By Sean Daly

Beaches. Bikinis. Sand. Surf. The more Florida changes, the more summer in the Sunshine State blissfully stays the same. We fly here, we drive here, we live here for fun and frolic and stories both wild and wistful. We come for that first whiff of coconut Coppertone as we step onto a seaside paradise. None of that has changed over the years.

But the music has.

Our summer soundtrack in Florida — the party songs, the sunset songs, the songs that remind us of that one time in Destin, in Miami, in love on St. Pete Beach — has shifted with the times just like the top of pop charts.

So here’s an epic playlist to celebrate not just our state, but our sonic state of mind over the years. Some of these 60 tracks were born in Florida; some were born elsewhere but feel like July in Daytona, in Sarasota, in a spinning teacup at Disney World. Some songs are fun. Some are bawdy. And some always seem to make us cry.

Now let’s hop in the time-traveling jukebox, shall we?   


  • "Stagger Lee," Lloyd Price: Aw yeah! How GOOD is this? Let’s hit the beach and do the shag, surfer girls and boys!
  • "Tutti-Frutti," Little Richard
  • "Summertime Blues," Eddie Cochran
  • "Sh-Boom," the Chords: Low and slow, everybody.
  • "Sea Cruise," Frankie Ford
  • "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the Platters
  • "Tequila," the Champs
  • "The Stroll," the Diamonds
  • "Red River Rock," Johnny & the Hurricanes
  • "See You Later Alligator," Bill Haley & the Comets: Come on, you knew this one was coming.


  • "Follow That Dream," Elvis Presley: Filmed in Citrus, Marion and Levy counties, 1962’s Follow That Dream had a swingin’ title track with a groovy road-trip vibe. Per usual, the King sings the hunka-hunka heck out of it, too.
  • "Beach Blanket Bingo," Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello
  • "Louie Louie," the Kingsmen: Thanks to Animal House, this is a spring-break must, especially if you pledged Delta House. “Seven years of college down the drain.”
  • "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," Lesley Gore: Fun for the first three listens -- then the very definition of madness.
  • "All Day and All of the Night," the Kinks
  • "Brown Eyed Girl," Van Morrison: From the Gainesville college bars to the wine bistros of Palm Beach, this one remains a happy-hour classic.
  • "Under the Boardwalk," the Drifters
  • "Fun, Fun, Fun," the Beach Boys
  • "Twist and Shout," the Beatles
  • "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave," Martha Reeves & the Vandellas


  • "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat," Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers and more: Walt Disney World officially opened on Oct. 1, 1971 -- and officially changed everything. So we pick this swingin’ feline jam from 1970 Disney ’toon The Aristocats.
  • "Sunshine on My Shoulders," John Denver: Tissue, please.
  • "Time in a Bottle," Jim Croce: Yikes, this is getting brutal. Let’s pep things up here.
  • "Summer Nights," Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta
  • "I’m Alright," Kenny Loggins
  • "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," Stevie Wonder
  • "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," Jimmy Buffett
  • "Flirtin’ With Disaster," Molly Hatchet: The last time I did a playlist for VISIT FLORIDA, I left off these Jacksonville scruffs and, wow, did I hear about it. So here you go.
  • "Gimme Three Steps," Lynyrd Skynyrd: More Florida boys
  • "American Girl," Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: There, that enough home cookin’ for you?


  • "You Shook Me All Night Long," AC/DC: Chances are good that if a beach bar plays this song, a wild night out is not far behind.
  • "Pour Some Sugar on Me," Def Leppard
  • "The Tide Is High," Blondie
  • "Love Shack," the B-52s
  • "It Takes Two," Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock
  • "Jack & Diane," John Mellencamp: Perfect for thinking about all those summers ago... and the one guy or girl that got away.
  • "Watching the Wheels," John Lennon
  • "Girls, Girls, Girls," Motley Crue
  • "Let’s Go Crazy," Prince
  • "Bust a Move," Young MC


  • "Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)," Backstreet Boys: Gotta represent the Orlando boy-band machine. Or not.
  • "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-a-Lot
  • "Friends in Low Places," Garth Brooks: Greatest sing-along of all time? Discuss!
  • "Champagne Supernova," Oasis: The line about the “summer” destroys me.
  • "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," C+C Music Factory
  • "Buddy Holly," Weezer
  • "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," Green Day
  • "Good Vibrations," Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Because I used the Beach Boys’ "Good Vibrations" last time, and because, well, there was a LOT of cheeseball music in the ’90s.
  • "The Rockafeller Skank," Fat Boy Slim
  • "Summertime," DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

The 21st Century

  • "Stick With Me Baby," Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Here’s what you do: Share an iPod with a paramour. Both of you get an ear bud. And play this duet as you stroll, hand in hand, down the beach.
  • "Summertime," Kenny Chesney
  • "Boys From the South," Pistol Annies
  • "Yeah," Usher: Produced by Lil Jon, and featuring that booty-smack rap by Ludacris, this Usher smash is one of the hottest club-bangers of all time. Gotta have it on here.
  • "Working on a Tan," Brad Paisley
  • "Teenage Dream," Katy Perry
  • "All Night," Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley: This slammin’ reggae goodness is my gift to you. Trust me. Get thee to iTunes.
  • "Vaporize," Broken Bells: This one will sneak up and break your heart.
  • "You’re So Cool," Hans Zimmer
  • "It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere," Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett

Here’s to you and another great summer in Florida. Cheers, everybody!