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James Gamble Rogers, IV
"Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. "
-James Gamble Rogers, IV
January 31, 1937 - October 10, 1991
Gamble Rogers, Florida’s Troubadour, was a renowned folk singer, entertainer and storyteller.
Gamble Rogers, as he went by, gained national prominence playing lead acoustic and electric guitar with the Serendipity Singers. He also became a storyteller, being compared to Mark Twain and Will Rogers.
Gamble starred in, hosted and was a guest on numerous Public Broadcasting programs, the Tonight Show, Hootenanny, and the Ed Sullivan Show and in quite a number of American and Canadian programs. He wrote the theme song for the 13-part “Philadelphia Folk Festival,” the five show series “Fantasies of Florida” and narrated numerous films and audio/visual presentations, just to name a few. He also wrote several plays for radio and theater, as well as TV screenplays.
Gamble was quoted as saying that “each and every one of the characters in my stories started out representing a specific person. The characters may tend to be outlandish,” he admitted, “but their statements resonate with a certain amount of horse sense.”
Gamble and another up-and-coming songster by the name of Jimmy Buffett cruised the back roads of Florida. Gamble taught Jimmy his craft and was booked as the first act for Mr. Buffett at Margaritaville in Key West. Gamble’s stage acts always offered a seamless transition between stories, songs and virtuoso guitar.
October 10, 1991
Gamble and Nancy Rogers, along with Sid and Cindy Ansbacher were camping here at, the then, Flagler Beach State Recreation Area. They returned from cycling late in the afternoon. Gamble heard a cry from the water. Without hesitation, he stripped to his shorts and shirt, grabbed an air mattress and headed to the edge of the water. A youngster told Gamble his father had wandered too far out and was in trouble. Gamble was not a particularly strong swimmer, as he had suffered from spinal arthritis since childhood. However, he struck out into the ocean.
A ranger joined the rescue attempt. When he encountered Gamble, the would-be saver indicated he was ok. The ranger went farther out but could not find the fisherman. He did find Mrs. Ansbacher, who was struggling, and brought her back to shore. A few minutes later a rescue team brought in the fisherman. Gamble had disappeared. His body was later discovered beyond the breakers.
A plaque recalling the selfless action was erected over on the dune between the Day Use facilities and the campground. In 1992, the state park’s name was officially changed to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.
Gamble Roger’s style of music and storytelling lives on in his CDs, the annual Gamble Rogers Festival in St. Augustine, Florida, and in the state park’s monthly Second Saturday Gamble Jam.