Thursday, October 25, 2012

This is an image of the four page letter and envelope Doug Straub sent Ronnie Hammond in December of 2010. The mission of ROCK PILGRIMAGE has always been to document the quests rock & roll fans undertake to commemorate their love for THEIR MUSIC. Here's a ROCK PILGRIMAGE that hits mighty close to home. DUANE STRAUB'S QUEST to get a vinyl copy of the Atlanta Rhythm Section's album, BACK UP AGAINST THE WALL, signed by all the members of the band who performed on the album.

Hi Ronnie,
  Can you PLEASE call me. Can I PLEASE meet up with you to sign a vinyl copy of BACK UP AGAINST THE WALL? I got Paul's signature and I'm on track for Buddy & JR's. Still working on Dean, Robert & Barry. All you guys signed a copy for my brother-in-law in July 1973 at the Ashgrove in L.A., but he lost it years later. This is a gift for him. He's been good to my sister for 37 years so I'm putting a lot of effort into this. I'm in Tennessee only until the 22nd. I can come your way Friday through Sunday this weekend before my job takes me back to California.
GREATLY appreciate your consideration.
Duane Straub

ROCK PILGRIMAGE -THE ARS QUEST 2010 - 2011 -- First Installment 9/25/11

This story is too long - I'll never get it done if I don't do it in installments!!

"Alright! Now it's STAR TIME; let's get down to the basics. That's right! Well, in our last show, I gave a big introduction and all and… That's pretty exciting. But tonight, on this second show, let's look deep into the artistry of this man. It all started in a small town… No, no, no!! I'm not going to go into that! Please welcome from Washington DC, Mr. Root Boy Slim!" -- Bob Greenlee, introducing Root Boy Slim's second set, 69th Amendment Tour, Albany NY, 9-28-91

Bob Greenlee & Root Boy, backstage, Grog & Tankard, WDC 9-91

Well it did actually start out in a rather small town… After Congress got involved and pulled the rug out from under my 28 year employment, I found myself on the road doing radiation work, at this point in the small town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Twenty-five hundred miles away from home, what did I have to do for Thanksgiving?? Well my coworker, Lindsay, was going to visit her aunt and uncle, Ginger & Jim, in Alexandria VA, nearly 500 miles from Oak Ridge, and not far from Washington DC. Heck, I've got a bunch of friends in Washington DC, all of whom I met through Root Boy Slim, so I invited myself to Dick and Linda Bangham's for the Thanksgiving weekend. That timing worked out rather nicely, as my friend, Ron Holloway, was playing the day after Thanksgiving with Deanna Bogart. Deanna played with Root Boy Slim years ago; a multi-award winning musician, I never had a chance to meet her or see her perform, so what luck!

The morning after a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with Lindsay, Jim, & Ginger, I headed to Dick & Linda's in Silver Spring MD. I hung out with Dick and Linda, generally shadowing them around while they worked or immersing myself in the innumerable cultural artifacts & oddities about their home. I took a little walk with Dick down by the creek at the end of their property in the chilly weather. With comp'd tickets & backstage passes in hand (Dick's been a friend & associate of Deanna's for years & creates her CD covers) we headed to the show at the Weinberg Center for the Performing Arts in Frederick MD. Fabulous show, everything I expected and more!

Duane & Dick

Deanna & Ron

I arranged ahead of time to hook up with Joe Lee - some might say the *infamous* Joe Lee - and he was going to take me to meet Butch Willis at the "home" where Butch is a patient. But Joe bagged out on me; he lives a few hours out of DC now and couldn't leave his 2 dogs out in the cold weather - nor leave them unsupervised in the house. I really did want to meet Butch. I've admired Butch's rather bizarre recordings for sometime. Well, if I couldn't hook up with Joe & Butch, I guess the next best thing is a trip to Joe's Record Paradise to pay homage at the Root Boy Slim shrine - and the store itself! The shrine, created in the early 90's by Patti Paul for her husband Frank, features a pair of Root Boy's unwashed boxer shorts, left at my home the day after the 1990 baptism of my son, Clark (Root signed on as Clark's Godfather). Perusing the used vinyl, my ARS rock pilgrimage began - there in the bin was a copy of the Atlanta Rhythm Section's double LP re-release of the first two albums…

Root Boy Slim Shrine at Joe's Record Paradise, Silver Spring, MD

Source of the Boxer Shorts! Look REAL closely, you'll see them against the baseboard near foot of the bed

Clark & Slim

LP receipt!!!! I'll find that receipt yet!!!

