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THE LEDGER of Winter Haven
By Bill Bair

Florida's song
Radio show celebrates state's beauty

The performers sit on a picnic table under a pavillion, taking turns playing into the microphones with their mandolins, guitars, dulcimers and autoharps.
Crows caw in the background, an airboat roars on a nearby lake and thunder rumbles in the distance.
"Welcome to Songs of Florida, with your hosts Frank and Ann Thomas," says Ann, sitting nearby in bib overalls. The husband and wife take turns introducing and interviewing guests.
Normally, they record their WMNF radio show in their back yard in Tiger creek Forest east of Lake Wales, but this time of year they need shelter from summer showers.
So WMNF producer Cam Hendrix sets up a sound mixer under the shelter in a live oak hammock, arranges the microphones and checks sound levels, and the Thomases begin taping a series of shows that will begin their 11th year on WMNF.
It is a show in which they create their own competition, but they wouldn't have it any other way.
The weekly 15-minute radio show, heard at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday's  on WMNF (88.5) in Tampa, has provided an outlet
and sometimes a start for a variety of Florida musicians.
The Thomases taped 10 shows for WMNF last Sunday at the Lake Kissimmee State Park, featuring the original material of songwriter-musicians from Tallahassee to Miami.
The show is now on summer hiatus, but will begin its 11th year in October. The program also is heard weekly on WFIT in Melbourne.
"Songwriters after songwriters have committed themselves because of the show," Ann Thomas said.
The show also is about promoting Florida music and trying to preserve parts of the state that haven't already been wiped out by theme parks, strip centers, outlet stores and the like.
"We love the state of Florida," Frank Thomas said. "If people are writing songs about Florida, it will help educate and maybe we can save some of it. There is more to Florida than Miami and Disney."
But for unadulterated protest, there is Valerie C. Wisecracker of Miami.
"Get ready to laugh, she's a wild woman," Ann Thomas warned.
Wisecracker said the "nature of folk music is protest," and proceeded to slash everything from the "Dirty little rat that et Orland," to Vindicator and food irradiation, phosphate, the Lykes Brothers and a variety of others.
"We're Florida sugar, we're raising cane,
Burning and a slashing and a trashing up the Glades.
Got a hankering for money, we've got more money than brains.
I'm warning you big boys, stop messing around.
Stop running my Florida home into the ground."

The Thomases and other songwriters and musicians on their program are members of Friends of Florida Folk.
The group, formed 10 years ago, is for people interested in folk everything
crafts, music, storytelling according to Jean Hewitt, who writes the organization's newsletter.
The organization also sets up booths at various Florida festivals, selling works of some of its 600 members, including tapes by Florida musicians.
Just in case someone wants to pick up a copy of a catchy tune with irreverent lyrics that they heard on the radio.

 


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