Gulf Shores The Perfect Host For This Trop Rock Music Party
It’s a little known fact the first “Margaritaville” establishment was JB’s Margaritaville in Gulf Shores Alabama!
While there are dozens of “trop rock” music festivals that take place all over the country, there are only a few that still take place “on the beach.” Beachfront venue costs have been skyrocketing over the past several years, making it more and more difficult for organizations to hold events, and still be affordable for attendees.
Stars Fell On Alabama in Orange Beach Alabama celebrated its 20th trop rock music festival this March in Orange Beach, Alabama. Unfortunately, the rapid cost increase for holding an event on the beach at this location is one of the reasons it was also the final year.
While some organizers holding it’s last shindig may have resigned themselves to a minimal effort, “let’s just get it over with” type event, the Stars Fell On Alabama board took the opposite approach. Charlotte “Mother Hen” Skinner headed up the board consisting of members from four Parrothead clubs.
The clubs that pooled volunteer resources for this amazing event include the Mobile, Towns Around Biloxi, Montgomery, and Lower Alabama Parrothead Clubs. Dozens of volunteers contributed hundreds of hours of volunteer hours over the course of the year to guarantee the “party with a purpose” event would not only raise thousands of dollars for charity, but would also make this an event to remember for the 600 attendees!
Day 1 – Thursday March 14
The day started early with a buffet breakfast that included bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas. Shortly after, registration opened, up along with the mini-mart (vendor room), and the fundraising efforts such as the Chinese raffle and silent auction.
The first musical act, Rain Jaudon from Mississippi and Steve Hopper from “the tropics of Tennessee” were moved indoors due to the prediction of rain. Moving the party indoors did not keep these parrotheads from having a great time.
Boat drinks and brightly colored tropical shirts filled the room, as did the great music. It was a perfect way to start the event. It wasn’t long before a conga line began to snake through the lobby of the Island House, the host hotel.
Rain and Steve played until 5 o’clock and then everyone took a dinner break to catch their breathe in order to prepare for the night’s main show.
Jerry Diaz and Hanna’s Reef took the stage under the big tent right on the sugar white sands at 7 p.m. Jerry is known as the “Godfather of Trop Rock”, has won Eight Trop Rock Music Association Awards, and last year he was recognized as the first “Trop Rock Legend” by Trop Rockin’ Magazine. The Parrotheads danced with their feet in the sand to Jerry and Hanna’s Reef’s own brand of “Texas Beach” brand of music.
Day 2 – Friday March 15
Day two started as day one. Buffet and morning drinks in the hotel café along with attendees making sure their silent auction bids were still active for charity. The weather had turned for the better and it wasn’t long before the pool was full of floaters and the line was long at the pool bar.
The first musical act to take the pool stage was Tropicool. Well, two-thirds of Tropicool, Jimi Pappas was unable to make it. John Patti and Sunny Jim, with over twenty Trop Rock Music Association Awards between them, make quite the duo. John played steel pan while Sunny Jim played lead guitar.
They took turns on vocals with a mostly original set, and some covers sprinkled in the mix. The great weather made the swimming pool, with its beautiful gulf view, the place to be for the afternoon.
Jim Hoehn and Brent Burns took the stage to a packed pool. Although Jim is a sports writer by trade, he is a TRMA Academy Member and is frequently the writer and emcee for the annual TRMA Awards Show. Brent is jokingly considered the “grandfather” of trop rock, and has received ten TRMA awards over the years. This show was a mixture of comedy, stories, and of course a little bit of music thrown in.
The Trop Rock Music Association Radio Station of the Year, Radio Trop Rock broadcast these two poolside shows live on air as part of their TRMA award winning radio show Trop Rockin’ The USA.
Following the Jim Hoehn Brent Burns show Greg Dumas did his radio show Happy Hour 2.0 live on the pool stage. Greg Dumas’ original Happy Hour show took place on Radio Margaritaville until the location of that show, the New Orleans Margaritaville Café closed down. After a few years break, Greg took his Happy Hour Radio Show to Radio Trop Rock which airs each Friday at 5 p.m, CT.
Day two climaxed under the big tent, back on the sand. Donny Brewer and the Dock Rockers, the TRMA band of the year, played to a standing, or should I say “dancing” room only crowd! Donny has gained a reputation for being arguably the best entertainer on the Trop Rock circuit. Proof is that he has won the award as TRMA Entertainer of the Year the past two years.