Of course, the cover wasn't signed by Mike McCarty at that time!

Returning to Oak Ridge after my fun-filled fabulous weekend in Washington DC, I started to think about my brother-in-law, Larry's, autographed Back Up Against The Wall LP that he had lost years ago. I started thinking maybe I can re-create that album for him… Gee, I'm not that far from Georgia, I wonder if I could find the guys from ARS and have them sign this album?? Thinking quickly turned into action - a feasibility study!! So I started searching the 'net, trying to find the guys. I sent my sister, Sue, an email and told her about the exciting idea I was working on turning into reality:

From: Straub Duane
Subject: you won't believe...
Date: December 3, 2010 9:14:16 PM PST
To: Gomez Susan

...what I've been up to **most of the day** for Larry... I got a box at the post office & was going to send an ARS vinyl LP (I picked up in WDC last weekend) - same as the CD you already got - to replace the autographed one he lost yrs ago.

Was thinking about the trip I'm taking next weekend to visit an old army buddy in Anniston Alabama, and I figured I'd detour through Doraville and take a picture of where Studio One (ARS' studio) used to be & send it to Larry (I found the address on the web a couple weeks ago). Then I thought - HEY, maybe I can find some of the ARS guys on the web and get them to autograph *THIS* LP.

I stopped wrapping, starting searching the web, found Buddy Buie, the manager/songwriter, called, got his wife & she gave me his email address to make my request. Now I'm waiting to hear back & see if I can go down his way next week end - or heck, in a rental car tomorrow, get his autograph on the LP, and maybe he can give me some contact info for the other guys and they might sign as well? Heck, I'll drive all over to get them.

I think there's a fair chance of hooking up with him, he's a couple hrs south of my friend. BUT IT DOESN'T STOP THERE!!! :-) I went online and -incredibly- found & purchased the *exact* same LP Larry had - the individual album !! (The CD you got & the vinyl LP I have in hand are "combo" releases of both the 1st & 2nd albums, and do not have the original artwork.)

So I'm scared as crap that the guy will get it to me from New York by wed, or thurs at the latest, AND that I will somehow have it in my HANDS by crack of dawn Friday, since it will not fit in my mailbox here, so I don't know it they leave it on the floor of the apt building mailroom (where it might disappear), give me a notice to pick it up, or what!! Arghhhhh!!!

Oh well, Larry deserves it, right??!!?? :-)

Burn or file this msg so he don't see it. I figure if I can't get all this together, I'll just have Kathy sign the names!! HA!!

BTW, I've been thinking more about the 1st xmas item in the email I sent other day, the "vintage" Super Reverb amp cover. I'm really wanting that now, & it is just up there for anyone to buy on ebay- there's only one available. If you think you guys, with contribution from Mom & E, can get it for me ($84 total cost), please do asap before someone else scarfs it up. If you don't think so, please let me know asap so I can scarf it up myself! :-)

OH, one more thing - Buddy Buie's address is at "", Apple's email service. So I told his wife I've long been involved in the Mac community & she said they were totally Mac at their place. In the email, I sent this:

BTW, when Gloria gave me your email address, I mentioned I've been deeply involved in the Mac community for years. I've been Macworld Conference Faculty 8 times, and January 27th will be the 11th year I'll be performing with my Mac industry "luminary" friends in the Macworld All Star Band. Our lead guitarist puts on the Macworld Expos, our keyboardist is Macworld magazine editor Chris Breen, on rhythm is Bob LeVitus, author of over 50 Mac books, and others.

Here's a pic of me with my "Rev. A iMac Bass" (those are original 1998 "Rev. A" iMacs on the pickguard) from last year's gig:


Buddy Buie was easy to find, heck, he has a business & needs a web presence, so I called his office to ask if he'd sign this LP, and followed up with an email. :-)

From: Straub Duane
Subject: A special request for Buddy
Date: December 3, 2010 2:11:09 PM PST
To: Buie Buddy

Hello Buddy,
I just spoke with someone in your office, maybe your wife, Gloria? My name is Duane Straub; I met you 2 nights in a row in July 1973 at the Ash Grove in LA - remember me?? Ha! (We gave the guys a HUGE beer mug the second night, a few years later Robert said it was still in the back of the studio - maybe he was just being nice.)

