Baseball star Jake Peavy considers himself fortunate in many respects. Growing up in Mobile County, he nurtured a love for baseball in parks from Saraland to Semmes. This love for baseball eventually resulted in a successful career in the Major Leagues, which took him away from the Gulf Coast. Baseball forced Peavy to establish himself in other cities, such as Chicago, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco, but his connection with his hometown remained strong.
Peavy eventually decided it was time to give back to the community that showed him so much love. After establishing The Jake Peavy Foundation in 2012, the baseball star decided it was time to focus on Mobile. Now in its fifth year, The Jake Peavy Foundation Charity Golf Classic (2016 Nappie Award winner for Best Annual Fundraiser) is just one of many ways Peavy has given back.
This year he expanded this event into a three-day affair that began at the Soul Kitchen music venue and ended with a community workday at Eagle’s Landing, a housing community for homeless veterans.
“As my [baseball] career comes to a close, I realize that I’ve spent so much time and energy in other communities,” Peavy said. “I’m excited to get back into my hometown and bring our community together. In today’s society, we’ve lost so much as far as being a community and neighbors and helping each other. We’re very selfish in nature. For me, it’s all about using my platform to bring people together.”
Peavy also decided to make the weekend personal on a different level. While admitting baseball is his first love, the MLB pitcher also has a passion for music that began when he was a young man sitting in church. He says the pastor’s charismatic message did not sway him much, but he found a “real” connection with the music he heard during each service.
This past March, The Jake Peavy Foundation held Hero Jam 2016 with Jake Peavy & Friends headlining and proceeds going to the USO. Last August, Peavy collaborated with the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation for the “Can’t Stop This Train: A Tribute to Jerry Garcia” benefit concert, which allowed Peavy to perform in the name of charity alongside such legends as Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco.
“Standing on the Fillmore stage with members of the Grateful Dead, playing a tribute to Jerry Garcia and having some of the homeless youth that we were raising money for, made for a special night,” Peavy said. “I’m looking over and Phil Lesh is on bass with Jackie Greene and Luther Dickinson playing ‘Shakedown Street’ and other timeless hits.”
These two positive experiences made Peavy realize it was time to mix charity and music in his hometown with this year’s Jake Peavy Foundation Charity Golf Classic. Peavy decided it was time to incorporate music into a Gulf Coast philanthropic event. Peavy says adding a musical element to this event creates “a different kind of freedom and fun-loving attitude” that he felt at Hero Jam and “Can’t Stop This Train: A Tribute to Jerry Garcia.”
“It makes for a special night,” Peavy explained. “Music is healing in a lot of ways. It’s a universal language. It touches the youngest and oldest of souls. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. You can just feel it.”
On the night before the golfers hit the green, Peavy welcomed the public to the Soul Kitchen for a local concert that generated funds for Gulf Coast veterans organizations. Specifically, these groups specialize in offering support to individuals making the transition from military to civilian life. For this endeavor, Peavy chose Louisiana swamp jam masters Honey Island Swamp Band to provide the evening’s sonic foundation.
Peavy first experienced the group at last year’s “Mobile’s Last Waltz,” which celebrated the music of the Grateful Dead and The Band, held at The Brickyard. Peavy quickly fell in love with Honey Island’s Gulf Coast-inspired “swampy, Southern rock.”
“We certainly could’ve brought in a bigger act or stuff like that,” Peavy said. “I want to promote the scene and give people who I know are doing it the right way, and appreciate the music, a chance for exposure. I couldn’t be more excited to be friends with these guys and partner with them on nights like this.”
The partnership extended from the back of the house to the stage. Armed with his guitar, Peavy took the stage to jam alongside Honey Island. He also brought some of his “friends” from Jake Peavy & Friends. Guitarist Ben Jernigan and keyboardist Chris Spies lent their talents to this live experience.
After charming the crowd at the recent Revivalists show at Soul Kitchen, Nashville vocalist Jennifer Hartswick returned to give the crowd a taste of her soulful pipes. Hartswick was not alone: Wet Willie’s Donna Hall added her vocals to the mix. Ultimately the event was one in which the audience, the musicians and the community all were winners.
“Everybody here has a sense of purpose or have helped in some way to make their money pour right back into this community,” Peavy said. “Every dime of this money that’s raised this weekend is going back into this community.”
With his first local concert benefit behind him, Peavy will be splitting his attention between baseball and another musical endeavor that he hopes will nurture his hometown. Since last February, Peavy’s Dauphin Street Sound has been working hard to attract local and regional bands into its impressive studio. Peavy hopes Dauphin Street Sound will give the bands a quality room in which to record, as well as bring more national attention to Mobile’s local music scene.
“We’ve made it with the gear and people and production that they need,” Peavy said. “What’s next is finding artists who are from this area and want to grow in their craft, and not leave here and be proud to be from here. We’re going to support the local artists.”
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