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History of Jacksonville, FL: Musicians in Jax

This guide contains information and resources about Jacksonville, Florida. Resource selections include books, eBooks, databases, images, video, and websites about multiple topics relating to Jacksonville, Florida.

Musicians in Jacksonville

James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson

James Weldon Johnson and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson were born in Jacksonville in the early 1870s and grew up in the LaVilla neighborhood. James wrote the lyrics and John composed the music to "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," today considered a national anthem by many African-Americans. Jacksonville's James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School and James Weldon Johnson Academic and Career Training Center are named in his honor. Log into your library account through my.fscj.edu to read more about James Weldon here and John Rosamond Johnson here.

photo of Joseph Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"File:Johnson-brothers.jpg" by Benlabine44 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Blind Blake

Arthur "Blind" Blake was the primary developer of the guitar equivalent of ragtime known as "finger-style." Many sources indicate Blake was born in Jacksonville sometime between 1895-1897. His travels as an early blues musician and Paramount Records artist took him through the Southeast and parts of the Midwest. One of his popular songs was "West Ashley Street Blues," named after the lively street in LaVilla known in the early 20th century for music, dining and performances. To research "Blind Blake" further, log into your library account via my.fscj.edu to read about him here.

Blind Blake smiling and holding a guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               "Blind Blake" in Wikipedia (under fair use)

Pat Boone

Pat Boone was born in 1934 in Jacksonville. Though his family soon moved to Nashville, Boone frequently returned to his hometown to visit his grandparents in St. Johns Park, a neighborhood on the Westside.  As a teen idol in the 1950s and '60s, Boone enjoyed success in music, television, and films. Since that time, he has had a successful career in wholesome radio and films, as well as Gospel and charitable endeavors.  To read more about Pat Boone, log into your library account through my.fscj.edu and visit this page.

 

Pat Boone celebrity photo

Pat Boone by MovieGuide in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ray Charles

Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia in 1930; as a youth, he attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine.  Charles toured on the Chitlin' Circuit as a young man and later achieved cross-genre stardom with hits like "What'd I say," "Georgia on My Mind," and "Hit the Road, Jack." He died in 2004 of liver disease. To read more about Ray Charles in this article, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Ray Charles at the piano

Ray Charles by William Morris Agency in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Classics IV

Classics IV formed in Jacksonville in the late 1960s and enjoyed a popular run with songs like "Spooky" and "Stormy."  FSCJ Professor Walter Eaton played bass and buddy Dennis Yost sang; J.R. Cobb and Joe Wilson completed the quartet.  After the band broke up, Yost continued to tour as Dennis Yost and the Classics IV until an injury in 2005. To learn more about Wally Eaton's memories of band life, access an FSCJ newsletter here.

Classics IV Band from 1968 with FSCJ Prof Walter Eaton

Original file by Bill Lowery Talent in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

The Allman Brothers Band

This seminal Southern Rock band formed in Jacksonville in 1969 at 2844 Riverside Avenue in an epic jam session now memorialized by an historical marker from the State of Florida. Members were Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson, Dickey Betts, and Butch Trucks. To read more about the Allman Brothers Band, log into the library catalog via my.fscj.edu.

Picture of the band in 1972

The Allman Brothers Band (1972) by Capricorn Records in Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain

Cold

Alternative metal band Cold formed in Jacksonville and released their eponymous debut album in 1998. Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit was instrumental in getting the band their record deal. To research Cold further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Jeremy Marshall and Scooter Ward performing.