These two awards are part of his trophy case holding a total of 13 TRMA awards. It was a non-stop musical journey through some of Donny’s greatest hits. At one point Donny, with a wire-free guitar, joined in on the conga line making it’s way around the tent.
During his song Blues Lagoon, some of the audience dressed as characters in the song stormed the stage; a monkey, cow, octopus, and even a couple of mermaids! Donny’s signature antics include one song in which he makes his way around the stage playing every instrument, without a break in the song. Guitar, bass, percussion, drum kit, keyboard, and steel pan; he plays them all.
The 10 p.m., city ordinance requiring all amplified music cease did not stop Donny. He went “unplugged” right in the middle of the crowd with a 15-minute sing-along session to end the show.
Day 3 – Saturday March 16
It’s no surprise day 3 starts as the first two; buffet and morning drinks. You know what they say, “you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning!”
At 9:30 a.m, five charter buses loaded up the early morning revelers for a trip to the first music event of the day – Jimmy & The Parrots at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores Alabama. Lulu’s is owned by Lucy Buffett, also known as Jimmy Buffett’s “Crazy Sista.”
At showtime the weather was not wanting to play along. It’s was a little cool with a steady drizzle. However, the “no-rain” dance helped as the wet stuff stopped and the party was able to continue at the main stage at Lulu’s which is a mock-up of a boat. Jimmy and the Parrots did what they do best, an “in-your-face you are going to have fun even if I have to force it on you” type of show.
During the same time Jimmy and the Parrots were performing at Lulu’s there was another music event taking place at the world famous Flora-Bama beach bar just across the Alabama – Florida border.
The Flora-Bama happens to be just a couple miles from the Stars Fell On Alabama host hotel so it was fortuitous that Drop Dead Dangerous was playing the dome stage at Flora-Bama Saturday afternoon. Melanie Howe, current TRMA musician of the year, and Kitty Steadman make up Drop Dead Dangerous and are very popular on the national trop rock live music circuit.
They were playing as their “Loaded” band, which means they were joined by Paul Wray on bass guitar, and Eric Erdman on accompaniment guitar (Eric was taking the place normally held by JD Edge on fiddle. He was not able to make the event). While this was not an official part of the Stars Fell On Alabama schedule, there was a very large contention of those that were registered for SFOA that was able to stop by for the show.
Girlz Rule entertained folks as they returned from Lulu’s in the hotel lobby/bar/café area. Girlz Rule is made up of Lynley Tolls, Kristie Bobal, and Heather Vidal (the current and former TRMA female vocalist of the year). You can’t beat the harmonies and chemistry Girls Rule provides.
The final music act of the final Stars Fell On Alabama was a very fitting one. The Boat Drunks, whom have won the TRMA band of the year several times, returned to the SFOA main stage on the beach. They have always been a favorite of the SFOA crowd and it’s obvious why!
They knocked it out of the park with some of their originals like Beer, Buffett, and Baseball, and what some call the perfect trop rock song Hollow Man, to the Jimmy Buffett covers they do so well. There were dozens of “pirates” in the sand since the evening’s theme was “Pirate Looks at Twenty”, a twist on Jimmy Buffett’s popular song Pirate Looks at Forty, in honor of Stars Fell on Alabama’s 20th anniversary.
Each night, in the hotel lobby area, some of the weekend’s musicians would host “after-party” sing alongs. This is another one of those things that make trop rock events so magical. While it is great to attend a Jimmy Buffett show, it’s fairly certain he’s not going to hang out with you at the bar, or in this case, the hotel lobby, and take your requests on an acoustic guitar.
These trop rock stars seem to enjoy hanging out with their fans for a beer or two after the show, as much as they enjoy sharing their incredible talent with them from the stage.
Stars Fell On Alabama’s twenty year “career” can only be described as a successful labor of love by the four area Parrothead clubs that have hosted it year after year. It is always considered by trop rock fans as one of the best by being consistently nominated as TRMA Event of the Year.
All photos courtesy of R.O. Smith Photography with the exception of the picture at the Flora-Bama. That picture was taken by Mike Ross.
• Trop Rock Music Association
• Radio Trop Rock