By Curtis Ross of The Tampa Tribune

Name, Dream live on

Published: December 19, 2003

With The New Tropics, Charlie Souza is keeping alive both his own dream and the name of Tampa's popular '60s beat combo.

""We're doing original music that I've written over the years,'' Souza says. ""The New Tropics is the band I get to perform my songs with. It's real exciting for me.''

The band's formation is in some ways Souza's formal return to Florida. He moved back in 2002 after nearly 30 years in California.

Souza made the move west in the 1970s during a stint with a pre-stardom Tom Petty. Petty had signed a contract with Leon Russell's Shelter Records label.

""I thought I'd made the big time when I saw the Hollywood sign, standing there with Leon Russell at Shelter on Sunset Boulevard,'' Souza says.

The big time never quite happened for Souza. He parted ways with Petty and went on to perform with bands such as Gale Force and Fortress.

A 1994 earthquake started Souza thinking that the West Coast wasn't for him. But it took a few more years for him to finally make the move.

A 1999 reunion show with his Tropics band mates singer Mel Dryer, keyboardist Buddy Pendergrass, drummer Bobby Shea and guitarist Eric Turner brought Souza back to a Tampa area stage.

Souza tapped some old friends for The New Tropics. Guitarist Steve Griggs and keyboardist Mike Regar crossed paths with The Tropics in the 1960s as members of The Trojans. Drummer Bill Peterson played with Souza in Bacchus, the hard rocking group he and Turner formed after the demise of The Tropics. Pendergrass' death this year effectively ended The Tropics, but gave Souza even more incentive to continue.

Claiming The Tropics' name, Souza says, is ""a tribute to Buddy Pendergrass.'' Souza says both Pendergrass' mother and Shea have given their blessings.

Drummer Peterson, Souza says, ""lit the fire'' that set The New Tropics in motion.

Peterson told Souza he enjoyed the music he had been making (Souza has CDs available through his Web site, and said, """I'd like to be in your band and play your music,''' Souza remembers.

Besides Souza's originals, the band will be performing a few old Tropics numbers and some '60s favorites. And while the show may not be as choreographed as when The Tropics were young, Souza insists that ""once you move around when you play, you can't stop.''

Reporter Curtis Ross can be reached at (813) 259-7568.

Charlie Souza & The New Tropics


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