Eric Von Schmidt - Musician and Artist (More on Eric)

Eric is highlighted in this Group shot taken at Beaux Arts 2/27/1966 - 1966 Group Photo, left to right, back row, Michael Sullivan, HW Jones, Stanley Powell, Bill Wasel, Mitch Greenhill, Barry Simms, Tom Ewart. Bud Klein, Dennis King, Bunky Jewel, Roger, Kayle Payne, David Horn. front row, Eric von Schmidt, Bill Tallman. (Photo provided by Llyn French.)

Folksong Festival Incidents: Beaux Arts Gallery and Coffeehouse, written 2/27/1966

I entered the folk scene in St Petersburg, Florida, in 1965. Eric von Schmidt was living on Longboat Key in those years. We local folkies, being very young and impertinent, would come to his home without prior notice to pay homage. He and his wife Katherine, the shark biologist, were most gracious hosts, no matter what we had interrupted. There is a much-told tale of the time that a bunch of attendees at the Longboat Key Folk Festival got hold of an old fire truck, loaded themselves on board, and drove it to the Von Schmidt home. (Bill Wasel was on that truck.)

Eric came on occasion to the Beaux Arts Coffeehouse in Pinellas Park, near St. Pete. The first that I recall was for a folksong festival held there 27 Feb 1966. The song I remember best is "Stick to Rum." Among those he brought with him were Mitch Greenhill (son of Manny Greenhill, Vanguard Records), Megan, and Caitlin. When my daughter was born in 1967, her dad and I named her Caitlin. Although we are well aware of how difficult it is to live with artists and musicians, and Eric was both, we loved and revered him and felt privileged and honored to be in his presence.

He is now thoroughly woven into our local lore. Dean Arnold of Cortez, FL,who had married into the Martin family, built the boat that Eric sings of in "Gulf Coast Blues." John Martin (my singing partner) and I used to run into Eric at the Club 47 when we lived in Somerville, MA. Eric generously donated his beautiful cover painting for the CD insert and J-card for the recording "Will McLean Live at Van Wezel Hall" (released 1997, produced by Holly Gwinn Graham and Bud Klein). As graphics designer, I composed the inserts for printing, and during their production I was delighted to correspond with Eric. Like him, "I love to drink my liquor way down in Costa Rica," and here, I stick to Mount Gay ("makes me feel okay").

Now that Florida is being voraciously devoured by the cancer of development, we treasure Eric's songs more than ever, especially "Gulf Coast Blues":
"You ever see the sun shine on that Gulf of Mexico..."
and "Spin an old rum bottle,
baby; be my compass 'til I die."

Thanks for being such a joyous part of our lives, Eric! You go with all our love. We'll sing with you next life. (Eric's Passing)

--- Story by Llyn French, St. Petersburg, 2/12/07