Cold Live in Flint, MI by Hysxeric in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 3.0

Paula Kelly

Singer/dancer/actress Paula Kelly was born in Jacksonville, later relocating with her family to Harlem, NYC.  After graduating from Juilliard, she went on to a successful stage career which paved the way for memorable roles in movies and television. Her musical theatre credits include the London production of Sweet Charity in 1967 and 1981's Sophisticated Ladies on Broadway. She died in 2020 at the age of 77. To research Paula Kelly further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Paula Kelly headshot from musical

Paula Kelly in the musical revue Bubbling Brown Sugar - publicity still by unknown (The Coconut Grove Playhouse, Miami) in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Shinedown

Popular Jacksonville-based hard rock group Shinedown released their first album Leave a Whisper in 2003, which went platinum. The group's big hit "Second Chance" was on their third album, 2008's double-platinum The Sound of Madness.  In May 2020, they released a stand-alone single titled "Atlas Falls" with sales going to support a non-profit which provides medications for the uninsured. To research Shinedown further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

shinedown concert photo

Shinedown Concert by jscomputerdad in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Dorothy Shay

Born in Jacksonville in 1921, Dorothy Shay was a singer and actress popular in the 1940s and 50s for performing "country bumpkin" songs in a glamourous get-up of evening gown, makeup, and jewels. Known as the "Park Avenue Hillbillie," she was a frequent guest on the Spike Jones and Jack Benny shows. Shay died in 1978. To research Dorothy Shay further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Dorothy Shay circa 1940s  by CBS Radio/Columbia Broadcasting System in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Virginia Atter Keys

Though Virginia Atter Keys was born in Massachusetts, she grew up in Jacksonville, evolving into a beautiful local icon.  A talented singer, she won the “The Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts” contest and performed on the radio and locally. In 1949, brand new television station Channel 4 hired Keys to be an on-air personality; her career gathered steam when Dick Stratton joined her as co-anchor. Through the years, Keys continued to sing on television and work for different TV stations.  A proud Lebanese American, she died in 2017 in Neptune Beach. To research Virginia Atter Keys further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Young Virginia Atter Keys

Virginia Atter Keys on Virginia Atter Keys Community, Facebook, used under fair use

Black Kids

Indie rock band Black Kids was formed in Jacksonville and released its debut album, Partie Traumatic in 2008. Their near instant success originated with internet popularity and soon fizzled. The band members went on an extended break until regrouping to self-release an album in 2017.

Black Kids band in performance

Black Kids Live by fiendish type in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd was a popular and influential Southern Rock band from Jacksonville. Band members Ronnie and Johnny Van Zant grew up on the city's Westside, not far from the Cedar River.  After releasing its first album in 1973, Lynyrd Skynyrd steadily rose to success until a fateful plane crash in 1977 killed several members. The band re-formed in 1987; some thirty years later, they announced an extended farewell tour. Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird," mainstays of classic rock channels and playlists, are among the band's hits. Log into your library account through my.fscj.edu to read more about this band here.

photo of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1973Lynyrd Skynyrd Band (1973) in Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain

Mae Axton

Mae Axton, a Texas and Oklahoma native, moved to Jacksonville in the 1950s and taught school at Paxon High.  During that time, she also penned songs, helped novice musicians, and hosted a radio show.  Though Axton successfully wrote songs for other famous musicians, it was her tune "Heartbreak Hotel," co-written with Tommy Durden for Elvis Presley, that struck gold and earned her a place in music history.

 

Mae Axton and singer Elvis Presley

Mae Axton and Elvis Presley by Report from the Florida Zone under Fair Use

Frederick Delius

Frederick Delius, born in Yorkshire in the UK and one of the most notable composers of the late 19th century, lived in the South Jacksonville area of Solano Grove from 1884 to 1885. Sent by his father to manage the family citrus farm on the banks of the St. Johns River, Delius had no business acumen but an abundant passion for music. The African American spirituals he heard during this year influenced his future compositions, most memorably Florida. Delius died in Paris in 1934 after a prolific career.  In 1961, the Solano Grove Delius House was relocated to the campus of Jacksonville University, the same year that the first Delius Festival took place in Jacksonville (occurring annually until 2004). To read more about Delius and the festival, log into your my.fscj.edu account.

