By Gargs Allard
Little Jake Mitchell is not little at all. Not only is he not small in height, but he’s also done a lot of big things in the course of his life and music career.
Jake was only called “Little Jake” because he started performing at the age of 5 and winning talent contests in his hometown of Tampa. The Whole Sum Bread Company put on the events and first prize was 12 loaves of bread.
“I literally put bread on my family’s table,” he said.
Jake soon took singing for his supper to a new level when he toured with Chubby Checker and also B.B. King, who took Jake under his wing and became his godfather.
In 1957, Jake recorded for Chess Records on the same master tape as Chuck Berry.
In 1960 at the age of 15, Jake headlined the Gator Growl as Little Jake and the Blenders to 70,000 appreciative fans, becoming the first African American performer to play there and making it possible for integration to begin in Gainesville. Both African Americans and white people flocked the stadium.
“We put 10,000 extra seats in the end zone because so many people wanted to come,” Jake said.
“They wanted us so bad,” he said. “We were in demand—booked at all the sorority and fraternity halls for two years straight.
“Everyone was joyful—there was nothing but love there. Everyone was happy—you could feel the electricity going through the bodies.
Soon Jake was performing in all the marque R & B venues in the United States including the Uptown in Philadelphia, the Howard Theater in Washington D.C., The Fabulous 20 Grand in Detroit, and the Apollo in Harlem.
In those holy musical landmarks he performed with the likes of James Brown, Sam Cooke, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Jackie Wilson, Frankie Lyman and B.B. King.
In 1965 he formed his own record label in Detroit called Golden Hit Records, which competed with Barry Gordy’s Motown label. The label had a big hit called “Free At Last” by James Barnes and the Agents.
“Oh man, there was high energy during that time,” he said. “It was what music was all about.
Jake, now 72 and a devout Christian, likes all type of music, even heavy metal, but there’s one thing about today’s music that bothers him.
“I’m not a fan of hip hop or rap. I believe the lyrics in that type of music gives a poor image on our children growing up. They have a different image of themselves—macho—wearing their pants all down their butts.”
Gradually, Little Jake got out of the music business and became an executive chef cook at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.
Semi-retired, Jake didn’t tour for 15 years. When he moved back to Florida 11 years ago, however, his good friend Charlie Stem who owns the Blade Agency, and Paul Cohens enticed him back into playing music.
“I believe in love, number one,” Jake said. And I got a lot of energy—the Lord has blessed me.
“The things I didn’t accomplish in the first half of my life, he’s granted me this second time to fulfill the dreams I have.”
From the Facebook page of this event:
Come out to First Magnitude on Sunday, August 28th for the most SOULFUL event of the summer: The Soul Sunday Music Festival featuring Gainesville’s best soul bands: Little Jake & The Soul Searchers and The Savants of Soul and food by MOJO Hogtown Bar-B-Que.
****THIS SHOW IS NOT FREE****
$10 cover at the beer garden gate (children under 12 in free) gets you all day access. The rest of the brewery will be open to the public with no cover.
The bands will play alternating sets from 1pm until 9pm – 8 hours of straight SOUL!
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Doors Open
2:00 PM – 2:45 PM SAVANTS OF SOUL
3:00 PM – 4:15 PM LITTLE JAKE & THE SOUL SEARCHERS
4:30 PM – 5:15 PM SAVANTS OF SOUL
5:30 PM – 6:45 PM LITTLE JAKE & THE SOUL SEARCHERS
7:00 PM – 7:45 PM SAVANTS OF SOUL
8:00 PM – 9:15 PM LITTLE JAKE & THE SOUL SEARCHERS
We will have additional beer pouring stations and extra restrooms to keep everyone hydrated and comfortable.
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