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    Pendergrass, rock musician, 55, dies

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 18, 2003

    Buddy Pendergrass, keyboard and guitar player for local rock groups the Tropics and White Witch, has died at age 55.

    He died Sunday (March 16, 2003) at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. He lived in St. Petersburg.

    The Tropics, five high school kids sporting Beatle-esque moptop haircuts and heavily influenced by British invasion rock groups, was one of the first bands from Tampa to gain national fame.

    In 1966 the band beat 439 other groups to win an international battle of the bands competition in Chicago and soon got a recording contract with Columbia Records. Two of the group's songs, Time and I Want More, climbed to the top three on the charts.

    Mr. Pendergrass and Tropics drummer Bobby Shea went on to form the early metal group White Witch, which released several albums in the '70s.

    In the 1980s, Mr. Pendergrass worked with Pat Benatar and U2 among many other national acts as a concert production director.

    The Tropics' original members reunited in 1999 for a benefit concert at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

    More recently, Mr. Pendergrass opened Tropic Sound Studios, a 12,000-square-foot Christian recording studio in the Bay Forest office complex just south of Clearwater.

    "Most people involved in Christian music have their hearts in the right place but no practical experience," Mr. Pendergrass said in a 2001 interview with the St. Petersburg Times. "I had a vision where I could have the studio to record Christian music. It's every Christian's responsibility to serve the Lord."

    His wife, Debbie Pendergrass, said her husband lived his faith every day.

    "His greatest wish was to glorify the Lord in all he did, by far, and he heavily influenced those around him by living that every day," she said.

    "The impact he had really became apparent as he became ill and people started contacting us. . . . He really touched people."

    Mr. Pendergrass, born Hardin T. Pendergrass Jr., came here in 1957 from his native Chattanooga, Tenn. He attended Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg.

    He is survived by his wife, Debbie; two sons, Clayton and Ted, both of St. Petersburg; two sisters, Vicki Pope, Atlanta, and Paula Williams, Fairfax Station, Va.; and his parents, Peggy and Hardin Pendergrass Sr., Inverness.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Homes & Cremation Tribute Center-Ninth Street Chapel, St. Petersburg, is in charge of arrangements.

    -- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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