Skip to main content

About Will McLean

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.

The Will McLean Foundation Scholarship

Learn About Will

Best Known Songs

Ballad of Will McLean

Lyrics by Jack Turner Music by Paul Champion and Will McLean

What other's have said about Will...

"the man who loved Florida the most..." John Carter. DAYTONA BEACH NEWS JOURNAL
"....the greatest writer of folk songs that Florida has ever produced."- Peter B. Gallagher. THE SEMINOLE TRIBUNE
"His songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida." - PETE SEEGER
"The Johnny Cash Show", which aired on the ABC network from 1969-1971. The Johnny Cash's TV show on which Pete Seeger talks about his friend from Florida, Will McLean and then does "Osceola."
"I would really like every Floridian to listen to his music. It would tell them important things about Florida that they're never going to learn in the newspaper or on television." George Firestone, Florida Secretary of State, 1987
Will McLean, Florida's premier folk singer and folklorist..." - Romaine Rosharsky, ST.PETE TIMES
"You cast a song or story like you cast a spell, and an artist is able to cast an aura of enchantment around it. Will had that quality." GAMBLE ROGERS
" awful lot of songwriters came under his influence." - DON GROOMS
"He was the state's foremost folk artist - a songwriter, singer, musician, storyteller and poet... " - Shari Spires, PALM BEACHPOST