Every Saturday night, we’d meet in the gallery of the Pinellas Park Art Society, set up our tables and chairs, mark off our stage area, and have a great time.
Some nights it was SRO; others, we poked each other in the ribs to stay awake. For those who collect such information, our first performer was Jack Jones, playing hammered dulcimer, guitar and banjo, accompanied by his wife, Georgia, on vocals. The other performer our first night (yes, there were only two!) was Drew Calvin, one kick-butt composer/lyricist who is married to my friend Elaine.
After a successful first year, I rented a building and offered sustaining memberships in what was turning out to be the go-to source for anyone looking for great local talent to entertain at banquets, private parties, festivals, and other events. We staged an annual Music Marathon, hosted the statewide Music Without A Net songwriting contest for acoustic performers, and produced a TV show, “Works,” with the local cable company. That show featured poet Bob McCann’s “Warehouse,” with music composed by Joel Frye, and made it to the top 5 nationally in the Performing Arts category of the CableACE awards (top honors went to a show featuring Joel Grey). CAMS helped promote many musicians and poets who now make all or part of their living from skills they honed there.
CAMS closed in 1994, but I still get calls from out-of-towners who’ve heard about our Open Mic and Poetry programs, and those who found us before we closed down still say there hasn’t been a venue like it since.