra was formed. On the other side of the bay during the mid-late 1940's, several community and city orchestras started forming in St. Petersburg as well. Eventually this would lead up to the members of the Carreno Music Club in St. Petersburg forming the St. Petersburg Symphony in 1950.

By the time the 1950's came about, the once thriving blues scene in Tampa started to die out due to the birth of rock n' roll. However, it wouldn't take long before Tampa would start producing rock n' roll acts.

During the 1950's, Florida would start to play a major part in the national music scene. Much like any other state, Florida would eventually become divided into several regional music scenes within the state. Gradually, five of these regions would eventually expand to become five of the predominately strongest regional music scenes in the state of Florida These regions were: Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, and the Tampa Bay music scenes. Due to these five music scenes, Florida had given birth to some great bands that ended up moving on to the national circuit. Out of the five music scenes mentioned, the Tampa Bay music scene has always been among the strongest ones, giving birth to countless bands and artists. 

In 1958, The Arena Twins (Sammy & Andy Arena) become the first recording artists from Tampa to be signed with a record company when they signed with Kapp Records to release their single "Mama, Cara Mia" / "Little Pig"The Arena Twins would follow up two years later with the release of their second single in 1960, "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)" / "This Could Be The Night", also on Kapp Records. Their third single, "Notify the FBI" / "Oh, What A Shame", would be released on Columbia Records in 1960, after they left Kapp Records.

1959 had also seen the formation of another local rock band out of the Plant City area that would eventually have a large following, The Satellites.

That same year, the Tampa Symphony Orchestra changed it's name to the Tampa Philharmonic. This name change would be just one of several changes to come for the orchestra.  


 When the national music scene became entranced by the sounds of the "British Invasion" in the mid-1960's, the Tampa Bay area music scene fired back with an explosion of bands themselves. In all actuality, the 1960's could arguably be considered the "Golden Age" of the Tampa Bay music scene. After all, it was the 2nd largest boom of the Tampa Bay music scene, the largest boom occurring roughly 20 years later during the mid-1980's - mid-1990's.

There were several contributing factors that lead to the “boom” of the music scene during the 1960's. One of those factors was a hugely successful concert series that was started in Clearwater called the "Star Spectacular." The “Star Spectacular” became a monthly (and occasionally weekly) concert series, showcasing both national acts and local Tampa Bay acts as well. The event was originally conceived and organized by music legend Paul Cochran in conjunction with WLCY Radio and the Clearwater Recreation Department. The first “Star Spectacular” concert was held on Wednesday, August 16th, 1961 at the Clearwater Municipal Auditorium. The headliners for the show were Dion, Bobby Vee, Jack Scott, Jo Ann Campbell and Curtis Lee. Following the success of this show, plans were immediately made for future shows.

Many local Tampa Bay bands would get their start at the “Star Spectacular” including Terry & The PiratesThe Fabulous RockersThe Impacs, Rodney & The Mystics, The Roemans, The Tropics, Vic Waters & The Entertainers, The Tempests, and several others. 

Another contributing factor that lead to the “boom” was a music venue located in Madeira Beach called "The Surfer’s Club". Owned and operated by Margie & Dick SextonThe Surfers Club became the launching pad for countless bands in the area who would eventually move onto bigger and better things both locally & nationally.

One of the bands who got their start at The Surfer's Club was The Tropics, who were managed by Margie & Dick SextonThe Tropics were formed in Tampa by Buddy Pendergrass as a seven piece horn band which included Wayne Guida on trumpet, Ronnie Ferer on tenor sax and Spencer Hinkle on drums.

After taken under the wing of Margie & Dick Sexton, they convinced the band to drop the horns, change the line-up, and go for a more modern Rock n’ Roll sound.

The new Tropics lineup would include Buddy Pendergrass on guitar & keys, Eric Turner on guitar & vocals, Mel Dryer on lead vocals, Charlie Souza on bass, and Bobby Shea on drums. The Tropics not only become the house band at The Surfer’s Club, but quickly started touring all over Florida. The Tropics biggest break happened on July 30th, 1966 when they beat over 441 other bands from around the country by winning the “International Battle of the Bands” competition that took place in Chicago Illinois. The Tropics victory landed the band a recording contract with Columbia Records.

Another popular band at the time was a St. Petersburg band called The Tempests. At the time the band formed in 1963, the members were only 13 years old. The original band members included Tommy Angarano on lead vocals, Charlie Bailey on lead guitar, Doug Palmer on rhythm guitar, Bobby Allen on drums, and Bill Hickman on bass.

Another popular band in the area at the time was Providence Records artists, The Soul Trippers. Originally formed in 1964 as The Outsiders, the band changed their name to The Soul Trippers after signing with Providence Records in 1966. Much like what happened to Elvis Presley in the 1950's, The Soul Trippers had one of their songs pulled from several local and national radio stations after it was discovered that the band consisted of 5 white men instead of 5 black men, even though the single sold 20,000 copies.