My brother-in-law *had* a copy of Back Up Against the Wall autographed by you and the ARS the second night - we sat in the front pew at stage edge - JR was the greatest rhythm player I'd ever seen!

Incredibly, he lost that album years ago - he used to take old LPs to the swap meet - he NEVER would have sold it, and can only imagine it mistakenly got mixed in with swap meet LPs. :-)

Fast-forward 15-20 years, I'm temporarily working in Oak Ridge TN. Last weekend at (my friend) Joe's Record Paradise in Washington DC, I picked up the vinyl re-issue of the first 2 ARS LPs - gee it would have been gold if I'd found Back Up Against the Wall itself...

I was wrapping it up today to mail to Larry, my brother-in-law, in Long Beach CA, and was thinking about my planned trip next weekend to visit a friend in Anniston. Larry & I are such die-hard fans, I figured I'd detour through Doraville and take a picture of where Studio One used to be & send it to Larry (I found the address on the web a couple weeks ago). Then I thought - HEY, maybe I can find some of the guys on the web and get them to autograph *THIS* LP.

I stopped wrapping, starting searching the web, & here I am wondering if I can come down your way next week - or heck - I'll jump in a rental car tomorrow (I have no wheels here) - and get your autograph on this LP. And maybe you can give me some contact info for the the other (original/Ronnie) guys and they might as well? Heck, I'll drive all over to get them.

Sorry, didn't mean to go on so long... Larry is also getting the CD release of the first 2 LPs - I ordered that before finding this LP.

BTW, when the nice lady gave me your email address, I mentioned I've been deeply involved in the Mac community for years. I've been Macworld Conference Faculty 8 times, and January 27th will be the 11th year I'll be performing with my Mac industry "luminary" friends in the Macworld All Star Band. Our lead guitarist puts on the Macworld Expos, our keyboardist is Macworld magazine editor Chris Breen, on rhythm is Bob LeVitus, author of over 50 Mac books, and others.

Here's a pic of me with my "Rev. A iMac Bass" (those are original 1998 "Rev. A" iMacs on the pickguard) from last year's gig:

Thank you for your consideration,
Duane Straub

I'm off work Friday-Sunday, ready to jump if you can help me out.


Larry had his Back Up Against The Wall LP signed in July 1973 when the ARS played two nights in a row at the Ash Grove in LA.

One thing leads to the next, so to truly duplicate Larry's LP, I thought, I wonder if I can find an original copy of Back Up Against The Wall?? I went onto eBay, and HOLY SMOKES, there was a copy of Back Up Against The Wall with a buy it now price of only $8.95!!! I believe some people have paid over $100 for that LP!! My fingers were shaking as I submitted to buy it now.

I hadn't heard back from Buddy, but I was headed to visit an ex-Army buddy in Anniston AL, about 2.5 hours from Buddy, in just a few days, so I had the album fast shipped to me so I'd have it in case Buddy came through for me. It cost more to ship the LP than it did to purchase it! :-) The seller was a great guy and sent it off to me with a leap of faith, the rush postage costing more than he'd estimated and more than I'd paid him. I had to have it delivered to the property manager's office because I only had a tiny mailbox in my World War II Manhattan Project era apartment. The manager's office would be closed before I could get there from work, so I made special arrangement with her & picked it up just in time, the night before I would head to Anniston before dawn…


Subject: Thanks, re: ARS LP
From: Straub Duane
Date: December 4, 2010 6:39:22 PM PST
To: expressrich

Thanks for calling Rich, & thanks in advance for sending the LP off quick delivery.

This is a present for my brother-in-law who lost his copy years ago.

BTW, you know about the late Root Boy Slim? From WDC, he had a great following in Albany late 70s thru early 90s.



I followed up with Buddy again via email, and sent off a help request message to Robert Register who I discovered in my ARS contact search as mention of ARS members show up frequently in his blog. My two ARS LPs carefully protected, and my ARS contact search findings in hand, I hit the road for Anniston in my rental car with hopeful anticipation that Buddy would reply to my emails or return my phone calls in time that I could swing by his place on this trip to AL.

From: Straub Duane
Subject: Re: A special request for Buddy
Date: December 6, 2010 7:51:59 AM PST
To: Buie Buddy

Hi Buddy,
Hopefully you've seen my (sorry, long winded) message sent Friday evening. It just keeps getting better on my end -unbelievably - I found a copy of Back Up Against The Wall on eBay and I'm having it overnighted to me.

