The Folk Club of South Florida Brings 2 Guys to Miami

Anyone who happened to catch the enormously hilarious 2003 film A Mighty Wind could hardly be blamed for having a somewhat stilted view of folk music. In the film's parodied reality, the genre was presented as a maudlin, overzealous form of fanciful musical expression suited mainly to aging hipsters in turtleneck sweaters and wide-eyed women eager to sing along to every ready refrain. The film — produced, directed, and acted by the same zany bunch responsible for that other cult fave, Spinal Tap — was a hoot.

But for those who were there during the true folks days, the music helped rekindle a sense of sublime innocence prior to the scourge of Vietnam, drugs, and the onslaught of heady rock ’n’ roll.

The musicians who belonged to the group known as the Highwaymen — not to be confused with the country supergroup of the same name — were able to attest to the earnest following this genre enjoyed. In the early ’60s, they scored a string of hit records, the likes of which grew uncommonly popular during that time. Several — “Michael (Row the Boat Ashore),” “Cottonfields,” and “Gypsy Rover” in particular — remain classics to this day, often sung around campfires or in any setting where a whiff of nostalgia becomes especially prevalent.

Two of the group’s later members, Roy Connors and Alan Scharf, are helping to preserve that troubadour tradition today. Both are South Florida residents — Connors is a former partner in a Fort Lauderdale advertising agency, Forsyth & Connors, while Scharf went on to act in a series of minor film classics (most notably, The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes) and continued to sing as a cantor at Congregation Beth El in Fort Lauderdale. When the two reconnected, they formed the duo 2 Guys, singing and playing a variety of stringed instruments for delighted fans happy to see folk alive and well.

“When folk music took a hiatus, the four of us went our separate ways,” Connors recalls as he describes the Highwaymen’s final exit. “Enter 2011... I was retired from the advertising and marketing business and living in South Florida, and then lo and behold, Alan Scharf moved to South Florida from Las Vegas. Nowadays, we get a huge reception when we play in communities, condos, and clubs all over South Florida, because those are the people who grew up on the folk music of the ’60s and still remember us. They always thank us for bringing back so many special memories.”

And there will be no shortage of memories when the Folk Club of South Florida brings 2 Guys together for a special concert at Miami's Luna Star Cafe on August 1.

Scharf remembers the era fondly, when protest songs began to galvanize the folk faithful and encourage more activism. However, Scharf says the Highwaymen were never really involved with the antiwar movement, as so many of their peers were.

“We had a stage act that was designed to entertain the audience,” Scharf recalls. “There were enough people who were singing protest songs. We were good friends with [singer/songwriter] Phil Ochs, and the only protest song we did was “What’s That I Hear Now?” but only because we liked it as a song and not because it was a protest song.”

“At that time, folk music was everywhere,” Connors reflects. “Anybody who had a guitar was singing and playing folk music. Most everyone was singing protest songs. We were very different. We sang for entertainment only.”

2 Guys. 8 p.m. Saturday, August 1, at Luna Star Cafe, 775 NE 125th St., North Miami. Presented by Folk Club of South Florida Acoustic Underground; 305-799-7123; Admission for the general public is $10, $8 for Folk Club members. 
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Lee Zimmerman