Vassar rocks The Center

Vassar rocks The Center
Jeff Smith, left, accompanies Phil Vassar at The Center Friday night. - Tom Vaught | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Soulful songs, the pounding of piano keys and cheering Phil Vassar fans shook the rafters of The Center of Anna Maria Island Friday night.

Sponsored by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Vassar played the rich chords of his songs on his piano with boundless energy. His style, a mixture of Billy Joel and Randy Newman, had his fans cheering as he played both sitting and standing, accompanied by guitarist Jeff Smith.

Between songs, Vassar stopped for liquid refreshments bought by fans, brought to the stage by servers and supplied by The Chiles Group for sale by The Center.

Vassar’s career began in the mid-1990s, composing songs for country singers like Collin Raye (“Little Red Rodeo”), Alan Jackson (“Right on the Money”), Tim McGraw (“For a Little While”) and others.

He was named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 1999 and was the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist in 2002.

Later, his career turned to performing and he recorded 27 top 40 hits and 10 number one songs. He remains active in performing and composing.