Will I be able to hook up with you Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to have you sign it? Are you able to give me contact info on the other guys or pass my info on to them?

I'll only be in Tennessee for one or two more weeks.


From: Straub Duane
Subject: ARS & my quest
Date: December 8, 2010 6:36:30 PM PST
To: Register Robert
Bcc: Gomez Susan

Hello Robert,
I am on a quest, making some progress, yet concerned I may fall short of my goal - in what is likely a one chance shot:

I would like to get Buddy & ARS' (circa 1973) autographs on a copy of Back Up Against The Wall. I'm pursuing this as a gift for my brother-in-law; I've spent hours and hours on this, but he's worth it - he's been good to my sister for over 37 years now.

The background & current status is this: In July 1973 my (late) brother, future brother-in-law, Larry, and I saw ARS two nights in a row in a teeny club in Los Angeles called the Ash Grove. On the second night, Larry had the band and Buddy sign his Back Up Against The Wall LP. Some years later, 15 to 20 years ago, Larry lost that album.

I live in California (as do Larry & my sister), but I'm on temporary work assignment in Tennessee. I'm headed to Anniston AL this weekend to visit an old ex-army buddy & thought I'd go a few hours out of my way just to get a picture of where Studio One used to be so I could send it to Larry, showing him this is where it all happened! :-)

Then, a couple days ago, I miraculously found and bought a copy of Back Up Against The Wall on eBay & had it overnight delivered to me. Then I commenced HOURS of searching the web (6 days now) trying to find contact info for Buddy & the guys. I spoke with Gloria, sent an email to Buddy, then spoke with him today. He says while he's happy to sign the record, visiting guests this weekend preclude him from doing so. He asked me to call him middle of next week to see if we might get together next weekend.

I briefly spoke with JR's wife just a couple hours ago and left a message for him. I've left a message with "Willie," the contact (in New York) for the band Robert apparently is playing with, Street Survivors. I have spoken with or left messages with a SLEW of Ronnie Hammonds, D. Daughtrys, and Barry Baileys (whodda thunk there are at least *3* Barry Baileys within 50 miles of Atlanta who play guitar???), and found only an address for a Paul Goddard in Norcross.

I don't expect you can share contact info for the guys, at least without prior permission, but please do if/when you can. Can you share my quest with them & give them my contact info?

There are sooooo many more nuances & ways that ARS music has resonated with Larry & me and been intertwined in each of our lives. I'd love to share lots of it with someone like you who might care, but for the sake of not going on longer than I already have... I hope just this small part of my story will resonate sufficiently with you and the guys such that they'd allow me the opportunity to drive all over heck to meet up with them to sign this LP. Hopefully not too much of an imposition, but if it turns out so, I will at least not be kicking myself in the rear for years to come for not having asked, especially when it seems the planets are perfectly aligned for this endeavor to simply fall into place.

With much appreciation,
Duane Straub,


From: Register Robert
Subject: Re: ARS & my quest
Date: December 8, 2010 9:44:16 PM PST
To: Straub Duane

I have the email addresses for Buddy, Robert, Paul & Dean. I know J.R. but I've never met Barry or Ronnie. I also have the email address for Mike McCarty who did the cover art.

I am forwarding this to them. That's about all I can do. I hope those 5 reply to your email.
This is a worthy endeavor & I wish you luck in getting your autographs.

Robert Register


Next installment:
me n daoust pic
ash grove emails & link to ARS performance
more, more, more!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Joe South, dead at age 72 ~ Rest in Peace (February 28, 1940 - September 5, 2012)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Little Bobby Peterson is the first person on the left in this portrait of Roy Orbison's Candymen

Alachu-Aid I: Hampton and Bobby Peterson

~ images courtesy of

Gary Gordon, jamming with renown keyboardist Bobby Peterson at Alachu-Aid I, New South Music Hall, Backstage Bar, 1987

Hi Robert - My name is Charlie and I came across your blog a while back when I did a google search for Robert Peterson in an attempt to learn a bit more about him. I've been meaning to get in touch for quite a while and am just now getting around to it. It shouldn't have taken me so long.

I read in your blog that you had heard two rumors about Robert - one from an ex-wife who said he had died of a brain tumor or something and another that he was living on the streets in Gainesville, Florida. Well, the second is correct. Perhaps he had someone tell his ex that he had died - I'm sure he wouldn't be the first guy to try that!

