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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
Arts & Music

Florida original Michael Koppy shares his songs


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Florida native Michael Koppy is many things: a singer, songwriter, storyteller, philosopher, spoken-word artist and former Florida Cracker from Tallahassee turned Southern progressive rebel.

But above all else, he is a character.

“I mean, who in their right mind writes a 28-minute, all non-repeating lyric song?” he says of “All in the Timing: A Hollywood Romance in Seven Chapters,” which is on his latest album, “Ashmore’s Store.”

“It’s a daunting piece,” he admits. “So ya may wanna scratch your head and open a bottle of cheap wine before diving in. The best way, so I’ve been often told, to assimilate it is on a drive across town.”

Or you could hear him perform it on his “entire dang state of Florida” tour – 37 cities in 31 days — which promotes his album, “Ashmore’s Store,” a tribute to the small general store in the black business district in Tallahassee where he spent his youth.

Koppy lands in St. Petersburg on Wednesday at the Community Café on 2244 Central Ave.; and in Tampa on May 9 at the Radio Bar, 2806 East Busch Blvd.

He also is scheduled to play Sarasota on May 8 at the Old Packinghouse, 987 South Packinghouse Road; Lakeland on May 10 at Tony’s Studio B, 210 Eat Bay Street; and Dunedin on May 12 at the Living Room on Main, 487 Main St.

“Ashmore’s Store,” (Good Tracks Records) is an ambitious collection of 10 original songs on a disc packaged in a 112-page hardbound book, complete with lyrics, stories and photos from his days growing up in the Deep South in the 1960s and ’70s.

Koppy says he was kicked out of Leon County High School in the 1960s for “havin’ all too much visible and vocal contempt for the smug far-right wing stupidity there.”

He was welcomed at Ashmore’s Store, run by Rob Roy Ashmore and his wife for 60 years in what was known as “Frenchtown.” During a time overt racism and segregation, Koppy says he got “schooled” by street-wise hustlers, traveling musicians and the other good folk in that community.

Now based in Hawaii, Koppy says he has worn many hats, including being a vagabond (crossing North America nine times coast to coast by hitchhiking and hopping freight trains). He also has been a carpenter, carnival roustabout, elevator operator, union organizer, Broadway stagehand, bike messenger, strip-show spotlight operator, newspaper editor and producer/director.

He says that he didn’t play anywhere in public for 25 years, from 1976 to 2001, because he was successful in San Francisco where he produced and directed film events, concerts (Buck Owens, Riders in the Sky), plays, musicals and television.

The album is a mix of comedy and commentary. There is a love song that has the lyric: “I’m gonna love you until the cows come home and hell done dang froze over.” And the first cut on the album “One Great Mornin’ (The South’s Gonna Rise Again”) is not a battle cry for those who think fondly of the South’s pre-Civil War days. It is a call for unity of blacks and whites together to stand against politicians “who been waving their flags and talkin’ so tough, but ignorin’ what folks really need, and we’ve heard enough.”

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