Gary Anton got lost the first time he ventured out to the Bradfordville Blues Club (BBC), then known as Dave’s C.C. Club. A blue’s fan, he drove up a couple dirt roads and wandered the old goat trail before coming across the concrete structure that stood as a music venue.“Before I even walked in the door I knew I found nirvana,” says Anton. “I walked in and there was three of us in there: Dave Claytor, the owner, his wife Elizabeth, and a guitar player, Drew Tillman. And that was it. I thought, man, I’ve found my home.”Gearing up to celebrate another New Year’s Eve at the club with the Johnnie Marshall Blues Band, Anton reflects back on the past 16 years at the helm. Brought to Tallahassee as a student, and later a graduate of Florida State’s law program, Anton and his wife, Kim, began helping Claytor run Dave’s C.C. Club and its festivals. In 2002, they took over the establishment to keep the unique venue alive. Though Anton says he often acts as the front person for the club and books the bands, the BBC would not run without his wife, Kim. “She does the heavy lifting and I get the glory,” jests Anton. “She’s the boss. We’ve been together for 44 years and we found something we really enjoy doing together.”
Anton’s love for the blues began at an earlier age, however. He marks the British Invasion of the 1960s as his first real exposure to blues classics that had been given a contemporary makeover. Anton’s father, who sang barbershop harmonies, started him in music lessons at age six and bought him a guitar. Playing in garage bands soon became his favorite way to spend an afternoon.
“Music was in my bones,” states Anton, as he recalls listening to his favorite Muddy Waters albums on the record player. “He really set a standard and just emanated the blues. The way he played and sang really hit home, and learning the blues, that’s the guy that I emulated.” Though school, and later his law practice, put his music career in the rearview mirror, Anton says he continues to live the blues vicariously through the BBC’s premier acts. Now retired from law, he says that running the old juke joint with little to no experience has provided a few surprises along the way, though it continues to be an avocation rather than a vocation for the Antons.
“When I walk into the club and that first note comes off the stage it’s like I’ve got a shot of B12,” says Anton. “It just wakes me up and gives me my second wind.” When reflecting on what makes the club so special, Anton confidently states the location. Its long history in Tallahassee dates back over one hundred years, and it remains the property of the Henry family. The C.C. Saints baseball league called the property home from the 30s to the 80s. Visitors would show up a day before the games to hang around the bonfire, eat, and play music on whatever they could find—guitars, harmonicas, garbage can lids, saws. The club’s origins come from that revelry, as the music moved indoors in 1964. Anton says many customers will mention the vibe they feel when they walk into the club, and older blues players will note it’s the kind of place they cut their teeth on in the 30s and 40s.
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