Robert was a well-known "street person" here in Gainesville for many years. He was in pretty bad shape. I was told that he did have some type of illness that had affected his brain, although I forget what it was and he never said anything to me about it. He drank quite a bit and was not too fond of bathing. One of the popular clubs here at that time was called Richenbacher's and he often stood outside there or outside some other clubs. Musicians and others, like myself, who were involved in one way or another with the music scene here had heard about his time with the McCoys. (I actually may have heard Robert back in the mid-60s since I heard The Candymen a couple of times at a local teen club called The Place) Club owners generally wouldn't allow Robert inside due to (trying to say this nicely) his lack of hygene, but occasionally a band would convince the owner to let him come in and sit in if there was a keyboard in the band and he wasn't too
rank. Despite his appearance, he was always completely lucid when I talked with him and was obviously intelligent. People would often give him some spare change but I never once saw him begging or bothering anyone - he would just stand there. He looked like he was crazy as a loon though - constantly scratching his head with one hand while chewing on the collar of his (usually filthy) shirt. So, not surprisingly, most people gave him a wide berth!

Well, despite his appearance, that sumbitch could still PLAY! If you hang out around any local music scene for a while there are always some moments that you will always remember because they were PURE MAGIC. Having read quite a few of your blog entries over the past year, I know you know what I mean. Well, one of those for me was the time I was at another club in Gainesville (which is still in business) called Market Street Pub. I was there to hear some friends, Britton Cameron & Jack Sizemore, who had a great duo and band. That night they were playing there as a duo. Well, they finished their set and someone convinced the manager to let Robert come in and play during the break between sets. They had an old, funky and somewhat out of tune, upright piano which was up against the back wall. Although it was still functional, I don't think it got much use. Robert came in and and proceeded to play jazz which was pretty much improvised and was some of the best jazz piano I've heard in my life! At first, not many people paid much attention but, as he continued, much of the crowd was in awe and sitting there with their mouths open in a state of shock. After the normal 15 minutes of break time had passed, nobody said a thing and Robert, who was obviously in a state of reverie, continued to play - probably for almost an hour in all. To this day I feel blessed to have been there!

Sadly, Robert also died on the streets, quite literally. Late one night he was crossing University Avenue to a beer store that was near where he was staying and was hit by a car. I'm not sure exactly when that was - I'm thinking about 1996 or ??? There was at least one article in the Gainesville Sun newspaper about Robert and a memorial jam or two. I've been meaning to try to get down to the public library and look in the newspaper archives to find it. If I get it together to do so I'll be sure to send you a copy.

A former Gainesville musician (who I've met but don't really know) named Gary Gordon (and former mayor - bet they don't allow hippie musicians to become mayor up in Alabama!) who is now out in California has a long section on his website about Gainesville bands. Naturally, much of it revolves around bands he was in and there are some gaps including details of things I was involved in. (I was part of a student group called Rose Community Center which put on shows on the University of Florida campus. This was back when Tom Petty was in a local band called Mudcrutch, which just released an album, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, from down the road in Jacksonville, played for us too. In fact the only time those two bands played on the same stage was for us. But I digress . . . ) I recently discovered Gary Gordon's webpage and there are two pictures of Robert jamming at a benefit show. Ironically, the show is Alachu-Aid (Gainesville is in Alachua County) which was benefit to help the hungry and homeless. One is near the bottom of Part II and the other is near the bottom of Part IV.

Here's the link:

By the way I've really enjoyed reading your blog. It really makes me realize that there have been great music scenes in lots of places, but especially in college towns it seems. I'm 56 and some of the bands you've mentioned were groups I remember from way back. The first band I saw play live was the Allman Joys at the American Legion Hall on University Ave and I've been hooked on music ever since. The local folks you write about are fascinating and I'm hoping to find some recordings of them. Every scene has its stories - the successes, the missed opportunities and the tragedies but through it all there is that MAGIC that shines through and for every musician who has some measure of success there are a hundred who were just as good who should have been well known.

