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    Randall Goodgame's dreams of the music business have taken him away. Tonight he will perform a full gig for the first time in his hometown.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000


    When Randall Goodgame was a teenager, he couldn't get enough of his idol, Jimmy Buffett. He especially loved Buffett's quirky-titled album A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean.

    So whenever Buffett would come to town to perform a show, Goodgame and his friends would be first in line at Spec's Music to purchase a front row seat if they could get it.

    "I remember sleeping outside in a borrowed truck to get tickets," Goodgame said.

    Now Goodgame is performer himself -- but he's not exactly on the scale of Buffett. Goodgame knows that probably no one will spend the night outside Club More to see his show tonight, where he'll sing Laundromat and Sweet Aileen off his new CD, Arkadelphia.

    But he is still happy to play a hometown venue that seats about 600 people.

    Some people in the audience probably will be former classmates from the Clearwater High School class of 1992. Others are sure to include his family, especially his parents Dr. Tom and Beth Goodgame, longtime residents of Clearwater who support their son's off-beat life that took him to Nashville to pursue a pop/gospel/folk singing and songwriting career.

    "Even though (the music business) is unpredictable, they never say "Get your head on straight' or "Get a real job,' " Goodgame said.

    Just the opposite. Mrs. Goodgame hopes her son's career takes off, and said his music "touches your heart and touches your soul."

    "It's just so amazing because it crosses all generations," she said. "My friend has a demo and she was playing it while carpooling her kids. All the kids just sing along in the car. They said, "Mommy can we get in (to the show)?' "

    Goodgame planned to drive to the show from a rented duplex in Nashville where he lives with his wife and sometime back-up singer, Amy, and their 2-week-old baby, Olivia Mae.

    "It's been a crazy two weeks," he said by telephone from Nashville. "I've only had one show since she's been born."

    Goodgame, 26, talks slowly with a soft Southern drawl much more pronounced than his mother's almost undistinguishable accent. He likes to describe his music as folk songs that tell stories, and said one of his biggest influences was the late local jazz pianist Manfredo Fest, with whom he studied for many years.

    An independent artist who produces CDs for his own label, Redfish Records, he said it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to six months to write a song. He can find inspiration just about anywhere, from a graveyard to a coin laundry.

    He spends half of his time playing churches, fundraisers and youth events, and half his time playing small clubs and bars.

    Sometimes while he's playing in a bar, he'll sneak in a gospel song and people will walk up to him and say "I can't believe you did that."

    Others tell him they headed straight for the door when they heard the beginning of a God-oriented song, but then stopped and listened.

    "They say, "You made me cry,' " Goodgame said.

    But he won't be playing any gospel music at Club More.

    In fact, he said if he ever does become famous, it won't be for his gospel singing. He'll be known for his pop songs.

    He said he has played them all over the Midwest and Colorado. Except for a talent show at Clearwater High School where he sang a song he wrote called the Craftsman -- a song he said he'll never sing again -- and another by Elton John called I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues, he has never sung a full gig in Clearwater.

    But when he was 15 he played the piano professionally for $10 an hour at a Clearwater yacht club, performing background music for the club's Sunday brunches.

    For more than three years, while he was a student at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama, he was in a band called Black Creek Band. He sang songs about peaches and whiskey and performed 15-minute guitar solos. But that was all he could take.

    "I was writing my own songs that didn't fit with a Southern rock band," said Goodgame.

    The songs he writes and sings are part fantasy, part reality. Take the song Charlie Robin, which is about the kindly landlord who allowed starving artist Goodgame to pay his rent with baskets of fruit. Charlie Robin was the man who owned the first place the couple rented in Nashville, but "we never had to pay the rent in fruit," Goodgame said.

    As a high school senior in 1992, Goodgame received a Clearwater Jazz Holiday scholarship plaque that was inscribed with this message: "May your music bring you back to Coachman Park."

    He's getting close. Club More is only minutes from the park.

    If you go

    Clearwater High School graduate Randall Goodgame will play his unique brand of folk music at 9 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.) tonight at 600-seat Club More, 703 Franklin St., Clearwater. Tickets cost $4. For information, call (727) 466-6673.

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