Special to South Florida Times
Down the street from where Duke Ellington once performed, the Overtown Music Project will bring a bit of history to Bal Harbour.
Rock & Soul by the Overtown Music Project, Is a part of the village’s Performances On the Green Series.
“Venues like Bal Harbour give us an opportunity to showcase what was in Miami,” said Amy Rosenberg, director of the Overtown Music Project which highlights the music and musicians of Miami’s Overtown neighborhood from the mid-20th century.
Performers will include singer Bobby Stringer, who grew up in Coconut Grove and began performing in Overtown clubs during the late 1960s. He recalled places such as Rockland Palace and the Knightbeat club in the Sir John Hotel.
“All the main spots, I was there,” Stringer said. “I had people to take me in those places when I was very young. I would’ve sung for nothing.”
In recent years, Stringer has sung with the International Platters and he has recently been performing at the Van Dyke Café on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
“I’m able to do everything – Motown, Doo-wop, the blues. People really love that,” he said.
This is Stringer’s first performance for the Overtown Music Project. Bobby Flam, the owner of Jumbo’s Restaurant in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, gave Rosenberg’s card to Stringer.
“[He] said, ‘Call this lady,’” Stringer recalled. “She was already familiar with me. She chose me for Bal Harbour and I hope she’ll put me on more.”
Guitarist Tree Top, who performed for the house band at Knightbeat, the club in Overtown’s Sir John Hotel, will also perform in the Bal Harbour show. He did not wish to be interviewed for this article but his history of performances, including with Erskine Hawkins, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and B.B. King – speaks for him.
So do colleagues such as local musician and teacher Richard Strachan. “I’ve seen them perform and they performed with me. I still work with them,” Strachan said.
“Bobby Stringer is a great singer. Tree Top is a great singer and musician.”
Bal Harbour, incorporated in 1946, had restrictive clauses in both homes and hotels for many years. While the Americana Hotel, later the Sheraton Bal Harbour, hosted performances by Ellington, Johnny Mathis and other African-American performers, other hotels advertised “selected clientele” for years.
Strachan recalled some acceptance south of Bal Harbour.
“The Deauville was very receptive during those days,” he said of the hotel located at 67th Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.
Stringer began performing much later, after integration had started to become the law across South Florida and the country.
“When I landed on the beach, everything was all right,” he recalled. “I knew they had restrictions but I wasn’t a part of that.” He doesn’t have a set program for this concert.
“I’m planning on catering to the people,” he said. “If it’s an older crowd, I’ll mix it up with some Platters, some Drifters, some Lou Rawls. I’m real versatile. If they want some soul, I’ll give them some soul.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Rock & Soul by the Overtown Music Project
WHEN: 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10
WHERE: Cabana Green, ONE Bal Harbour Resort and Spa, 10295 Collins Ave.
PARKING: Available at the municipal lot under Haulover Bridge.
COST: General admission tickets are $45 for one day pass, $75 for two day pass.
CONTACT: call 1-800-847-9222 or visit http://balharbourflorida.com. For more information about the Overtown Music Project, visit http://overtownmusicproject.org.