This year’s headliner for the Florence Winter Music Festival is Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff.
The two-day event will be January 28 and 29 at the Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St. in Florence, and live streamed. Music fans can warm up their winter with six bands of blazing-hot bluegrass, heartwarming traditional and new folk, and foot-stompin’ Americana.
Bonoff has enjoyed critical acclaim, commercial success, enduring popularity, and the unwavering respect of her peers. Many of her songs became hits for Bonnie Raitt, Wynonna Judd, and Linda Ronstadt. People magazine ranked Bonoff’s "All My Life," a Grammy-winning duet for Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, as one of the top-five most popular wedding songs.
Bonoff released her self-titled debut album in 1977. Her recording of "Personally" peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1982. She also recorded "Somebody's Eyes" for the Footloose (1984) soundtrack, had a top-ten hit single of her own, “Standing Right Next to Me," from the film 8 Seconds (1994), and just released a new Christmas single with Michael McDonald.
According to her website, KarlaBonoff.com, Bonoff was born and raised in Southern California and was a songwriter by the age of 15. She became friends with other singer-songwriters and musicians in the '60s who were creating their own unique sound. She talks about lining up at the legendary Troubadour at noon on Mondays to get a slot in the famous Monday night Troubadour "hoot," which was a training ground for many artists who went on to great success.
"It was an amazing time. Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Elton John were around the Troubadour in those days," she remembers. There were some other writer-singers who became friends of Karla's, and eventually, they decided to put a band together. They were Kenny Edwards, (who had started the Stone Ponys with Linda Ronstadt and Bobby Kimmel), Wendy Waldman, and Andrew Gold. Something powerful in their combined sound drew them together. Thus, the band Bryndle was born. The band made an album for A&M, but it was never released. They were, unfortunately, a bit ahead of their time. “We were these two girls and two guys... the closest thing they could compare us to was the Mamas and the Papas.” The band never gained the success they should have.
Bryndle broke up, but it launched four very illustrious careers. Kenny and Andrew joined Linda Ronstadt's band, and through that connection, Ronstadt heard a demo of Bonoff’s "Lose Again.” "Hey, you know, that's real good," Bonoff remembers Ronstadt saying, "What else have you got?" On Ronstadt’s 1976 "Hasten Down the Wind" album there were three Bonoff songs including "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me."
Bonoff earned coveted spots on major tours, opening for James Taylor and Jackson Browne and earning a rave review in Time magazine. Two subsequent albums, 1979’s "Restless Nights" and 1982’s "Wild Heart of the Young,” established Karla as one of LA's major artists and songwriters. Friends Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Peter Frampton, J.D. Souther, and her partners from Bryndle, all participated in the making of those albums.
In the early ’90s Bonoff and her Bryndle-mates decided it was time to put the band back together since each had experienced many solo successes.
"When we decided to put this band back together," Bonoff explains, "we realized that one of the things that was wrong the first time was that we all wrote separately. We thought it would be great to write together and it turned out to be really fun.”
After four years of hard work, they released the first Bryndle album in 1995.
Throughout the 2000s Bonoff remained active while claiming a certain level of “semi-retirement.” She has chosen to limit her touring and songwriting to only what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, without the pressure of record company contracts. Her legacy as a writer and perseverance as a performer are spoken best in a Billboard Magazine review of her "All My Life" recording. "Long before Alanis and Jewel, there was a breed of singer/songwriters whose earthly anthems of soul-searching, heartache, and joy touched souls in a way few can muster today."
Today, Bonoff continues to tour very selectively. She will headline the Florence Winter Music Festival on Saturday, January 29, at 8:30 p.m.
The event gets started with a free-to-the-public mini concert by Kristen Grainger and Dan Wetzel as True North Duo on Friday, January 28, at 4:30 p.m. at Oregon Pacific Bank’s main branch, 1355 Highway 101 in Florence.
The Friday, January 28, lineup includes Growling Old Men at 7:00 p.m. and Appalachian Road Show at 8:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, January 29, features Pretty Gritty at 1:00 p.m., Growling Old Men at 2:15 p.m., and Mary Flower at 3:30 p.m. Saturday night’s opening act is festival favorite Kristen Grainger and True North at 7:00 p.m., with Bonoff at 8:30 p.m.
On-site performances at the Florence Events Center are $98 for the two-day pass, $42 for reserved seating for Friday Bluegrass, $31 for Saturday afternoon Folk/Americana general admission, and $49 for Saturday evening’s reserved-seating headliner show.
New this year is a live stream option. Prices are $20 each for Friday night bluegrass, Saturday afternoon folk/Americana, and Saturday night headliner show. An all-access two-day live stream pass is $55. Links will be sent to each buyer in advance of each show. The event will not be recorded for later viewing.
“This year’s festival experience will include more workshops, room for music-related exhibitors, more space for jamming, and food and beverage options all sure to please,” said Florence Winter Music Festival chairperson Kirk Mlinek.
The festival, presented by Sea Lion Caves, annually draws attendees from across the western states, is in what would be its 20th year, save for last year’s Covid-interrupted season, and is produced by and staffed by a dedicated team of volunteers from the nonprofit Florence Arts, Culture & Entertainment (FACE).
Visit WinterMusicFestival.org for schedules, artist profiles, tickets, COVID-19 requirements, and more.