Portrait of Frederick Delius as a young man

Frederick Delius portrait by Bergen Public Library Norway in Wikimedia Commons (no known

copyright restrictions)

Molly Hatchet

Molly Hatchet is a band whose sound mixes hard rock and Southern rock. Dave Hlubek, Westside resident and Forrest High School graduate, started the band in 1971. The band enjoyed success throughout the next decade--most notably for hit album "Flirtin' with Disaster."  Other projects and illness led to the attrition of original band members who were replaced with new talent.  The band continues to produce new music and tour internationally. To research Molly Hatchet further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Molly Hatchett at Biebob by Bender~commonswiki in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Tim McGraw

Country superstar Tim McGraw lived in Jacksonville from 1987 to 1989, and attended Florida Community College at Jacksonville while engaging in the local music scene. McGraw next moved to Nashville, receiving lukewarm acceptance until his career caught fire with successful back-to-back albums and marriage to country singer Faith Hill. Multi-talented, McGraw has also acted in assorted films. Log into your library account through my.fscj.edu to read more about him in this article.

Tim McGraw performing in Charleston

Tim McGraw by WEZL in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Limp Bizkit

Rap-rock band Limp Bizkit formed in Jacksonville in 1994 with original members Fred Durst, John Otto, Wes Borland, and Sam Rivers (the former three Douglas Anderson School of the Arts alumni).  They released their debut album in 1998 and through the 90s and early 2000s had a reputation as the bad boys of nu-metal rock. More than twenty five years later, Limp Bizkit still records and tours. To read more about Limp Bizkit, log into the library via your my.fscj.edu account.

limp bizkit photo

Limp Bizkit 2011 Chile by Carlos Varela in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Mase

Hip-hop artist Mase (Mason Betha) was born in Jacksonville in 1975 but moved to Harlem when he was five years old. He met Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in 1996; Combs took Mase under his wing and guided him to great success. Since 1999 his career focus has shifted between music and Christian ministryTo research Mase further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

 

Picture of rapper Mase

Mase-Harlem World by Drummkopf on Flickr (adapted by FSCJ) under CC-BY-2.0

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

"Screamo" band The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was formed in 2003 in Middleburg, FL, and released their first album, Don't You Fake It, in 2006. The album featured the band's top-40 hit "Face Down." In recent years, the band's music has been diverse, ranging from Christian-based lyrics to those promoting social justice. To research Red Jumpsuit Apparatus further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

 

red jumpsuit apparatus concert photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus Live by Zax in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Gram Parsons

Ingram Cecil Connor, III, (later known as Gram Parsons) was born in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1948 to a wealthy family; he attended and graduated from The Bolles School in Jacksonville, during which time he traveled and performed with his band the Shilos.  Though Parsons failed as a Harvard student, his music progressed apace; he played with the Byrds and Emmylou Harris, was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and did solo work before dying young of a drug overdose in Joshua Tree National Forest in 1973.  Parsons is widely credited with being the first musician to merge country and rock music.

Black and white photograph of older Parsons

Publicity portrait of Gram Parsons by Reprise Records in the public domain in Wikimedia Commons

.38 Special

.38 Special formed in Jacksonville and was popular in the 1980s; their sound has primarily been a mix of country/blues-rock and hard rock. The group was led by Donnie Van Zant, the brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant. "Hold on Loosely" and "Caught Up in You" are classic rock radio staples.  To read more about 38 Special in this article, log into my.fscj.edu and access the Library and Learning Commons.

38 special concerrt photo

.38 Special by Ben Strasser in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Mathew Emanuel "Sugar" Underwood

Mathew "Sugar" Underwood was born in Jacksonville in 1898. Underwood has the distinction of having a one-day recording contract with Victor Records, during which he recorded two songs: "Davis Street Blues," and "Dew Drop Alley Stomp." To research Sugar Underwood further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Grand Piano by Bartalomeo Cristofori in Wikimedia Commons under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Declaration

Yellowcard

In 1997 six Douglas Anderson School of the Arts students formed the popular punk rock group Yellowcard.  The band's membership changed over the years, notably with the departure and replacement of the lead singer. Their unique violin-enhanced sound finally achieved success in 2003 when they released their fourth album, Ocean Avenue. Yellowcard played its last concert in 2017. To research Yellowcard further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

Yellowcard performs on stage.

