The late Will McLean is best known as Florida's premier folk song writer. McLean was born in 1919 near Chipley, Florida. He spent most of his life in the woods and writing songs. McLean's love of music was nurtured by his grandfather who gave him his first instrument, a gourd and cornstalk fiddle with a horsehair bow. At the age of six, he wrote his first song, "Away O'ee."
Many say he was a sweet man with a streak of contrariness. This trait compelled him to turn his back on celebrity status and to covet his privacy, forsake material comfort and steer clear of regular jobs - even to feud with his friends!
McLean's love of Florida developed as he traveled around the state from the Panhandle hardwood hammocks to the vast sea of grass called the Everglades - camping in wilderness areas, visiting friends and absorbing Florida's history
Songs about people like Acre Foot Johnson and about how the first Seminole War started, came out of those travels and visits.
Though he spent his life traveling the state, McLean took time out for concerts and festivals. He performed at New York City's Carnegie Hall and was sought after for concerts, festivals and school programs.
In the fall of 1989 he received the Florida Heritage Award for outstanding cultural contributions. The annual folk festival at White Springs, Florida was dedicated to him.
On April 17, 1996, Will McLean was inducted into the prestigious Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Cancer claimed the life of Will in January 1990. His ashes were dispersed into the Ocklawaha River at Gore's Landing where a permanent marker honors him.
The Will McLean Music Festival is held each year in the Spring. Musicians & audience gather for 3 days of performance, workshops & jams. The annual song writing contest finalists showcase their original songs about Florida. Original songs and spoken word carry on the tradition of Will McLean by telling the story of Florida both current and past through music & poetry.
Osceola's Last Words
Song of Conch Island