Some astute fans were asked which two artists they would combine to describe one Raiford Starke, and they said:
"John Prine meets Ted Nugent."
"Merle Travis meets Link Ray."
"Jimmy Page meets Jerry Reed."
"Doc Watson meets Johnny Guitar Watson."
Actually, Raiford Starke is nothing if not David Allan Coe meets Jimi Hendrix, an outlaw country folk singer steeped in southern rock and psychedelic blues guitar. He’s an American original.
Colin Kenny is proud of his real name, but got stuck with the gallows humor of "Raiford Starke" long ago, branded by prison walls without ever having walked through their gates. It’s a Florida brand, the duo of state pens in the name recognizable to locals and fans of Ol’ Sparky, but Raiford Starke’s only crime is indecent distortion.
Raiford Starke was lead cowboy in the band of an Indian chief, becoming a legend among the Seminole. He’s left Virginia, worked oil fields in Texas and hocked his guitar in Memphis. He’s played festivals in Europe and Oklahoma and has sat around the campfire picking with some of music’s greats. He could drop names if he wanted to. Touring a personal circuit around the big lake and along the fringes of the Everglades, his career is off the grid. Raiford Starke might play "Freebird" for you, but he won’t tweet.
At the turn of the century, Colin Kenny cut his first solo album as Raiford Starke, recorded in the Big Cypress swamp (where Phish happened to be holding their millennium concert and invited the guitarist and aforementioned Indian chief on stage to jam). He’s been selling Speak Me at his shows ever since, pressing a hundred at a time and moving thousands over the years with "Girl From Immokolee" becoming an underground country hit and veritable anthem of the region, so much so that in 2013 Raiford Starke has made a new video for the song and revived Big Cypress Records to finally release it online.
Right now Raiford Starke is playing at some glitzy tribal casino or Joanie’s Blue Crab shack in Ochopee. He’s performing original music and renditions from a muddy American songbook. If it doesn’t come out on Big Cypress Records or thereabouts, you’ll have to travel through Florida’s backwaters to hear it, because the man doesn’t emerge too often. We’ll keep you posted when he does, so stay dialed to this station!
(by John Stacey for Big Cypress Records).