Not so many years ago, the Legendary JC's absolutely dominated, and not just in the Sunshine State. To hear JC's lead singer and Ten Pints of Truth mainstay Eugene Snowden tell the story (er, stories), the soul outfit was touring over 200 shows a year at its height.
Being part of that eight- or nine-person lineup meant playing at a time when local clubs and bands enjoyed a heightened period of creativity. Collaborating with poets and painters and actors on stage – in the midst of performing – wasn't the exception to the norm. It was the norm, period.
"The early '90s to mid-2000s was the most creative time this city has ever seen. Everything was there," Snowden says. "But the same damn thing is happening right now, too. You just have to look for it."
The JC's wasn't Snowden's first shot at making his name known in Orlando, but it was arguably his most successful. At the band's peak, they headlined a variety of music festivals and opened for major artists like James Brown, B.B. King, Dr. John and many more.
"That was the kind of music I've been doing since birth, part of this journey I was on," Snowden says. "Playing with the JC's was like going back home, you dig?"
Though times have changed since the group's heyday, the band hasn't exactly gone away. In 2012, when the JC's were touring about half the shows they'd grown accustomed to, it got harder to manage conflicting schedules and play as regularly. Not that this deterred Snowden from performing. For his part, he wanted to play even more. Over the past few years, he's been branching out and speeding up.
It's why you're prone to encounter him at the Milk Bar mid-week with drummer Katie Burkess and guitarist Dave Mann (his "triple threat"), or at a tribute night devoted to Sam Cooke's legacy at the Imperial. The man's restless.
Snowden laughs it off as a musical mid-life crisis of sorts, only instead of getting the Ferrari and sweet young thing to go with it, he's aiming higher, performing in new ways with new collaborators and planning to release a string of EPs.
He's working hard to establish himself as a solo artist and itching to take his act on the road. With an ear for most any tune, he's quick to fold himself into whatever genre or band will receive him. Case in point: This week, Snowden plays Florida Music Festival with local garage rockers the Woolly Bushmen as his band.
Beyond that, his goals run rampant. He wants to sing with a couple of punk bands and talks about joining up with the Sh-Booms for a tune. It seems he's got a long list of musical aspirations he wants to accomplish and that it'll get longer before it gets shorter.
It makes you wonder where all that energy he packs on stage comes from. He says he's figured out some secrets of success through his career, personal lessons that could stretch past the realm of music.
First: Do a lot of different things with a lot of different bands and people. Do that, he says, and you'll tap into the creativity that this city has to offer.
Another? Fail as often as possible.
"I am under no fucking illusion that everybody will like what I do," Snowden is quick to say. "I don't expect not to be criticized, but it's not going to break me. I take my chances and keep right on going."
That means Snowden will keep playing a pivotal part in this scene for as long as he can get away with it. Moral of his story: Keep on moving.
"I'm not over here being an old man. Saying, you know, 'I done my time. Now I'm just going to sit back and find my way to heaven,'" Snowden says. "I'm knocking on the door, man! Use me!"
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