Fellow musicians honor Vini Youngblood

By Miranda Steadman | Contributing Writer

South Carolina native and local musician Vini Youngblood has strummed his last note, played his last tune. Around 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, Youngblood was attempting to cross the road in Goose Creek. He was reportedly wearing dark clothing and was struck by a fast-moving vehicle. Youngblood was pronounced dead on the scene. He was 61 years old.

Friends and fellow musicians all over Folly Beach expressed shock and sadness upon hearing the news. But his spirit can still be felt in the streets and on the stages of the island he loved so much.

Outside of Bert’s Market, a tribute to Youngblood was scrawled on their chalkboard. Social media exploded with sadness and love and memories of who some called “Folly’s Pirate” or “Folly’s Guitar Man.”

Born in the upstate, Youngblood was raised in a musical family, playing guitar with his brother. He even taught his nephew how to play. As a younger man, Youngblood moved to San Francisco in search of a more radical music scene but eventually found himself back in his home state playing gigs in both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach.

In addition to booked shows, Youngblood would set up on the street and play music for pedestrians and restaurant diners with pop-up performances. A popular spot to find Youngblood was across the street from Chico Feo (and the Lunch Hook before that), where he would strum his guitar and sing songs, many of which were original tunes.

Once, Youngblood set up on the side of Chico Feo across from Bert’s Market with fellow musicians Ben Kisner and Jess Strickland to play some music. When public safety came to clear the scene, he told the officer: “It’s just rock ‘n’ roll.”

That was Vini Youngblood.

Fellow Folly musician Theresa “Sweet T” Parrish recalls the first time she met Youngblood. It was 2010 and she was just getting started in the music business and was playing an open mic at the Crab Shack, where you can now catch her performing solo every Wednesday night.

“You want me to tune that guitar for you, sweetheart?” she recalls Youngblood asking her. Parrish had never met him before but had just watched him perform and had the entire room dancing. At that point in her musical journey, Parrish hadn’t tuned that many guitars yet and didn’t have a tuner with her anyway. So she let the seasoned musician take a crack at it.

“I can tune it even though it’s backwards,” said Youngblood with his trademark grin. Parrish is left-handed. But Youngblood flipped it around and proceeded to tune her guitar and then played a riff backwards. “That oughta do it. Can’t wait to hear you sing. The name’s Vini Youngblood.”

That was Vini Youngblood.

Youngblood became a musical mentor for many young musicians trying to make a career of playing music on the island. Jayme Zdanek, vocalist of the up-and-coming band Bender Funk, considers Youngblood one of the first musicians to encourage her to pursue performing.

That was Vini Youngblood. 

“Vini was more focused on people and times rather than material possessions,” says fellow musician Charlie Stonecypher, who hosts the Acoustic Buddy Open Jam at Chico Feo every Thursday evening.

Stonecypher was Youngblood’s neighbor for a stint and the two played music together frequently. He first met Youngblood at an open mic at the Folly Beach Crab Shack. Youngblood used to host his own open mic downtown at Big Gun Burger Shop and would play frequently at the Lunch Hook (now Chico Feo) and on the rooftop of Snapper Jack’s.

Before it was Jack of Cups, Youngblood would jam on the sidewalk in front of The Folly Beach Brew Pub and behind the Post Office or take his guitar out to the beach and play. He was known for his raw positivity and dedication to the ancient art of rock ‘n’ roll. Stonecypher said, “No matter how down and out he seemed, he would always say, ‘Hey, we’re getting the band back together!’”

But Stonecypher had begun to worry about his friend in the time leading up to his death. “Vini had had a hard time the last two years. Every time I saw him I thought it would be my last time seeing him,” says Stonecypher. “I started seeing him around town without his guitar near the end. It rooted him, you could say it was his anchor.”

Youngblood had a band named Baby Neptune, which featured Folly musician Pete Burbage on harmonica. At one point in his career, Youngblood played with a guitarist from the artist formerly known as Prince’s band.

He often collaborated with keyboardist Sam Springfield and guitarist Sarah Cole, as well as local musicians Bobby Sutton and Jamie Crisp.

Crisp, who plays in the local band Ashes of Old Ways, was more than just a musical collaborator. The bass player considers Youngblood a brother. “I never met a guy who was so happy with nothing. Give him a guitar and a beer and he was on top of the world,” says Crisp. “He would happily give you half of anything he had.”

That was Vini Youngblood.

Crisp helped organize a memorial at The Sand Dollar that was held on Sunday, July 15. Many locals came to pay their respect as fellow musicians played some tunes in Youngblood’s honor and shared stories about the bandana-wearing, free-wheelin’ guitarist.

“We had a great day. He would have totally been blown away about how many people came out for him,” says Crisp. After the event, several musicians, including Vini’s nephew, went back to Crisp’s house and jammed for a few more hours.

When Crisp’s Ashes of old Ways bandmate Alexandre Goyette heard the news of Youngblood’s tragic death, he was shaken. He stepped outside to the balcony to watch the stars with his fiancé. They suddenly saw a huge shooting star and believed it to be a sign that their friend was looking down on them. Maybe it was …

“You’ve been there to see me fall. You’ve been there in everything I am. I see you the way you are. You see me up in the stars.”

  Vini Youngblood.

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