Robert Wayne “Bobby” Womack recently said his early days as a backing guitarist for R&B singer Sam Cooke were “really tough.”
When the group arrived in Southern cities, he said, the police would warn them to “leave town” by a certain time because of racism.
“We were only allowed to stay in motels. I was 16 at the time and thought it was crazy. It was really bad,” he said.
The 66-year-old singer, songwriter and musician recalled a gig in which whites sat on one side and blacks on the other.
Policeman, he said, always patrolled the aisles with dogs.
“When Sam would sing something like “You Send Me,” the blacks would jump up, scream and clap, and the dogs would go crazy. It was just insane,” he said. “I often said to Sam, ‘Man, you live in a beautiful mansion. How can you deal with this? You’re staying in a motel just to play gigs.’”
Cooke, Womack said, always replied: “I’m not doing this to make money. I make my money selling records. I just want to reach my people, let them know that someone like them is out there. They need something to look up to.”
Womack will perform in Deerfield Beach on Father’s Day, June 20 at the new Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival.
Monica, Chrisette Michele, Rance Allen, Roy Ayers, Ronnie Laws, Wayne Henderson, Tim Brown and Lonnie Liston-Smith will also perform at the two-day festival on Saturday, June 19 and Sunday, June 20 at West Side Park.
Organized annually by the non-profit group Mango Festival Committee, the festival raises money for scholarships, which are awarded to Deerfield Beach High School’s graduating students, according to Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier.
Students from other cities enrolled in magnet programs who live in Deerfield Beach with a parent or guardian also qualify, Poitier said.
“Scholarships have been a part of the festival since its beginning,” she said.
In former years, Poitier said, students have received up to $1,000. The scholarship is awarded based on a student’s grade point average.
“And this year’s should be larger,” she said.
The festival, in its 25th year, is expected to draw 10,000 people, according to David Shorter of NDW Entertainment.
“The entertainment this year is national class,” Shorter, the festival’s producer, said. “We are mixing R&B, blues, gospel and jazz.
“This is our first year planning the festival’s events and performers,” Shorter said. “And we want to bring it back to where it was before; offer something to the community that everyone can enjoy.”
Among the most prominent performers is Womack, who toured with Sam Cooke from 1962 to 1964, when Cooke died in a plane crash. Womack has been an active recording artist since the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family’s musical group, The Valentinos.
He said he is looking forward to his Father’s Day performance because “we really need more fathers around, especially for leadership.”
Named for the late Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Carl J. Nixon, the Mango Festival is part of the city’s celebration of Black Music Month.
Nixon, according to Mango Festival committee member Flora Philpart, attended a festival in Miami in the early 1980s. He then proposed to the group, Women’s Reach-Out (WRO), that Deerfield Beach organize the same for its residents.
WRO was the brainchild of sisters Nora Poitier-Hall and Edris Mae Poitier-Cox. The pair also worked as cosmetologists, and owned the Two Sisters Beauty Salon in Deerfield Beach.
The first festival, then named The Mango Festival, took place in 1985.
Philpart described Poitier-Cox and Poitier-Hall as being “all about education,” adding that the two “pushed people through school. They were the inspiration, in terms of where the monies raised would go.”
Both Poitier-Cox and Poitier-Hall died within two months of each other in 2007.
Despite concerns over city sponsorship and overpriced admission, Deerfield Beach city commissioners in May agreed to use $25,000 toward this festival for in-kind services.
The money, according to Poitier, is earmarked for Broward Sheriff’s Office public safety services, cleanup and
But, Poitier said, the cash came with a condition.
“It is based on the promoter [NDW Entertainment] providing a surety bond or letter of credit stating that all bills will be paid,’’ she said. “This is the first time that this has happened.”
Photo: Bobby Womack
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival
WHERE: West Side Park, 445 S.W. 2nd St., Deerfield Beach.
WHEN: Saturday, June 19, noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, June 20, 1 — 9 p.m.
COST: One-day passes: Ages 13 and up, $35. Ages 6-12, $10, children 5 and under, free.
Two-day pass: Ages 13 and up, $50. Ages 6-12, $20, children 5 and under, free.
CONTACT: For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, please call 866-468-7630 or visit themangofestival.com. For vendor participation, contact Big Ike at 954-513-7919.