Little Jake & the Soul Searchers kick off African-American Music Appreciation Month

Little Jake Mitchell, shown in a previous “Free Fridays” concert with the Soul Searchers at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, returns Friday for the lead-off concert of the series’ celebration of African-American Music Appreciation Month in June. (File photo)

Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.

Little Jake Mitchell might not describe himself this way, but the 68-year-old singer is a one-man standard-bearer for June’s designation as African-American Music Appreciation Month.


‘Free Fridays’ African-American Music Appreciation Month

When: 8-10 p.m. Fridays in June
Where: Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.
Cost: Free

Friday: Little Jake & the Soul Searchers, blues/R&B
June 14: Wester Joseph’s Stereo VuDu, rock/ska/Caribbean sounds
June 21: Fast Lane, R&B/soul/funk
June 28: De Lions of Jah, reggae

At the age of 12, he recorded for Chess Records in Chicago, went on the road as a featured part of B.B. King’s show and performed with the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.

Those influences in a nutshell — the blues, soul, funk and R&B — make the singer and his band, Little Jake & the Soul Searchers, a natural choice to lead-off the “Free Fridays” Concert Series’ celebration of June starting Friday.

“It means so much to me being involved in that because I just want to bring people together,” Mitchell says about playing the weekly series’ first concert in June, which he has done for the past few years.

Mitchell’s own history includes the time his band in 1960, Little Jake and the Blenders, became the first African-American act to perform at the University of Florida’s Gator Growl.

Having that experience under his belt gives him a special perspective to embrace performing before large, appreciative crowds some 50-plus years later.

“We want everybody to be able to say, ‘What a wonderful time we’re having; we can sit together, and we can enjoy music together.’

“So it means so much to me being involved [in the June series of concerts]. That’s one reason why I feel so good every year in June. And I look forward to it.”

Expect such a spirit to continue with the other performances planned this month: Wester Joseph’s Stereo VuDu, which will perform its brand of rock, ska and self-described “vudu rawk” on June 14; Fast Lane, led by singer/guitarist Scott Free, who played for years with Bo Diddley and has worked with such others as Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, on June 21; and De Lions of Jah, which closes the month with a night of reggae vibes, on June 28.

“Everybody is enjoying everybody’s music today,” Mitchell says. “Everybody is having a good time. And it’s a beautiful thing.”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at, and follow on Twitter @SceneBillDean.

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