debuting writer erin petrie introduces you to some cities you might not know were so rich in music, starting with Jacksonville, Fla. …
Jacksonville isn’t Florida’s most famous city, but it is a city ripe with nicknames: the River City, the Bold New City of the South, the Murder Capital of Florida (we gave that one up in 2010 to Miami), and the list goes on. It’s also the place I, a native Jersey girl, call home, so I’ll start my magical musical city tour here — a city that perhaps most proudly calls itself “the Birthplace of Southern Rock.”
They say the farther south you go in Florida, the farther north you’re actually going. The peninsula is full of northern transplants, but North Florida has a strong southern culture. So it’s no surprise to Jacksonville residents that the city — which lies only 30 or so minutes from the Georgia border — spawned much of southern rock royalty, including original kings the Allman Brothers Band. Brothers Greg and Duane, Dicky Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley and “Jaimoe” Johanson were way ahead of their time, when, in 1969, they laid the groundwork for the genre with their dual lead guitars, love of long jams and incorporation of country, folk and blues into a distinctly different kind of music. At Fillmore East is the perfect showcase of their style and remains one of the most highly-regarded live records, even 40 years after its release.
Whipping Post, Live @ the Fillmore East, 1970:
Gym teacher Leonard Skinner inadvertently lent his moniker to one of the most famous southern rock outfits after he notoriously enforced the policy against long hair on boys at Robert E. Lee High School (there’s no greater southern tradition than naming things after Confederate heroes). Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins used Skinner as the inspiration for the name of their emerging band: Lynyrd Skynyrd. All of the founding members (and current lead singer, youngest Van Zant brother Johnny) are J-ville natives, despite their strong association with another southern state:
“Sweet Home Alabama”
The middle Van Zant brother, Donnie, formed .38 special. Even if the name doesn’t sound familiar, their classic rock radio staples probably do:
“Caught Up In You”
“Hold On Loosely”
The Van Zant brothers also helped launch another popular southern rock outfit: Molly Hatchet.
What you might not expect from the birthplace of southern rock is it’s inclination to produce rock on the opposite end of the spectrum: that of the pop variety. Yellowcard, a big player on the pop-punk scene early in the new millennium with hits like “Ocean Avenue,” met at Jacksonville’s arts high school before relocating to California. The Red Jumpsuit Aparatus carried on the pop punk tradition more recently, with their radio-friendly hit “Face Down.”
Other Claims to Fame
An odd variety of artists have ties to the city:
– Tim McGraw was conceived in Jacksonville: His father Tug played for the minor league Suns (http://www.jaxsuns.com) and impregnanted his teenage neighbor Betty D’Agostino. McGraw’s mother was sent to Louisiana to give birth and raise her son, but both Betty and Tim returned to Jacksonville in the ’80s.
– Ray Charles got his start playing piano at the Ritz Theater (http://www.ritzjacksonville.com/) in his teens after his mother died and he left the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in nearby St. Augustine.
– Scott McKenzie, best known for his hippie hit “San Francisco (Wear Flowers In Your Hair),” was born in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville Hall Of Shame
My vote goes to Fred Durst. The Limp Bizkit frontman — after dropping out the Navy and dipping his feet into the world tattoo artist — met most his band mates in Jax. While their songs may have been your late-90s guilty pleasure, Durst’s controversial statements (and apparent sex tape http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2005-03-08-fred-durst-lawsuit_x.htm) overshadow his musical feats.