Charlie Ramirez
Gainesville, FL (Home of the Gators, but don't hold that against me =8^)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BACK TO PEYTON PLACE! Jacquetta and I have some Southwest credit we had to use before October so we're heading to a little cottage north of Camden for a week in September! It's gonna be a PEYTON PLACE PILGRIMAGE & my return to Coastal Maine after a 25 year absence.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Decided to tune up my blog ROCK PILGRIMAGE with some Big Mama Thornton and her Ariton roots. Found a paper entitled --"Big Mama Thornton: Crossing race, gender, and class boundaries in Alabama blues music," by Elizabeth Ali of Troy University which was presented at Mississippi State in mid-February. Couldn't find anymore info. I want to read that paper. Do you know anything about this paper or Elizabeth Ali?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Viewing these Silver Spring Flash Mob Robbery 7 ELEVEN security tapes on Youtube is a TRIP! ("WHERE TWINKIES?")
When Jacquetta & I visited JOE'S RECORD PARADISE in Silver Spring on 11-11-11 to pay our respects @ THE HOLY IMMACULATE SHRINE OF ROOT BOY SLIM, we saw some rilly SKETCHY dudes hanging out on the sidewalk after dark downtown for no particular reason.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hey y'all~

I'm heading up to Baltimore Sattiddee.
That place beeze TERRA NOVA~INCOGNITA fo' my old Wiregrass butt.
If I'm gonna spend some time up there in YANKEE LAND, I'm gonna have to
a natural place for me to look for said BREAD is

I coined the term ROCK PILGRIMAGE on on February 7, 2005.
Right now, when you google "ROCK PILGRIMAGE",
you get 22,000 results & I'm #1.
A lawsuit's already been filed against a cat in Great Britain by a BBC affiliate & the cat contacted me to see whether I'd coined the term before the BBC affiliate.
I HAD NOT but I do have a claim to the name.

Went to (boy, I like that address name!)
& bought the rights to

Y'all think about me while I'm up there in that cold, cold NORTH.

I'll be chasing down the ghosts of Edgar Allen Poe, Root Boy Slim & Michael O'Donoghue


Answer the Call...

A pilgrimage is a ritual that belongs to no single religious or cultural tradition. One simply must answer the call to go, and when they are moving through the environment at a natural pace that awakens the senses, they perceive and connect to the environment as it is.

Since time immemorial, people have journeyed to special places to restore their faith in whatever they felt was important for their lives.

This pilgrimage could be a spiritual journey or it could end up being a journey filled with spirits.

ROCK PILGRIMAGE is a documentary television series & website for Rock & Roll Pilgrims. ROCK PILGRIMAGE examines the cities in which THE rock & roll pioneers were raised.

The show & website take the viewer on a virtual pilgrimage

A Pilgrim's Progess

Hey y'all~

Well, now we gotta get EVERYBODY hip to ROCK PILGRIMAGE.

Years ago pilgrimages were exclusively for Religious Nuts but the Twentieth Century introduced THE CULT OF PERSONALITY so NOW we gotz "religious" pilgrimages to the tombs of Lenin, Mao, Ho, Martin Luther King & ELVIS.


I've decided that I'm gonna be the star of ROCK PILGRIMAGE.
I'm just gonna be my own damn self & leave Tuscaloosa in search of wisdom on the Westside of Jacksonville, FL. or any other damn place I wanna go & explore.

I'm a cat who likes money, music & LOVES gettin' high wid some nookie so there's gotta be a place for me on cable TV.

ROCK PILGRIMAGE will be like a really good Hunting & Fishing Show.
It'll show the kids new & innovative ways to get high.

A film crew will meet me for THE WESTSIDE STORY in Jacksonville & the rest will be history!



as sorta PILGRIMAGE TO GRACELAND for Southern Rockers.

Published Thursday, June 10, 1999

Westside Story

By Matt Soergel
Times-Union staff writer,

Gimme Three Steps, arguably the best Lynyrd Skynyrd song that didn't end in a 29-minute guitar solo, has opening lines that perfectly capture a time - and a place.

Ronnie Van Zant sang it: ''I was cuttin' a rug down at a place called the Jug/With a girl named Linda Lou.''

There's deep significance to that song - and we're not talking about how amazing it is that Skynyrd, later in the song, successfully rhymed ''feller'' with ''hair colored yeller.''

No. It's because those lines are so Westside. And we mean that in a good way.

Can you imagine a place called the Jug in Baymeadows? What are the odds of finding a girl named Linda Lou in Mandarin? And what do the good citizens of East Arlington know about cuttin' a rug?


Visit our Lynyrd Skynyrd section

As symbols of the Westside, Lynyrd Skynyrd left its mark all over that part of town. Here, with help from the Freebird Foundation's Web site ( is a little tour of Skynyrd's Westside:

Robert E. Lee High School: At 1200 S. McDuff Ave., this is where Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Bob Burns went to school, and where they met tough gym teacher Leonard Skinner, after whom they later named themselves, sort of.

