Will McLean

Will McLean, 1919-1990


Known as the Father of Florida Folk, Will McLean was one of our most prolific and influential songwriters. Born just outside of Chipley, Will spent his life traveling and writing songs inspired by his experiences in and love for the Sunshine State. He wrote his first song, “Away O’ee,” at the age of six, and went on to compose over 3,000 more songs and stories before his death in 1990. His classic portrayals of Florida’s people and landscapes through songs such as “Hold Back the Waters,” “Osceola’s Last Words,” and “Florida Sand” are still sung today. In 1963 Will made his Florida Folk Festival debut, and performed many times throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s where Gamble Rogers, Paul Champion, Jim Ballew, Don Grooms and many others often accompanied McLean on stage. His legacy continues through the Will McLean Foundation as well as an annual folk festival bearing his name.

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