In 25 years of working the Tampa Bay music scene, Darryl Quesenberry, aka Reverend Funky D, has experienced its growth and progress first hand. Playing professionally at a local level is difficult at the best of times, but Funky D has managed it for the entirety of his existence here, and insists that one of the reasons he’s remained so long is the overlying sense of fellowship and community. “It’s magic that way. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve been all over, and played in some top notch scenes, and I’ve always ended up here.”
This sense of community is reflected in the fundraiser held for Funky D this Saturday, initially organized to aid him while he was out of work and recovering from hernia surgery. When doctors discovered he had Stage III colon cancer, the fundraiser’s scope changed immensely. “He is such a significant part of our local music scene ... he’s been a huge inspiration for a lot of the younger musicians coming up, which explains the outpouring from the music family,” says Robyn Alleman, one-time bandmate, Blueberry Patch board member, and fundraiser organizer who says that 24 hours after she put up a post seeking volunteers, “I had over 100 people offer.”
His value to the scene is also reflected in the nearly dozen acts on the bill that were touched by D, whether it was via playing with him, or being introduced to the scene by him. “It’s cool to have the longevity, to be in the same music scene long enough to become an elder … and be able to see something like this [fundraiser] happen, to watch your community activate,” he says, adding “That was like the biggest blessing of my entire life. It’s a weird blessing because it came with cancer, but to see the thing that I put everything I had into, completely turn around and do the same for me… I’ve got goosebumps talking about it."
D is humble about his mode of nurturing emerging talent, a common thread of his career here. “I get all this credit, but the reality of that is, I’m only doing what the people before me did. I would never have gotten into this scene if people like Mike Edwards from Uncle John’s Band hadn’t opened the door for me. I just carried on with what I saw as the rules. This is what you do, you help everybody.”
He was active pretty much from the start when he moved to St. Petersburg from Virginia in 1990. His first band was Half-Baked Guru, which did a stint opening for Spin Doctors but never quite broke out. Over the years, he’s transitioned from playing drums to keys, shed his old Animal nickname in favor of his current Funky D (“That was a different guy, he was not old and broken like this one,” he snorts), and been in and out of bands as a leader, member and guest, among them, the Urban Gypsies, Food, The Funky Seeds, and most recently, Porcupine. He’s also sat in with innumerable others, both of local and Parliament Funkadelic caliber. “I’ve always been a free agent who’s had bands, too.” He insists the key to his survival is his constant desire to change things up creatively. “I’ve played every type of music; changing genres and changing styles and evolving is one of the reasons I’ve lasted as long as I have.”
Diversifying his musical portfolio has also played a factor in his continued relevance. In addition to performing, he books and produces shows at various venues around town, handles marketing and promotions, and runs live sound for events like the New Year’s Eve Hometeam Rally and Orange Blossom Jamboree via his River Styx Productions, not to mention donating his time to the nonprofit Blueberry Patch to manage its sound and live music calendar.
He’s also a legit Reverend. “It’s a non-denominational unity thing. I believe in the power of music and community. That would be my religion, without a doubt. I am a minister of funk.” While he’s not religious, “I do know there’s energy and it’s passed through music and it’s passed through people. That’s the closest thing to a collective mind we have, is when a band that’s improv-ing can read each other; that’s an evolutionary step we fight with alcohol and whatever else we can pour into our bodies to keep it from happening, because it scares us.”
He’s currently working on launching Small Town Coalition, Unified Musicians, or ‘SCUM,’ a performance series originally conceived by his late Virginia mentor, Ronnie Clifford. The idea is to assemble a group of disparate musicians, learn some tunes, then perform them live. The one rule? None of these musicians can be in the same band. “It has to be people that don’t work together. From different scenes, different genres.”
The potential for some intriguing collabs is undeniable but D admits his motivation is selfish. “I want to make sure I do something like that before I do check out,” he says. “Everyone’s gonna say it’s a service but it’s not. I want to play with these people, I just want to be around them, I want to soak up all the camaraderie and the energy of it, because it’s been the best part of my life, and it’s been a pretty fucking awesome life.” He continues, “At 50 years old, I am a working musician without a day job who owns a house, a couple cars and has a wife and children. I’ve had a blessed and wonderful, incredible existence in this area. I couldn’t ask for a better life. It has just been amazing. It’s the community thing, it’s the family vibe and how we work together. Looking back over it, I think I’m a lucky son of a bitch.”
Donate to the fundraising campaign at gofundme.com/KeepDFunky. The Keepin’ D Funky Fundraiser takes place Sat., Aug. 29, from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., at The Amsterdam, 1049 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; tickets are $8 in advance, $10 dos. Nearly a dozen acts play on two stages. Full schedule below...
Sean Hartley & Savii Hilton Duo, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
Endless Flow (Acoustic), 5-5:45 p.m.
Row Jomah, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Bath Salt Zombies, 8:30-9:30 p.m.
Holey Miss Moley, 10:30-11:45 p.m.
CopE (retro), 1:30-3:30 p.m.
NoNeed, 4:15-5 p.m.
Broke Mr. Jones, 5:45-6:30 p.m.
Justino & The Difference, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Harum Scarum, 9:30-10:30 p.m.
Ajeva, 12:30-2 a.m.