- Tradewinds Lounge
- 124 Charlotte St.
- St. Augustine, FL
Tradewinds Tropical Lounge ... Years ago, a couple of merchant
marine sailors found themselves far from their Florida homes,
sailing in the South Sea Islands. In the seaside bars of ports
of call throughout the islands, under slow turning fans and over
cool drinks, an idea began to take shape in the sailors' minds:
a lounge, back home in St. Augustine, that would recall the easy
grace, the fun, the exotic charm of the island bars they visited.
On their voyages, the two sailors collected and shipped home
many of the artifacts among them the solid teak bar, the
grinning idol that squats on the back bar, the bamboo that adorns
the "Dai Bar" that decorate the lounge today.
Even our main trademark, and what people remember the most, the
"Tropical Storm," complete with lightening and thunder,
echoes the island storms those two sailors heard so many years
In the beginning, there was a wonderful Minorcan restaurant owned
by Ms. Clara Meir, where as early as 1944, Granville Grissom
and Sterling Andrews helped lay the groundwork for what was to
become the lounge. With much anticipation on February 20, 1945,
John Meigs and Kenneth Dow opened the South Seas Lounge.
Two years later, John Meigs had left, and on March 14, 1947,
William S. Mills became Kenneth Dow's partner. In the spring
of 1949, C.F. Fisher and E.R. Carr bought the lounge and on May
17, 1954 sold the business to Rex Clark and Elizabeth Leonard
Clark, the first of the Leonard family to own the business. After
Rex Clark passed away, while sitting on an end stool at the bar,
Betty sold the lounge to Theodore Webber on April 25, 1957. The
business came back to the Leonard family when Walter "Duke"
Leonard bought the lounge on April 5, 1961.
While located at 1 Aviles Street
in the early 60s, the Tradewinds began to establish itself as
the place in St. Augustine to hear music. With the wonderful
black pianist Amye playing "Stormy Weather" to lead
into our trademark "Storm," such well known folk acts
as Gamble Rogers, Jim Ballew, the Infamous Art Shill and the
Folksters with Nigel Pickering and Paul Champion, and many others
played to enthusiastic crowds. If you were looking for good music
and good times in the early 1960s, Duke's Tradewinds was definitely
your port of call.
In 1964, the city's historical restoration department unearthed
the site of a hospital that dated back to the founding of St.
Augustine, necessitating a relocation of the Tradewinds. With
the change in location to the bar's present address at 124 Charlotte
Street came a change in the music. Soon the earlier folk acts
were being followed to the Tradewinds' stage by musicians such
as Jimmy Buffet, the First National Rotagilla Band, Bob and Joline
Patterson, John Westbrook, Don and Barry Dunaway, the Peyton
Brothers, the Sounds of Blue Grass, and Odetta.
On July 1, 1971, Duke sold the lounge to the then Toni Johnson.
When they married on June 1, 1974, the Leonard name returned
once again to Tradewinds. Duke Leonard was much more than just
the bar's owner; he was a truly colorful character, admired by
men and loved by women. Duke always had a friendly word for his
customers, an outrageous tale for his friends, or a liars' poker
game going at the bar. His passing on June 21, 1978, left a big
void in the lives of his family and many friends. But Duke will
always be remembered because even today his stories and
stories about him are told over and over at the Tradewinds.
In 1979, Toni hired Frank Garrison as the
bar's manager. It was Frank's idea to bring in the likes of Doc
Watson, the Platters, the Coasters, the Byrds, and Phil Dryscoll,
and so once again the music changed. At that time, the Tradewinds
was closed on Sundays, except for the parties on Palm Sunday
and Easter Sunday. Frank said, "Let's try opening on Sundays";
the idea was a success and now we are open 365 days a year. As
times changed, so did the music, and we began booking bands like
Jimmy Devito, the Alligator Cowboys, Matanzas, the Jim Essery
Band, Quick Draw, acts that complete the evolution from our early
days as folk lounge to our current mix of the best music
rock'n'roll, blues, a little country, an occasional oldies act
in North Florida.
For the past decade, Troy Locke and
Matanzas has been the Winds house band playing nightly, Sunday though
Thursday. Nigel still plucks away Friday at Happy Hour when the old time
regulars congregate to raise their glasses high to Toni Leonard. Colleen
Murphy keeps alive the idea of giving musicans a place to try out their act
on Thursday night at 'Open Mic'. Mark Hart has put the 'happy', back in
Happy Hour from 5 pm to 8 on Saturday through Wednesdays. And we are
thankful for the wonderful memories our generation has of the best players
who drop in from time to time to get in on the fun of performing at the
Winds. Even the old timers like 80 year old Joe Eagleson, still love to come
in and perform. You never can tell who is going to jump up on stage to join
in! Janet Leonard now owns the Tradewinds, assisted by a staff that would
make old Duke proud. We've even seen his ghost wandering through the lounge,
keeping a watchful eye on things. This generation at the Tradewinds Tropical
Lounge, is dedicated to continuing our tradition of having the VERY BEST
LIVE ENTERTAINMENT in North Florida. Come on in and relive the history and
make a few memories of your own.
124 Charlotte Street • St. Augustine, FL
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