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The Music of the Allman Brothers and the Birth of Southern Rock

Jacksonville Historical Society Senior Archivist Mitch Hemann recorded a casual performance June 24, 2020 in the Florida Casket Company building for the Society’s June Speaker Series program.

We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for your continued love and support throughout this pandemic, and for your enthusiastic interest in our music museum project. To show our appreciation, our own Senior Archivist Mitch Hemann braved the elements once again in the old Florida Casket Company building to entertain you. We miss you all and can’t wait to see you when our regularly scheduled programming resumes! Enjoy!

Watch the performance on YouTube. If you are interested in contributing to the renovation of the Florida Casket Company building to house the music museum, you may donate here. Thank you for your support!

Musings from Mitch

          Earlier this month, I climbed up to the third floor of the old Florida Casket Company building to record a handful of songs. The temperature hovered around 100 degrees, it was extremely humid, and a torrential rainstorm began to fall loudly on the roof above me before I could finish. Was I crazy? Probably. But I also did it to properly kick off our campaign to open a long-overdue museum dedicated to the region’s impressive musical heritage. The video also features an abridged version of a presentation about the Allman Brothers Band and the now infamous Jacksonville Jam, which solidifies Jacksonville Florida as the birthplace of Southern Rock.
          The Allman Brothers is just one part of a tangled web of musical roots deeply embedded in the fertile soil beneath our feet. This history stretches back for generations. The very foundation of American Music was laid right here in our own backyards.
          African in origin, these musical traditions were first brought here by enslaved people who took great risks to keep their culture and traditions alive. Those traditions continue today among their descendants. The Gullah Geechee can still be found in low country and coastal sea island communities that stretch from North Carolina all the way to Jacksonville and beyond. Ring shouts, spirituals and work songs are where the origins of this music can be found.
          By the turn of the century, our own LaVilla was a thriving entertainment district that rivalled the likes of New Orleans and Atlanta, but there was a great divide in Jacksonville. Because of segregation, large populations never heard this music and considered it taboo. This notion of segregated music continued for decades until the birth of Rock & Roll in the 1950s and the eventual blues revival born out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
          This was the cultural climate that Duane Allman and his younger brother Gregg found themselves in while growing up in Daytona. A time when you could catch hours of R&B and soul music being broadcast far and wide by stations like WLAC out of Nashville, TN. A time when the Rolling Stones were booked to appear on the popular television show Shindig!, but wouldn’t perform unless blues legend Howlin’ Wolf was allowed to perform as well. These were monumental and historic times in music. A time when an artform was being forged that transcended color. The music the Allman Brothers Band created was an amalgamation of the best that blues, soul, country and even jazz had to offer.
          There is no shortage of music history in the area, but Jacksonville’s contributions are seldom acknowledged on the national stage. We intend to remedy that with a museum that provides an all-inclusive experience and promotes community collaboration. There’s plenty of room in the spotlight for everyone, and we need your support to make it a success. We look forward to connecting with anyone who has an interest in being a part of this exciting project.

Mitch Hemann
Senior Archivist

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