Eugene Snowden is many things: Bombastic. Soulful. Hilarious. Kind. Groovy. Sexy. Intellectual. Humble. Aggressive. Outrageous. Creative. Uncontrollable. Lovable. Artistic. Singular.
That’s the lowdown list from his good friend, John Washburn, owner of three Imperial Wine Bars, where Snowden has played many times to deliver his blend of powerhouse rhythm and blues.
“The worst thing you can do is ask an artist to describe themselves,” Snowden said, acknowledging his friend’s colorful descriptions with a soulful laugh.
Snowden is chatting on the phone from Atlanta, where he is taking care of his elderly parents. It’s a more important gig than his regular one, which is also impressive. Snowden has been an iconic presence in Central Florida’s music scene for decades.
He has played in all kinds of funky juke joints, from the Imperial to Will’s Pub and Lil Indies, where he regularly served up something called, “Ten Pints of Truth,” on Wednesday nights.
It’s all rather quiet now. COVID-19 has mostly silenced Snowden and all artists who rely on the connectivity of an audience to make the magic happen. But at 57, Snowden is cool with the New World Order.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “I went from five shows a week to zero. But I’m easily adjusting. I’m in my 50s now, and every major thing I did was early in life. Married. Divorced. Bought a house. I have since divested myself of all that stuff. So, I was prepared when the world got pulled out from under me. I set myself up to be ready.”
Consider it improv in action. Snowden is very good at that. It’s what great musicians do. Go with the flow. It happens quite a bit during his live performances. He will beckon musicians and friends to join him on stage so they can riff together. It can be wildly imperfect, but that’s the sweet spot.
“They know me,” he said. “I can take these chances.”
Influenced by grandfathers on both sides, Snowden has fine-tuned his craft since he began playing at 16. He was originally a drummer. After moving from New York to Orlando in 1993, Snowden found a world music vibe for a while before moving in another musical direction with a group called the Legendary JC’s in 2001. It was a nine-piece jam of soul and blues who toured with B.B. King, James Brown, Bad Company and Jethro Tull, among other notable acts.
In 2013, when the group broke up, Snowden taught himself how to play guitar, and he played on. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, he recently cut an album that needs a little bit of tweaking and will be out soon. For a snippet of his work, check out the album’s first single, “I’ll Do It,” on your favorite music streaming app or watch the music video on YouTube. It’s a 4:43-minute house party.
The music is mostly silent now, but it will be back at some point. Eugene Snowden will be there on the front lines playing a gig somewhere.
You may want to check him out. And feel free to add your own colorful description to an already impressive resume.