Winter Haven – a Music City?

Many of you may not know this about Winter Haven, but we have a rich and diverse musical history! Today Main Street Winter Haven, Inc. announced a revival of one of the gems of our musical past – The Derry Down. Several well-known artists, including Gram Parsons and Jim Stafford got their start at this historic venue. See Main Street’s release below. You can also follow the progress of the project on The Derry Down Project Facebook page.

This is an older photo of the Derry Down Building, located on 5th St just beyond Ave N NW.

This is an older photo of the Derry Down Building, located on 5th St just beyond Ave B NW.

“The Board of Main Street Winter Haven, Inc., announced today the acceptance of the historical property known as the Derry Down, which was donated by Six/Ten, LLC, a Winter Haven based real estate company.  The site of the original Derry Down Club was deeded to Main Street as part of the “The Derry Down Project,” which aims to restore the 1960’s teen music venue made famous by Gram Parsons.

Due to the Derry Down’s historical significance, the building, once restored, provides considerable cultural tourism opportunities for Winter Haven’s downtown economy, adding to the growing energy generated by its existing amenities.  Additionally, Main Street hopes to give a new generation of aspiring musicians the same opportunity to gain experience performing in front of a live audience.  The Derry Down will once again be opened as a “listening room” for those who love to play and those who love to listen.

A vibrant part of Winter Haven’s history, the Derry Down opened its doors on December 20, 1964.  Established by Parson’s stepfather, the site became an integral part of the popular Central Florida youth circuit that supported up-and-coming Polk County talent, like Jim Carlton, Carl Chambers, Jon Corneal and Jim Stafford, among others.  Parsons was born in Winter Haven and is widely recognized for his popularizing what he called “Cosmic American Music”, a hybrid of country rhythm and blues, soul, folk and rock.  He is ranked No. 87 on the “100 Greatest Artist of All Time” list compiled by Rolling Stone.

“The intriguing history of Gram Parsons, and the Florida music scene, isn’t complete without the Derry Down building,” said David Kraai, New York-based country/folk musician.  “The project to resurrect this Americana landmark is a vital way to honor and celebrate this area’s rich past while looking toward its future: by bringing people together to create new music, memories and history.”

The Derry Down first came to Main Street’s attention after Bob Kealing held an event at the Winter Haven Public Library for his Gram Parsons biography: Calling Me Home, Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock.  “We began to receive inquiries regarding saving this piece of Winter Haven’s history” said Jay Gray current Main Street President.  Main Street adopted the restoration project in January.  After months of negotiations, it was decided the building must be donated for the project to move forward.  “As part of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, the Main Street program was a logical choice to steward the building’s historical preservation while honoring its original purpose” said Kerry Wilson of Six/Ten, LLC.

Derry Down Fundraiser PosterThe Derry Down Project committee headed by Jamie Beckett will begin an aggressive fundraising effort, including a kickoff party at the Derry Down on June 28th, as well as a crowd sourced Kickstarter campaign.  Once open, the Derry Down will be available as a rental facility to offset operational costs.  Learn more about the project on the Derry Down Facebook page or the derrydownproject@gmail.com.

Main Street Winter Haven, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501©(3)established in 1995 to oversee the revitalization of downtown Winter Haven.  Using a preservation based approach to economic development, the Main Street organization aims to transform America’s downtowns into prosperous and sustainable community centers that reflect each city’s authentic identity.”

This entry was posted in Cultural Arts, Downtown, Economic Development, History of Winter Haven, Main Street Winter Haven. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Winter Haven – a Music City?

  1. Bob Gernert says:

    This is an outstanding project and Main Street Winter Haven is the perfect vehicle to make it happen. Thanks also to the corporate responsibility that the 6/10 Corporation always displays. (Have fond memories of going to the Derry Down back in the day …)

  2. Geoff Fox says:

    This is good news!
    Not only is it amazing to have the Derry Down back, but hopefully now that Main Street Winter Haven wants to run a venue, the Planning Commission may be more willing to raise the 66db threshold that will allow Jessie’s to open their outdoor venue.

  3. Beth Reasoner says:

    I am very, very pleased that a project such as this is once again emerging in Winter Haven! The long standing tradition of music is important to the community at large. The future of our budding up and coming musicians relies on the support of EVERYONE! Derry Down will help this happen, so let’s all lend our talents and support whenever possible! The beat goes ON!!!!

  4. Diane Slaybaugh says:

    This is awesome news! As a Winter Haven native and a 6th generation Floridian, the Derry Down was a favorite venue frequented by all of us locals. I look forward to its revival!

  5. I have to say that Winter Haven is blessed to see this become a reality. Although I did not grow up here I believe that every forward thinking community needs to look back in their history to remind themselves as to what makes fond memories and build the future on some of them. The city I came from lost there “Derry Down”, which was called Melody Mill, to a fire and I always think how nice it would be to have that back for today’s citizens to enjoy.

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