Tallahassee Gem Bradfordville Blues Club in a Crisis

cq5dam-resized-450-256Words By: Jon-Michael Francis

Hidden on the north side of Tallahassee, tucked away in the red clay hills and covered by majestic oak trees, lies one of Tallahassee’s most hidden gems: The Bradfordville Blues Club. Offering an experience unlike any other, people have flocked here for years to see the best in live blues music, this side of the Mississippi.

The club sits perched up on a hill at the end of a winding dirt road draped over in mossy oaks and illuminated by tiki torches. This one-room cinder block building; referred to as the “jook joint” has hosted nationally-renowned blues acts and artists since their opening in March 2002. Since then, they have been the five-time recipients of the Tally Award for “Tallahassee’s Best Night Life and Entertainment,” among many other notable honors.

Over the years the location of the Blues Club has had appearances that include notable performers such as James Cotton, Bobby Rush, Pinetop Perkins, Johnny Winter, Tommy Castro, The Sauce Boss, and many more.

However in recent months, the lively Bradfordville Blues Club has been in need of more patrons. Poor attencq5dam-resized-450-256-1dance has weighed heavy on the club to the point they are running the risk of having to close their doors for good.

Owners of the Bradfordville Blues Club; Gary and Kim Anton took to Facebook on November 4th with an urgent post:

“Can’t sugar coat it. Short, plain and simple: Attendance at the BBC is down so much that the survival of the club is in jeopardy. If you haven’t been out in a while, come on back. If you have been coming out, we thank you for your continued support. Please know that we could not have come this far without you. We want to continue so please help us keep this jewel alive!”

The Bradfordville Blues Club is open every Friday and Saturday night, with occasional weeknight shows.

As they enjoy the intimate setting around them, the audience sits, stand, sing, and jives to the music being played on the quaint stage. A bonfire burns bright under the large oak trees providing a chance for music goers to relax during set breaks, and even a chance to meet the artists themselves after the show. If you’re hungry you can grab a plate of food of Miss Ernestine’s fried catfish and hushpuppies at her food shack that is parked in front of the club. You can even wash it down with the club’s selection of ice-cold bottled beer and wine inside.

In an effort in increase venue goers, the club has started their shows an hour earlier than what they have always had: now 9:00 pm rather than 10:00 pm. Their hopes are that this will give more people the chance to make the performances, while still making it home in a reasonable hour. They’ve also agreed to have the performers play at a lower volume, as it can get boisterous and funky within the walls of the jook joint.

There has also been talk of lowering ticket prices but the set prices are seen as a necessary charge for the performers they book. Due to the fact that they hold true to playing the best in blues and soul, the higher cover charges remain the caveat.

The location of the club itself serves as the site of the historic Mississippi to Florida Blues Trail Marker, which has played an important role in the history of the Gulf Coast ‘chitlin circuit.’ During and after World War II, many nightclubs and dance halls emerged to the scene during the Segregation Era. These ‘chitlin circuits’ offered a network of entertainment for African Americans, primarily in the genres of blues, jazz, and R&B. The state of Florida was necessary for the survival of these traveling musicians, often providing work for them through different entertainment centers across the state, and here in Tallahassee.

Other notable awards that the club has received include being the recipient of the 2010 Keeping the Blues Alive Award from The Blues Foundation. That same year, Resolution by the Leon County Board of County Commissioners listed the club as “an essential cultural resource.” In 2012, the BBC was described as being “one of the Top International Music Venues” by Downbeat Magazine.

We hope you will take a trip back in time and let the sweet sounds of rhythm and blues sweep you away. Help keep this historic gem of Tallahassee alive for years to come by attending one of their shows. By doing so you are supporting the local business and art scene of Tallahassee for the love of live music.  Though it is hard to find, the club is even harder to forget.

The Bradfordville Blues Club resides at 7152 Moses Lane, Tallahassee, FL.

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