They came to pay their respects — throngs of fans, friends and family members — the famous and the infamous — from all around the world. They’d converged onto Florida’s sunny Space Coast to celebrate the life and honor the memory of legendary UFO guitarist, Paul Chapman — a local “chap” known as much for being a genuinely sweet man as he was for being a gifted musician and renown rock star. An absolutely heartwarming affair, the six-hour outdoor concert proved to be an impressive production. Simply put, it was a “Tonka-Tough” tribute. (Be sure to also check out our recent tribute to the artist.)

Considering current COVID concerns, locating a proper venue at which to stage a massive memorial could have presented a challenge. However, Michael Pauline, owner of the Indialantic hot spot, Lou’s Blues Upstairs, stepped up to the plate. Hey! How ‘bout my place? But his wildly popular indoor nightclub likely would quickly become too cramped to accommodate the expected colossal-sized crowd. And, in short order, plans were put in motion to transform the Lou’s Blues oceanside back lot into a spacious outdoor concert locale.

Paul Chapman Tribute Show – Image 1

An endeavor of this enormous scale would require a dedicated and experienced team of professionals — people who knew the man best and loved him most. Paul’s daughter, Brittany Chapman, production assistant, Sheri Taylor, and longtime friend, bandmate and family member, bassist Ned Meloni, would partner in putting all the particulars in place — starting with assembling an “ensemble cast” headed by the top-notch Melbourne-based RezPro production crew.

It was a postcard-worthy late summer Florida afternoon. In fact, the local Chamber of Commerce could not have created more picture-perfect conditions. The temperatures — steamy. Yet, as the estimated crowd of 1,000+ well-wishers began arriving on the scene (many clutching copies of the Paul Chapman cover edition of Brevard Live magazine), everyone seemed inspired by a sense of “cool.” And not even the intermittent threatening cloud cover could or would put a damper on this celebration.

“Looking back at the whole day, it was truly everything my dad would have wanted —
live music, all of his close friends and family, sharing stories and laughing,
drinking and eating. This was a true reflection of who he was as a person.
He was the best person to have in your life, whether it be a teacher, a bandmate
a friend, or especially a dad. He was so amazing, and this celebration showed it.”
-Brittany Chapman

Paul Chapman Tribute Show – Image 2

Serving as the show’s hosts, popular hometown entertainment personalities, Charles and Lissa Knight, kicked off the event just a smidge after 4 pm. Following their lively opening salutations, Brittany Chapman graced center stage to offer moving personal reflections of her famous father. Poised perfectly (a seasonal black dress with blonde hair pulled back and accented by fabulous purple highlights), she rose to the rather emotional occasion like a bona fide star. From there, the-party-was-on!

A barrage of celebrity testimonials flashed across the jumbo-sized LED screen throughout the afternoon and evening — pre-recorded personal messages from the likes of celebrated TV/radio host, Eddie Trunk, as well as members of such celebrated rock bands as Def Leppard, Waysted, Motörhead and of course, UFO.

In the face of the recent “Rona” virus, folks practiced responsible social distancing as the much-missed sounds of LIVE music filled the air from start to finish. Truth be told, the roll call of talented musicians who performed reads like a “Who’s Who” list of some of the area’s most notable players — a roster that included Chapman’s friends, bandmates and guitar students — from early bird acoustic guitarists, Mark Baker, Sean Peter and Carli Tuttle to a classic rock set featuring guitarists, Jim Taylor, Chris Caglione, Carlos Johnson and Dan Diolosa, drummer Jeff Barnes and bassist Frank Rios.

Paul Chapman Tribute Show – Image 3

Billed as the “ghost” of Chapman’s one-time project, Ghost, Ned Meloni led the charge — along with drummer Dale Russell, guitarists Greg “Flash” Collins and Terry Arnold, lead vocalist Kenny “Rhino” Earl and vocalist Allyson Keziah. The show-stopping UFO/Waysted tribute featured additional musicians — guitarists Jack Starr, Rob Craig, Janine Meloni and Kyle Bolduc, drummer Todd Charron, pianist Kenny Clarke and vocalist Charles Knight.

“The whole day was a reminder of what a great music community we
have on Florida’s east coast. And it was heartwarming to see such
a great turnout to honor Paul.”
-Ned Meloni
(Bassist – Ghost / Jack Starr’s Burning Starr)

As the evening ensued and the good times rolled, the crowd experienced the Paul Chapman legacy “2.0” with his fresh-faced, talented grandkids; vocalist Layla Meloni, guitarist Owen Chapman and bassist Gavin Chapman all “going for it” live with several of the seasoned vets, in a rousing rendition of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — one of the night’s many memorable moments, to be sure.

Paul Chapman Tribute Show – Image 4

A cherished friend, a loved family member, a respected music teacher, a celebrated rock star — Paul Chapman had touched the lives of every person in attendance — each in a special way. Paul was a dear friend of mine, and the news of his passing last June was particularly painful. Yet, as a writer, I did my best to “hold it together” as I wrote my personal recent V13.net tribute. However, when area guitarist Dave Kury was joined by bassist Richard Treverton and others to wrap up the soiree somewhere around 10 pm with a heartfelt instrumental of “Amazing Grace,” I finally was moved to tears. But we all could take comfort in knowing that Paul was “living it up,” while watching the entire live stream from Heaven.

There were so many incredible people who participated in this wonderful production, and I truly hope I’ve not overlooked anyone. From the Lou’s Blues staff to the RezPro crew to the musicians to those who simply came to show their love and support, I can only say — job well done! “Tonka” certainly was smiling!

Paul Chapman Tribute Show – Image 5

Christopher Long is a celebrated author, entertainment writer, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician and international missionary. Referred to once as "the rock and roll Erma Bombeck," Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and possessing a passion for sharing his unique pop culture perspectives. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Christopher Long currently lives near Cocoa Beach. (AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)