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Thursday, 17 February 2022 19:45

Catching Up with “Just Country!

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We play Old Country Music,” emphasizes Don White, founder and bassist of “Just Country.” “We do songs from artists like Merle Haggard, George Jones, and George Strait. To me, new Country Music is not Country, Rock-&-Roll or even good music at all. It is something promoters make performers do because that is where the money is, as that is what teenyboppers want these days, but I will not play it. We do Old Country as that is the real Country sound!”

Don’s “Just Country” bandmate, Bob Slaughter, agrees. “We do mainly Country, along with a little Bluegrass, some Pop and Rock, with a variety of other stuff but mainly Country. With Country now, there is old Country and new Country, with new Country much more like Rock-& Roll. We mostly do traditional Country that you sadly do not hear much anymore, as that is our bag of tea! Of course, when you have a female singer as talented as Charlie, it is easy to play as broad variety of musical styles.”

Charlie is Charlie Ursitti, who joins Don and Bob in “Just Country,” along with Michael Ursitti on guitar and steel guitar, Frank Message on guitar, with drummer David Gravelin. Don plays bass and sings, with Bob on pedal steel, electric and acoustic guitars. Don started “Just Country” roughly 18 years ago: “I was in the Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres areas, getting acquainted, and decided to form a group, as I was in Country Music my entire life. I was talking to a guy and said I play just good old Country Music and needed a name for my new Florida band; he said I said it – ‘Just Country!’”

 

The Hills of Tennessee

Don was “born and raised in the hills of East Tennessee. I grew up in a musical family, especially on Mom’s side, with my uncles in a Country band. Mom played guitar so she was my earliest influence and why I am a guitarist. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I always wanted to go to gigs with my uncles but they could not bring a little kid with them. I played guitar until my late 20s, but our Ohio band had issues with our bassist, so I switched to that as well as singing. That band was ‘Country Music Sounds’ and we toured a lot in the 1970s including going to Vietnam, the Philippines and Wake Island.”

He relocated to Florida because of the construction business, “but no matter where I was, I played Country. Thirteen years ago, I began playing at the Fleamasters Fleamarket on Saturdays, just me and my guitar, and several guys asked if I needed other musicians and that was the start of ‘Just Country.’ Prior to the pandemic, we played several other venues, like the American Legion and VFW Posts, but now are only at the Fleamarket, so we do not do as many shows as we formerly did in the past.”

Bob is from Tennessee as well. “My earliest musical influence was my Grandmother, who played guitar, so she taught me to play when I was about 9 years old. I stuck with it and eventually worked with many well-known Country artists, including the great Bobby Helm, who was at one time the most popular Country entertainer in the nation. Everyone knows Bobby from hits like ‘Fraulein,’ ‘My Special Angel,’ and perhaps most famously, 1957’s ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ that is still a supremely popular Christmas song, so that probably remains my claim to fame! I worked the Nashville
circuit with some real talented Grand Old Opry stars for a long time and had a lot of fun! I eventually retired from General Motors and moved to Florida fulltime for the warm weather roughly 30 years ago, opening a music store in Fleamasters Fleamarket. Don and I met there, he found out about my musical background and asked if I could help out in ‘Just Country’ every now and then.”

fleamasters logo sm

FleaMasters is located at 4135 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Fort Myers, FL 33916

 

Turn Your Mood Around!

They love performing at the Fleamasters Fleamarket Music Hall. “We built that along with the owner several years ago to have a place to play,” relates Bob. “We are usually there performing free every Saturday from Noon to 2 p.m., though in February that changes to Sundays from Noon to 2 p.m. It is a nice big auditorium with a tremendous sound system that seats around 500 people, with a humongous floor for dancing. It is such a terrific venue that it hosted many Grand Old Opry stars when they toured the area.” To book “Just Country,” call Don at 239-240-6813 or Bob at 239-273-0146.

“Just Country” takes requests during their concerts. “Merle Haggard, George Jones, George Strait, and Ray Price are the most popular,” Don offers. “The people who come to hear us want Old Country, but sometimes classic Rock-&-Roll as well, like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and we are happy to play that.” “We always take requests,” agrees Bob, “with most being #1 songs from the 1960s and 70s. For me, I love playing music from Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and Hank Williams, Junior.”

Even after decades of making music, Don and Bob still love it! “I just like to play Old Country Music,” Don recollects, “whether up on stage or in a jam session with a group of pickers; I just love to keep playing!” Bob enjoys “performing, singing and being the Master of Ceremonies. I still get a charge out of being in front of a crowd. You hear comedians say their biggest thrill is getting a laugh; mine is still picking up a guitar and playing to please an audience. My advice to other musicians is to keep making and playing music, as music makes the world go round, and that is my theory on everything! When you are in a bad mood, play or listen to music and it will amaze you how fast it turns your mood around!”

Gary Mooney

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