YellowcardAZ 2012 by Groovyjoe in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Calvin A. "Eagle Eye" Shields

Calvin "Eagle Eye" Shields was born in Jacksonville in 1924. A well-regarded drummer, he recorded for King Records and performed with Della Reese and Redd Foxx. Shields died in 2010.

Black and white photo of snare drum

Snare drum Strainer by ZooFari in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Mercedes Gilbert

Mercedes Gilbert was a "triple threat" talent (songwriter, actress, and author) born in Jacksonville in 1894, where her father owned a furniture business. She was a student at Edward Waters College and later worked as a teacher and trained to be a nurse. She moved to New York City where she began to write songs and work as an actress. She died there in 1952. One of Gilbert's songs, "Stompin' the Bug," was featured in the 1982 David Lynch film Eraserhead. Scholars classify Gilbert's literary writing as part of the Harlem Renaissance.

Mercedes Gilbert photo from Postal Telegraph Guide's Autograph Club

Mercedes Gilbert by Postal Telegraph Guide's Autograph Club in Alchetron under fair use

The Chitlin' Circuit

The Chitlin' Circuit was a series of performance venues (mostly in the southern U.S.) that welcomed African-American artists during the Jim Crow era. Jacksonville's primary location was the Ritz Theatre, found in the neighborhood of LaVilla, often called the "Harlem of the South." Many performers stayed at The Richmond Hotel, the predominant hotel for African-Americans in the city from the 1900s to 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was passed. To research the Chitlin' Circuit further, access the Library and Learning Commons through your my.fscj.edu account.

  Jacksonville's Ritz Theatre  

Ritz Theatre by Craig O'Neal in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ella Fitzgerald performed on the Chitlin' Circuit as a young woman; Born in 1917 in Yonkers, New York, Fitzgerald faced familial and financial adversities; winning an amateur singing contest at The Apollo Theater in Harlem marked the beginning of her career. Today she is known as "The First Lady of Song" and is arguably the best female jazz singer ever. Among her numerous classic works are Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook (1957) and Songs in a Mellow Mood (1955). Fitzgerald won thirteen Grammy awards during her career and died in 1996.

Ella Fitzgerald at the microphone

Nachtvoorstelling met medewerking van Ella Fitzgerald by Hugo Van Gelderen in Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain

Popular jazz singer with a bluesy vocal style, Billie Holliday performed on the Chitlin' Circuit. She lived from 1915 to 1959. Her works include God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, and My Man.

Billie Holiday singing with a band

Billie Holiday by Ralph F. Seghers in Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

 

 

Ma Rainey (Gertrude Pridgett Rainey, born in Columbus, GA, in 1886) performed first with a Jacksonville-based performance troupe and later with the city's Globe Theater Stock Company. Her unique guttural style of blues made her a key figure of the "Harlem Renaissance" and the "Mother of the Blues."

Picture of Ma Rainey from the 1920s

Ma Rainey in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Jazz entertainer Cab Calloway lived from 1907 to 1994. His works include Hi-De-Hi, Hi-De-Ho (1959) and the soundtrack to the all-African-American production of Hello Dolly!.

Cab Calloway as orchestra conductor

Cab Calloway in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Duke Ellington was the most significant composer in jazz history as well as a bandleader for over fifty years. His many classic works include Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962) and Sacred Music (1966). Ellington won eleven Grammy Awards during his career.

Ellington at the piano, directing musicians

Duke directing by Gordon Parks in Wikimedia Commons in the public domain