Starke Quality

Raiford Starke

In 1991 Starke joined a band in the Keys called Big Dick and the Extenders, who were in need of a guitarist. They were a rock band fronted by a Cherokee Indian who was six and a half feet tall, weighed more than 300 pounds, and called himself Big Dick. "A friend of mine urged me to get in that band," Starke recalls. "He told me, 'You better go down there, because that guy's a legend. It's a steady gig, and you'll be making money.' We did Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Motown. The guy also did a few Tom Jones songs 'cause he could sing just like Tom Jones, man."

Starke originally thought it would be a one-month gig, but the band was such a success he found himself living in the Keys for two and a half years. "We were a house band at this club," he says. "I was working six nights a week, for four hours straight, every night. After two and a half years, it had run its course for me."

Starke returned to Broward in 1994. He found a niche in Fort Lauderdale, where he could return to playing the country music he had played as a teenager. While performing with country bands in trucker bars and Moose lodges, he was invited back out to Big Cypress, once again to play in Chief Billie's backing band. The work was plentiful. Chief Billie recorded a couple of albums and even staged a few tours.

Cowboyish Raiford Starke likes to play with Indians  --  and just about any other kind of musician
Sherri Cohen
Cowboyish Raiford Starke likes to play with Indians -- and just about any other kind of musician

Details

performs at 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 14. There is no cover charge. Call 954-742-8505.
Alligator Alley, 2079 N. University Dr., Sunrise.

All the while Starke continued to play with other artists. Chief Billy introduced Starke to Tiger. The two started playing oldies and classic rock covers, with drummer John Yarling, giving birth to the Seminole Swamp Band. Starke also joined a Southern-rock outfit, influenced by the Meters and the Neville Brothers, called the Shack Daddys. He has been a regular lead-guitar player in the Shack Daddys for six years now, and even took part in the recording of their self-titled debut album, released in the spring of last year.

Starke's career flourished in Broward. But he couldn't find time to record his solo album. The inspiration finally came with the passing of Wilson, in 1996. Starke says he has always admired Wilson's songs and was disappointed that Wilson never recorded any of them. So he created Speak Me as a way of celebrating his departed mentor.

The players Starke recruited to back him on Speak Me -- who include Michael Cole on guitar, Jeff "Apt. Q258" Sipe on drums, and Count M'Butu on various percussion -- have played with jam bands such as Col. Bruce Hampton, Aquarium Rescue Unit, and the Allman Brothers. But Starke won't deny that the most important musician on the album is Wilson, whose picture adorns the CD. A shirtless, tattooed man, his face wrinkled and puffed with wear, stands below a fishing net, on a shrimp boat that looks out over a cerulean sea, below an azure sky.

"It's kind of a bittersweet thing, releasing a CD like this with some of his tunes on there," Starke says. "On the one hand, it's great to see his music being done. On the other hand, it's kind of sad because I wish he would have been around to do it. It's a tribute to him. The guy was part of my soul."

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