Historic Bradfordville Blues Club begins farewell tour

The Bradfordville Blues Club stage is set to host its last dance on April 1. Credit: Photo by Devin Myers

Hidden away down a long, winding dirt road in northeast Tallahassee lies the Bradfordville Blues Club. This intimate, down-home music venue has hosted local legends and internationally known blues and jazz icons. One of Leon County’s historical gems, the long-standing club may be nearing the end of the road — one which has served as the gateway to “The Jook Joint Under the Stars” since it opened as the C.C. Club in 1964.

It was announced in the Tallahassee Democrat that after 21 years under the ownership of Gary and Kim Anton, the couple would be closing the doors and turning off the tunnel lights for the final time on April 1. The Antons made the decision to step away from their beloved club following a series of trials and tribulations over the past several years, including continued health scares, economic struggles brought about by COVID-19, and the wreckage of the building’s roof caused by a fallen oak tree in 2018.

The only site in Florida to be placed on the famous Mississippi Blues Trail, the Bradfordville Blues Club is a hub of local Black history dating back to the 1880s. The land on which the building lies was originally owned by the Henry family, a formerly enslaved family who used their acquired acres to harvest crops, create a baseball diamond, and construct a bonfire, around which they continue to celebrate Juneteenth and hold a family reunion every 26th of December.

Descendants of the Henry family have maintained ownership of the land through several generations to the present day. George Henry, 33, has grown up on his family’s land — and in their club once he came of age — continuing to cherish the many musical memories he has made over the years.

“This past Sunday, people from 15 different bands collaborated and created their own bands on the stage,” Henry recalled. “It sounded like they had been playing together forever.”

Before a club existed to sing their blues in, visitors would gather around the bonfire playing any instrument they could get their hands on and catch a C.C. Saints game, a local Black baseball team that attracted thousands of fans from the 1930s to 1980s.

On Feb. 10, the first show was held following the announcement of the closure, and owner Gary Anton shared stories of the club’s history, thanking the crowd for their years of support.

Anton described the juke joint as an “anachronism,” saying, “There’s nothing like this anywhere else in the country.”

Carolyn Wonderland kicked off the club’s farewell tour on that rainy Friday night, bringing a sweet Texas flavor of blues-rock to an electric sold-out crowd. Many were eager to dance and celebrate the decades of history contained within the blue-tinted walls adorned with paintings of past performers.

Giovanni Carnuccio, the backing drummer for Carolyn Wonderland, recognized the importance of preserving the history of spaces like the Bradfordville Blues Club.

“It’s nothing fancy, just a stage and a room of people, but these kinds of places molded and shaped so many of us musicians,” Carnuccio shared after the show. Despite the Anton family’s departure, the music may go on as the couple remains optimistic about fielding potential buyers for the property.

“We have some people who we’re talking to who know the blues,” Kim Anton said.

“They have the love in their heart to keep it going.”

The Johnnie Marshall Blues Band will be the club’s final performers on April 1, fittingly bookending the Anton family’s ownership, as both the first and final band to perform following the transition from previous owner Dave Claytor, who operated it as Dave’s C.C. Club from 1993 to 2002.

As it currently stands, the Bradfordville Blues Club will continue hosting shows every weekend until then; With so many bands requesting to play at the club before its closure, some Thursday and Sunday shows have been scheduled, in addition to the usual Friday and Saturday events.

For more information regarding the Bradfordville Blues Club and tickets to upcoming events, visit their website.