BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Back in the day when Gasparilla Island was more about community and less about being an exclusive second-home or vacation destination, there was a guy named Mike Weddle and his buddies who made up this little group called the Boca Bande. They may not have made worldwide headlines, but when the locals heard they were going to be playing they came out in droves.
That’s because Mike and his band weren’t just talented, they made you feel good in many ways. From the days of playing the Laff-a-Lott, which is what South Beach was called before it was South Beach, to tarpon festivals and backyard barbecues, Mike and the Boca Bande were in attendance at many of the island’s most important events. After their gig was done, they would kick back and party with the folks who loved them, and supported them.
Mike was such a vital part of the island community for many, many years, because, for lack of better words, he was just a lovely person. He could lend an ear when no words were needed, he could lend advice when warranted, and when he said he considered his friends to be his family, he meant it.
“Mike had friends, dozens and dozens,” said his sister, Genie Patton. “He was so loving, so giving, so caring. Most people never heard a foul word out of his mouth, and rarely saw him get angry.”
Mike was born into a musical family in Compton, California. His father was a professional singer, and most of the family was musically-oriented in some way. His oldest brother, Ron, currently of Carson City, Nevada is a singer and has put out an album. Mike learned to play lead guitar, as well as drums, keyboard and sang vocals.
For as much rock ‘n’ roll that Mike was, he also loved other types of music. Gershwin was a heavy influence in his life, as much as the Beatles or Elvis. He was a Renaissance man to the core, in fact, and lived by the laws of grace and chivalry that good men have upheld throughout time.
When Mike graduated from high school in California he moved to Maine. It was there he first heard about Boca Grande, from a friend who worked at The Gasparilla Inn & Club seasonally. The year was 1975 when Mike followed that friend down to Florida and initially got a job in food services. He eventually moved to working the golf pro shop, a job he loved. For a few years he spent his summers in Maine and his winters working for The Inn, all the while meeting people on the island and establishing himself as the class act he was.
Mike and friend Jennifer Tierney were part of a band called Boomers, and they played island venues such as the Pink Elephant and the old Laff-a-Lot. He eventually met up with the friends and musicians who would become his band mates in the Boca Bande. While they lost a couple of members along the way, such as “No Way Ray,” who passed away, and their original guitar player who moved to Nashville, the band stayed consistent and played venues all over the island and in Englewood. He even took the show on he road to play at Joe “Baldy” Rinaldi’s annual pig roasts in northern Maine.
Mike started his own business with a primarily Boca Grande client base called AVID – Audio Video Interior Design – and had many clients who also became his friends. He was a master of sound, there was no doubt, and loved to share his knowledge with those around him.
Mike eventually separated from his wife, Belqui Gordon-Weddle, whom he married in 2000. When that happened he got together with island girl Diane Kuhl-Todd, who had listened to him play for years. The two eventually settled down in East Englewood, and had a very happy existence for several years.
“He was the love of my life,”Diane said. “He would do anything, for anyone.”
One of Mike’s friends, Kurt Olson, summed it up best after Mike passed from cancer on May 7, at home, with Diane at his side.
“They say you die twice, when the body stops and when people stop saying your name. My brother you will never die twice, because people will never forget about you.”
Mike’s Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, May 24 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Crowninshield House.