The Little Brown Jug: At 2517 Edison Ave., it inspired the ''cuttin' the rug'' line in Gimme Three Steps, but probably just because ''jug'' rhymed with ''rug.''

The West Tavern: At 5301 Lenox Ave., it's now called the Pastime (''cold beer, pool''). This is where the Gimme Three Steps scuffle really happened.

The Still: At 4506 San Juan Ave., it's now the SOS Lounge. It's where some of the band's earliest performances were. Later bought by Leonard Skinner and renamed after himself.

220 Riverside Ave.: An office building that Skynyrd bought in 1976 as a recording studio and rehearsal hall.

Lakeshore Athletic Association baseball fields: At 5300 Park St., this is where, as the story goes, Rossington met Van Zant and Burns. That fateful meeting happened after Van Zant hit a line drive that hit the back of Burns' head.

- Matt Soergel/staff

No. This is a Westside song, all the way.

''Skynyrd is a true representation of the Westside,'' said Van Zant's widow, Judy Van Zant Jenness. ''They were not pretentious. Their stage presence, their attire - their songs were about real events and real people. They were the good ol' boys.''

Unpretentious. Good ol' boys. Real people.

As Skynyrd represents the Westside, so does the Westside epitomize Jacksonville - or at least the Jacksonville that existed before the latest suburban boom fired up.

It's an area that, in some ways, is the most Jacksonville part of Jacksonville.

''That is the character of what Jacksonville was, throughout most of the 20th century - really until the last 15 or 20 years,'' said University of North Florida historian James Crooks.

''The Westside, I would say, would be the truer Jacksonville. It reflects the blue-collar, Bible Belt community that most of Jacksonville has been through most of its history . . . the Westside is the remnant of the old Jacksonville.''

Dispelling an image

The Westside - the vast expanse west of the St. Johns River all the way to the county line - is also a mysterious place to many newcomers, who've settled far away in other parts of the city. Bill Riley, a host on WBWL (600 AM) The Ball, a sports-radio station whose offices are on the Westside, will vouch for that.

''People will have absolutely no idea, when you tell them you're on Lenox [Avenue], how to get here.''

Knowing nothing about the area doesn't stop people from making jokes about the Westside.

''We have some callers in particular, generally from Ponte Vedra, who like to take shots at the Westside - pickup trucks, cars on blocks, education level, that kind of stuff. But the whole 'Westside' thing is almost a point of pride with Westsiders. They're very sensitive about it.''

Riley - who treks in from the Beaches - admits to joining in the funning at the Westside's expense, every once in a while.

''I actually had a guy - true story - who came to a live show I had at Coggin Honda. He came out in his pickup with his dog in the back - a big mean dog chained in the back of his truck. He came all the way from the Westside to Coggin, which is on Atlantic Boulevard, and he said: 'Are you Bill Riley?' I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'You need to stop making fun of the Westside.'

''I said, 'I say it endearingly.' Then he said, 'I don't think so. Stop picking on the Westside.'

''Then he took one of my free T-shirts.''

Roger Malphurs, 35, is a proud Westsider, born, raised and settled there, a block from where he grew up, near Normandy Boulevard and Cassat Avenue. He works on the Southside, though, braving the madness on that side of the river five days a week.

''I speak with people at work, and they have a very negative connotation about the Westside - that there are a bunch of rednecks, weirdos over here. Well, we're not glamorous - I'd be the first to tell you that - but you'd get better property over here than you would in Mandarin, that's for sure.''

Malphur's father, Ralph, who like his son is a citizen-activist for the Westside, sums up his feeling about his neighborhood in a few short words - a phrase that's heard often on the Westside.

You might read a little defensiveness into it when some people say it. But not with Malphurs. Not at all.

''The Westside is the best side,'' he says. ''And we mean that.''

An area with roots

The Westside is a huge, diverse area of uncertain boundaries. Most consider Beaver Street the northern edge and the Argyle area near the Clay County line the southern boundary. Some include in it tony neighborhoods such as Avondale and Ortega. Almost everyone agrees it stretches as far west as Jacksonville does, to the county line.

It's changing, just like every part of Jacksonville.

