OKEECHOBEE – If you happen to be in the Northlake Village shopping center on a weekend night, you might hear hits from the 1960s and 1970s sung by John Paul Monroe.
Monroe is a traveler who spends part of his year in Florida. On most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. you’ll find him playing his guitar between Pueblo Viejo restaurant and the Dollar Tree.
This is Monroe’s sixth winter season in Florida. He splits his time between Okeechobee and Naples.
Monroe is a busker – he plays for tips. He loves making music and meeting people.
Monroe earned a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT in 1985. He taught at the State University of New York. He later worked as a computer programmer in Manhattan. His late wife Bertha was a pharmacist.
Bertha died in 2017. “About six months after my wife died, I had the thought to get my guitar out and started playing my old songs,” he said.
That led to playing music in the street. “It was successful very quickly and I was enjoying doing it,” he explained.
Monroe decided to travel around the United States, playing music. He found Dollar Stores to be a good place to stop and play. "People who shop there are interested and generous," he explained.
He also visited 37 states, recording TikTok videos of himself playing. Many of the videos were made in national parks and state parks. His first video of “Who’ll stop the rain?” was recorded on the Kissimmee River. Two memorable stops were the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Ocean south of San Francisco. “I’m trying to draw attention to the beauty of this country,” he said.
“Wherever I go, I talk to people. I let them know they ought to be taking good care of this place.”
He said he encourages people to travel, to “get out and see the country.” He also encourages children to learn to play music instruments.
Monroe said busking is a great way to meet people. “People have time to visit with me,” he said. “This town is a nexus for all kinds of different people.”
He dreams of someday playing indoors for an audience. “I’m getting better and better,” he said. “I expect to be successful at this.”