Other notable Tampa Bay acts of the 1960's included The Rovin' FlamesThe SurprizeBlues ImageThe Blues CycleThe Night Beats, and countless others. 
Tampa Bay bands were receiving Nation-wide attention on television as well. On December 11th, 1965, Tampa Bay bands The TropicsThe Outsiders, and Those Five appeared on the traveling music variety tv show, "Where The Action Is", hosted by Dick Clark. The show was filmed at the Bayfront Center Arena in St. Petersburg.

One of the biggest news events that took place in the 1960's Tampa Bay music scene didn't involve the Rock n’ Roll genre, it involved the classical music genre. On November 23rd, 1966, The St. Petersburg Symphony and the Tampa Philharmonic agreed to merge and form the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony. In a symbolic show of unification, representatives from both the St. Petersburg Symphony and the Tampa Philharmonic traveled by boat to the center of Tampa Bay, where they married the two institutions in a symbolic union. The new, unified Florida Gulf Coast Symphony would have it’s first session two years later on November 14th, 1968. 43-year-old Irwin Hoffman was the music director.

The 1970's had ushered in a new style of rock n' roll both nationally and locally. Due to this, most of the bands that had gained prominence in Tampa Bay area during the 1960's eventually disbanded by the time the 70's had arrived. However, the 1970's would see it’s fair share of popular Tampa Bay bands as well. Bands like Southern Mother Trucking Company, The HatsRich Rag$, and The Sugar Beats all had a huge fan base.

Another popular Tampa Bay band during this time was called Koco, 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 as well. However, Due to legal reasons, Avatar would eventually change their name. The new band name that Avatar would settle on was Savatage... and they would eventually go on to take the Tampa Bay area by storm in the 1980's. 


The 1980's would prove to be a very important time in history for the Tampa Bay music scene. The Tampa Bay music scene simply exploded wide open in the early 1980's, ushering in the second "golden age" for the local music scene which would peak around the mid-1980's through the mid 1990's. During this time, Tampa Bay become a huge hot bed of talent, comparable to the L.A. music scene around the same time. 

Leading the way throughout the 1980's were two rock bands, Stranger (formerly known as Lynxx, and later Romeo), and Savatage (formerly known as Avatar). Both bands would eventually sign major label deals during the 1980's, Stranger signing with Epic/CBS Records in 1981, and Savatage signing with Atlantic Records in 1985This would open the doors for other bands, both locally and nationally. 

During this time, bands were forming all over the Tampa Bay area, to the point where it started to seam like musicians were a dime a dozen. In addition, countless bands were relocating to the Tampa Bay area from other parts of the country, all in the hopes of having a better chance of getting discovered and signing with a major record label. 

Following the major label signings of both Stranger & Savatage earlier in the 1980's, two more Tampa Bay bands would also see major label deals in the late 80's and early 90's as well... Roxx Gang, who signed with Virgin Records, and The Hazies (formerly known as UROK) who signed with EMI.

Other prominent Tampa Bay bands who made a name for themselves during the 1980's and early 1990's included The McCarr Brothers and Momentum, Four in Legion, Blade, Multi Color House, Bleeding Hearts, Arazmo, The Damon Fowler Group, Deloris Telescope, Freaks Rule, DeeForce, Powersurge, Noiz, and Men From Earth... just to name a few. 

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. 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 Recorders,  Bay 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 music attorneys even started advertising on television and in print ads.

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 Music 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. WXTB 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. 95ynf also did their part in promoting the local music scene as well, airing the "95ynf Radio Clash" every Sunday night from 9:00pm - 2:00am. Hosted by Charlie Logan, the "95ynf Radio Clash" broadcasted local bands performing live from Morrisound Recording Studios in Tampa. 

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... "Trax" - hosted by Cathie Lucas, "Tampa Bay Players Live!", "Metal Masters", and "Dave's Garage".

Hosted by Cathie Lucas, "Trax" was a weekly cable tv show that focused mainly on the local music scene. On her show, Cathie would interview local bands and artists, play music videos by local bands and artists, and report on the local music scene news.

"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.


It wasn't just the local music television shows that was shining the spotlight on the Tampa Bay music scene... we were getting attention on a national & global level as well. Savatage was featured, and even hosted MTV's "Headbandgers Ball" on several occasions. In addition, The "Tampa Bay Metal Awards" received recognition on MTV as well. 

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. 

Tampa Bay also had several, annual awards shows to honor all the local music scene professionals as well. The three more well known ones were the "Bay Area Music Awards", "Tampa Bay Music Awards", and the "Tampa Bay Metal Awards."

As the mid 1990's were coming to a close, and with the late 1990's just on the horrizon, it seemed like nothing would slow down the music scene here in Tampa Bay.  


Also during this period of the 1980's & 1990's, a new genre of heavy metal music took shape and became hugely popular in the Tampa Bay area as well... Death Metal. Much like the mainstream rock bands that were popular in the Tampa Bay area, the Death Metal bands were becoming extremely popular on the local music scene as well.

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 such as the Brass Mug, or the Ritz Theatre, Tampa Bay was gaining some well deserved attention and recognition with this newer, much more aggressive sound. 

Tampa Bay was producing the majority of Metal bands. Bands such as Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, Nasty Savage and Deicide (just to name a  few) were all from this area. Cannibal Corpse, although originally from New York, moved their home base to the Tampa Bay area so they could prosper from the locally exploding Death Metal scene as well.