Expensive subdivisions are popping up here and there. Winn-Dixie is building a huge warehouse. And many hopes are pinned on Cecil Field's planned conversion to a high-tech center once the Navy closes the sprawling base in September.

Peggy Talbert, owner of K.C. Bar-B-Q resturant that she and her husband, K.C., opened on San Juan Avenue in 1969.

-- Bob Self/staff

Even so, going over to the bustling Southside, say, can be a bit of culture shock to the die-hard Westsider. Curtis Johnson, 67, a lifelong resident, feels it.

''It's really crowded, it seems to me. I look around and think, 'Boy, they're putting everything over there.' I see all the growth over there, you're stuck in traffic - but boy, I kind of get envious over there sometimes.''

Johnson lives in the Sweetwater neighborhood, tucked just inside Interstate 295 off Wilson Boulevard, a mile from where he grew up. It used to be all farms, like the one his ancestors - ex-slaves from a plantation near Live Oak - started in 1868.

Sweetwater went through some rough times itself, with drugs and prostitution. It's cleaned up now, though, largely because of the efforts of those who live there.

Johnson wouldn't want to live anywhere but the Westside. For him, it means big lots, inexpensive property, a small-town atmosphere. ''I see all those pine trees out here, people with all these big yards,'' he said. ''It's a hidden treasure, and people are going to find it.''

Peggy Talbert runs K.C. Bar-B-Q, a neighborhood institution on San Juan Avenue. She and her husband, K.C., opened it in the late '60s. He died a year ago, and she has run it on her own since.

To her, the Westside's all about family.

''I think probably the Westside of town has more people that have been here generations, several generations of family. Houses, a lot of them, don't even go on the market when they're selling, 'cause they just go to families,'' said Talbert, who lives near the restaurant.

''Those areas out on Hodges [Boulevard] and all that, that's new people. I think the Westside is the old people, people who've been around Jacksonville for a long time.''

A different ballgame

Mike Hogan is a Jacksonville city councilman whose family goes back several generations on the Westside.

''I think west Jacksonville is more the old true South,'' he said. To him, that means lots of churches, extended families and a slower-paced life.

Cedar Hills Sharks Kristen Leino gets tagged out at home during her team's fast-pitch softball game recently against the Lake Shore Wild Angels at the Lakeshore Athletic Association ball fields on Park Street.

-- Bob Self/staff

Newcomers to Florida, after all, tend to cluster closer to the beach: ''They come from the Midwest, where they never saw a beach, and they say, 'If I'm going to live in Florida, I'm going to live at the beach.' ''

Westsiders, though, tend to be from the South, and they want space around them, said Hogan, who lives in Confederate Point. The Westside can provide that, though Hogan admits the area has its problems.

''We've been begging developers for some time to build more upscale housing. The development of the Westside has been so nondescript from a planning standpoint. Right next to each other, you might have a trailer, a mobile home, a 3,000-square-foot home and a business that's been there for years.''

Still, he likes the Westside for its old-fashioned qualities. Take youth sports, for example: Hogan's got nothing against soccer, but on the Westside, it's still a relatively newfangled thing - kind of a yuppie curiosity.

''All my boys play baseball,'' he said proudly.

Still, a couple of years ago, his youngest son decided to play soccer at Paxon High School. He was fast, but he was still at a big disadvantage to the other players, who'd been playing the sport in other parts of town since they were 5 or 6.

It was a different kind of experience.

''We were noticing all the Volvos around when we came out for the first game. And all the parents were standing around yelling, 'Mark the man, mark the man!' We had no idea what they were talking about.''

Hogan laughs.

''Soccer's growing, but baseball and football still rule on the Westside.''

Working people

Don Walton runs Don's Music & Pawn on Blanding Boulevard, a gathering place for musicians, home to new guitars and some choice older ones too.

The Westside's full of musicians, from Skynyrd on down to the humblest bar band.

''We've got people, third-, fourth-, fifth-generation musicians, here. Their grandfathers came out of the mountains, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and they played for entertainment before TV,'' said Walton.

''It's been passed down, almost like a craft.''

That's one of the reasons he, a Northside native, opened his store on the Westside - and then chose to live there, in the Lakeshore neighborhood.

''There are a lot of good hard-working honest folks here, for the most part. They're not pretentious. Most of them have done better than their parents, and they try to instill a lot of that in their kids. Still, by and large it's lower-middle class. But there's a lot of pride in that, in not slipping.

''I think people go, 'Well, with hard work you can get there.' ''