Dora Gholson was born in Ypsilanti, Mich. After finishing high school in northern Michigan, she moved to Ann Arbor for a few years. She got her first guitar for Christmas 1998, and began her music career by taking guitar and songwriting classes at her community college.
“That’s where I met my first guitar guru, Shari Kane (who incidentally has the same birthday as her second guitar guru, local guitar phenom Larry Baeder). That was my introduction to blues. She said we were going to learn finger picking and slide, so I said I must be in the wrong class. She said, ‘no you’re not, sit down and shut up.’”
Dora moved to Key West in 1999 and began bar-tending at the clothing-optional Garden of Eden, atop the grand New Orleans-style Bull and Whistle Bar at the corner of Caroline and Duval streets, while looking for places to play. “I had stage fright so bad it was debilitating. I’d cancel my gigs and throw up.” She also found herself a mom of a newborn son, Jack, around that time.
She continued to work, and five long years later she finally found the courage to play, and in 2004 she had her first Key West gig with Greg Gerace at Shanna Key, an Irish Pub and Grill at the corner of Flagler and Bertha streets. “We were both terrified,” she admitted. Soon after that, she hooked up with friend Angus Bangus, fronting the group 40 Foot Sharpie, and they played together around town for about a year.
“That’s when I started playing with Larry (Baeder). He knew I needed some work, but he said that he thought there was something there. We formed the MuseGurus (with bassist Francois Gehin) and put out our first CD, ‘Larry Baeder and the MuseGurus’ in 2011.”
The MuseGurus play well-crafted and timeless Americana-style music with influences of old school R&B, soul, blues and bluegrass, plus some poignant originals.
Its song “Souls on Ice,” featuring Dora on vocals, can be found on the “Best of Key West Volume Two” CD, on sale at retail locations around the island or at CDBaby.com.
Dora acknowledges the musicians who play throughout Key West form a tight-knit family. “The camaraderie between musicians here is the only reason I can do this. There is so much love and respect here for one another.”
She balances out her life by working at Date and Thyme (formerly Help Yourself), an organic market and cafe at 829 Fleming Street. It specializes in vegan and vegetarian cuisine and is open from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. daily. The juice bar and market stay open until 6 p.m. “You’ve got to taste our Bulletproof Coffee,” she said.
On top of that, she continues being a mom to teenage son growing up in Key West. Dora herself is currently single. “I love being single now. I have my Chihuahua, my two kitties… and batteries,” she jokes, always with an infectious smile. “This whole island is full of love. I can walk down the street and always be surrounded by people who love me.”
Although Dora has juggled a full schedule in the past, she performs only one day a week. See Dora at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotels Grand Key Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. ¦