Before long, record companies started signing Tampa Death Metal Bands to their labels left and right.  

Morrisound Recording Studios in Tampa became one of the preferred studios in the Bay area for Death Metal bands to record in. Though the studios did much, much more then just Death Metal, it was Death Metal that helped put the studios, as well as the Tampa Bay area on the national map in the 1980's & into the 1990's... So much in fact that it rightfully earned Tampa Bay the moniker of: "The Death Metal Capital of the World"That moniker couldn't have been more accurate at the time either. L.A. was home to the "Hair Bands," Seattle would eventually become known as the birthplace of "Grunge,"  and without a doubt, Tampa Bay was then, and always will be the "Death Metal Capital of the World!" 

Even with the Tampa Bay death metal scene having an extremely large following, many in the scene at the time felt that it was being shunned by the mainstrem rock scene here in the Tampa Bay area. Though Tampa Bay was receiving world-wide recognition for being the death metal capital of the world, here in Tampa Bay the death metal scene was being looked upon as more "underground." It was even reported that the reason Keith Collins (Savatage, Krunch) founded the annual "Tampa Bay Metal Awards" back in 1990 was due to what he felt was the lack of attention and recognition that the death metal bands were receiving at the annual "Tampa Bay Music Awards" show. 


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 80'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 started taking note of the new sound and buzz that was being created in Seattle. By the late 1990's, the record industry was focusing their attention on Seattle and other places around the country that had a similar sound. No longer was the industry interested in the bands that Tampa Bay had to offer, or the style of music that Tampa Bay had to offer.

With the record executives no longer looking in our direction for either our talent, or even our style of music, the local music scene started to slow down. This caused a domino effect to take hold in the Tampa Bay music scene. Eventually the local clubs started changing their attitude and policies regarding "original" bands, simply wanting nothing but predominantly "cover" bands instead. Music venues that were once very popular started to close down and fans started to get increasingly uninterested in the local live music scene as a result.

With a dried-up music scene at hand and an uninterested public, local music media took a major hit. Eventually all the local music publications went out of business... JAM Magazine, Thrust Magazine, River Rag, Tampa Bay Spike, etc., etc.... all went out of business. Other forms of media were effected as well. "The Mike Pachelli Show" and "Trax", two of the areas biggest local music tv shows, soon went off the air as well. In addition, the mainstream media stopped reporting on the local scene as well.

Before too long, recording studios started shutting down as well. Management & promotion companies started shutting down or relocating to other markets outside of the Tampa Bay area.

With very little support or resources left in the area, what was left of the original music scene simply went underground and widely ignored for the most part.

For the years that followed, many would speculate and come up with their own theories as to what happened to cause the local music scene to take a dramatic turn and die-out. Some theories are that the scene simply imploded due to over saturation and over exposure. Another theory is that it was due to the birth of "Grunge" music, coupled with the Tampa Bay music scene's refusal to change with the times.

Regardless of the reason, the Tampa Bay music scene had become a shell of it's former self by the late 1990's. As a result, the scene would become stagnate, and remain stagnate throughout the late 1990's and all of the 2000's.


By the time 2010 came around, many had long forgotten what the Tampa Bay music scene was once like. The days of regularly going to large music venues to see your favorite local, original bands perform had been long gone for 15 or so years. For the most part, the local music scene was reduced to small neighborhood bars that booked only "cover bands". However, during this time, a small, subtle resurgence was begining to take root in the scene.

In 2010, several on-line publications started to appear, promoting the local music scene. One of these on-line publications, The Bay Buzz, was created by area singer/songwriter, Constance Hilton. The Bay Buzz mainly focused on promoting singer/songwriting acts, folk rock, and eclectic rock.

Also in 2010, former Tampa Bay songwriter, Keith Wilkins, returned to the scene and started writing his local music column for the Examiner news website, the "St. Petersburg Live Music Bar Scene Column". Within the first 6 months, Keith's column became the #1 most read Examiner column in the Tampa Bay market, proving that people were still interested in the local music scene. 

In late 2011, the Tampa Bay area would once again see a local music magazine go into print... Mayhem Magazine. Though Mayhem Magazine's circulation was minuscule compared to it's predecessors from the 1980's and 1990's (400 copies a month compared to JAM Magazines 80,000 - 90,000 copies), it gave additional hope to area musicians and music fans that the tide was possibly starting to turn.

In addition to the few publications that had sprouted up between 2010 - 2013, several small fm and internet radio stations started appearing as well. These new stations were starting to feature local talent on their stations by adding their CD's into their rotation.


Many of these stations even had blocks of time dedicated to spotlighting local talent like WPRN 102.1 fm's "Local Artist Hour" & "Local Eposure". Some of these stations included WPRN 102.1 fm in Tampa, WSNR Social Network Radio in Treasure Island, Black Pearl Rock Radio in Tampa, RockSlam Radio in Clearwater, and Music Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg.


 *Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Live Music Bar Scene Column, Examiner.com

© copyright 2013 KAM Music Publishing