New book: Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock

Michael Ray FitzGerald's comprehensive new book gives Jacksonville its due as the epicenter of Southern rock. Join us for a look inside and an interview with the author.

Southern Rock City

Yet another thing not enough people know about Jacksonville: starting in the 1960s, the city was the epicenter of Southern rock, that bluesy, unabashedly blue collar variety of rock that’s nearly as popular now as it was in its heyday. The two most famous Southern rock bands, the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, originated in Jacksonville, as did several other nationally prominent acts. If any city can claim to be the mecca of Southern rock, it’s Jacksonville.

Michael Ray FitzGerald’s new book, Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock, published by the University Press of Florida in October 2020, goes a long way toward establishing Jacksonville’s musical bonafides. Extensively researched and engagingly written, it’s by far the most comprehensive account of this aspect of Jacksonville history ever published, and, in our opinion, one of the best books written about Jacksonville.

Michael Ray FitzGerald, courtesy of the author.

The book is divided into chapters exploring the history of the bands and musicians who, for a moment in time at least, turned Jacksonville into a rock hotbed. Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers feature prominently, of course. Another chapter covers the less known but by no means less significant story of Gram Parsons, who attended the Bolles School in Jacksonville. A member of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers as well as a solo musician, Parsons was a pioneer of the country rock genre and left a lasting impact on the Southern rock bands who followed in his wake. Other chapters chronicle Jacksonville’s many other prominent Southern rock groups, such as the criminally underknown Cowboy, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, 38 Special, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock is perfect material for FitzGerald, a writer and academic as well as a former professional musician. He is the author of three other books, including 2018’s Swamp Music: Gator Country’s Musical Legacy, which also explored the region’s music history.

The Jaxson caught up with FitzGerald to talk about the book. Read our interview on the next page. To order your copy of Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock, visit the University Press of Florida or Amazon.

Next page: Interview with Michael Ray FitzGerald, author of Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock