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Statewide Honors for Bill "Sauce Boss" Wharton


Sometimes, people who are very famous elsewhere barely raise an eyebrow of recognition in their own hometown. That certainly holds true for a Tallahassee musician who is about to be recognized statewide.

Bill Wharton – also known as the “Sauce Boss” for cooking huge pots full of gumbo to close his shows - is about to receive a Florida Music Award.

“People voted,” Wharton explained with just the hint of a smile. “It’s like the Grammys where they have a bunch of people that are on their list. And evidently – judging by the way they’re talking – a lot of people all over Florida voted; club owners and musicians and just music people.”

For this year’s installment of the award, Wharton finds himself in some notable company; other recipients include Rick Derringer, Les Dudek and Mike Pinera. For Tallahassee’s Sauce Boss, the whole thing came as a bit of a surprise.

“All the time you plug away and plug away,” he mused. “A lot of times you don’t see the movement because you’re down in the ditches sort of. And once in a while you pop your head up and notice something and this is one of those times for me. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah…cool!’”

And Bill Wharton has been plugging away for a long time. Gigging around Tallahassee bars in the 70s and releasing the first of many albums in the 80s. Then endless tours took him around the state, through big chunks of America and eventually overseas, where he became a huge hit in France. Still, he said there was just something very appealing about where he is now, both musically and geographically.

“I feel like I’m in a really comfortable place at this time. I’m not a rich guy, but I think I am because what I have is true friends; not friends because they want to be close to someone who’s famous.”

And indeed Wharton admitted there are some parts of the world where that just isn’t possible.

“I like to be able to walk down the street because there are some places where I can’t do that without being accosted. There are some places up north where I’ve got a pretty good little following and it’s kind of nice to be able to have a life where you don’t have to have security guards at your house.”

Still, few musicians ever turn down the respect and applause from their peers and other professional associates. So, as he heads toward his seventh decade on earth, Bill Wharton is a pretty happy guy.

“I feel just incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do and I get paid for it too….not bad!”

On March 4th and 5th, Tallahassee’s Sauce Boss will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some other Florida music legends in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Davie to receive his Florida Music Award.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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