Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: JULIAN "GOOSE" CULBREATH
JULIAN "GOOSE" CULBREATHCourtesy of Florida State Archives/Florida Folklife Collection. Photo by Riki Saltzman
JULIAN "GOOSE" CULBREATH (1916 - 2003) - 1992 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Julian Culbreath was born in Suwannee County, but lived in the commercial fishing village of Cortez in Manatee County. He received his nickname as a child after he took a liking to a neighbor’s goose and showed more appreciation for it than for his school work. He learned to play the fiddle at about the same time, taking it up in the tradition of his father and his grandfather. Soon after moving to Cortez, the family became known for their regular public jam sessions. A chapter devoted to the Culbreaths’ music in Ben Greene’s book, Finest Kind, notes: “The music was so good it just about split Cortes right down the middle on Sunday mornings—with half the villagers going to church and other half shaking a leg to the old fiddle tunes at the Culbreaths.”
In his more than 80 years of music making, Culbreath learned a variety of styles. Besides the obvious influence of the traditional southern fiddle tunes of his grandfather, he also learned much from the sounds of Nashville. A regular performer at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival and a multiple performer at the Florida Folk Festival, he attracted special attention for his trick fiddling and his fondness of a Florida fisherman’s tradition—going barefoot.
Members of the Cortez Village Historical Society pointed out that “throughout his lengthy musical career “Goose” Culbreath has remained a commercial fisherman. He has also given freely of himself to inspire and help local musicians.”