Florida Folklife Program

Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: Will McLean


Will McLean, . Courtesy of Florida State Archives/Florida Folklife Program Collection..
Will McLeanCourtesy of Florida State Archives/Florida Folklife Program Collection.

Will McLean (1919 - 1990) - 1990 Florida Folk Heritage Award

Will McLeanwas an Anglo-American songwriter, musician, and raconteur known throughout Florida for his ballads, poems, and short stories reflecting the history and culture of the state.  A fourth-generation Florida Cracker, at age three he began playing church hymns on a harmonica, and at age six he composed his first ballad, “Away O’Eee.” His grandfather was a woods rider who took McLean with him on journeys throughout the state. They traveled by train, horse, and foot. During those travels, McLean learned the state’s history and discovered its natural beauty.

For over fifty years, McLean wrote and performed his music, appearing on a wide variety of stages—from the Florida Folk Festival to New York’s Carnegie Hall. He influenced two generations of musicians, and his songs such as “Wild Hog,” “Osceola,” and “Hold Back the Waters,” became part of Florida’s musical heritage.