When legends were born
By Alice Wallace
Gainesville Sun — Saturday, August 19, 2006
The Eagles. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The Motels.
They’re bands most people have at least heard of – whether or not they’ve heard the music.
And without certain musicians whose skills were culled in garages, music stores and topless bars in Gainesville during the 1960s and early 1970s, these bands might never have existed.
“It was an extraordinary time, and it was all new,” says Gary Gordon, a musician and writer who now lives in California but spent his high school years playing in Gainesville bands such as Uncle Funnel and The Push. “People who came after us can’t imagine how new it was.”
Tonight, Gordon will join former and current Gainesville musicians Mike Boulware, Tom Holtz and Marty Jourard for a panel discussion about what it was like to grow up during the emergence of Gainesville’s rock ‘n’ roll scene.
The discussion will take place at 7 p.m. at the Matheson Museum, 513 E. University Ave., with William McKeen, a University of Florida professor and author of “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay,” acting as the moderator. Bill DeYoung, the former editor for The Gainesville Sun’s Scene magazine, will also take part in the discussion.
Many Gainesvillians are well aware that Tom Petty’s roots run deep in the Gainesville soil, but he was only one of a group of musicians that fed off the rising rock ‘n’ roll culture that developed in the mid-1960s.
The appearance of The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of 1964 is regarded as the kickoff of the so-called British Invasion, and in Gainesville, it kick-started a generation of middle and high school kids who discovered music as a way to escape the adult-supervised activities of their past. And it gave them someone new to emulate.
“I had friends who spoke in English accents and wouldn’t wear anything but Beatles boots,” says Mike Boulware, who is a Gainesville resident and a former music-store owner who played in folk groups in his years at Gainesville High School.
After watching the mop-topped foursome bring teenage girls to their knees, the obvious thing to do in high school was have a band. And there were lots of them – bands like The Epics (led by Tom Petty) and Uncle Funnel and the Push (with Gordon, Marty Jourard and guitarist Steve Soar) would eventually morph into bands like Mudcrutch (Petty with Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench) and Road Turkey (Jourard, Soar and former Heartbreakers’ drummer Stan Lynch). And those bands just barely scratch the surface of the long list of acts that formed and reformed throughout the area over the years.
“We listened to the albums. We hung out at the record stores. And we learned from each other,” Gordon says.
High school dances and community functions were popular places for the teenage bands to play, but fraternity parties were some of the prime gigs.
“You didn’t have to be a certain age to play, so if you could get the gigs, you were set,” Gordon says. “And you got to hang out with college kids.”
“We (Uncle Funnel) played Alpha Gamma Rho for $150 a bunch of times,” recalls Jourard, who now lives outside of Seattle and teaches music. “They would always ask us to play ‘Wildwood Flower’ and they would all form a conga line and dance around the plow in front of the fraternity house.”
As some of the main bands in town got older, and closer to legal age, playing at the bars such as Dub’s Steer Room and Trader Tom’s was more common. Road Turkey played Trader Tom’s (which is the same Traders that is located on SW 13th Street today) three nights a week and Mudcrutch started playing Dub’s several nights a week.
There were other places, too, such as The Keg, on the corner of S. Main Street and S. 16th Ave, and the Granfalloon, named after a reference in a Kurt Vonnegut novel, which was in the area dubbed “Sin City” on the corner of SW 13th Street and SW 16th Avenue.
Overall, the Gainesville musicians who were involved in the rock emergence in the 1960s and 1970s say it was more than just the music that fueled the new culture. There was also the Vietnam War and the threat of the draft looming. And area high schools were in the beginning phases of integration, which amplified the tension and drove teenagers to search for some kind of release.
Boulware, who still lives in Gainesville and owned a music store called Profrets for about 10 years before closing it in 2001, recalls coming to school one morning to find a Confederate flag painted on the sidewalk outside GHS. He said he and his friends painted over the flag with green paint and added a black dove and a white dove. He and his friends were also nearly arrested for illegally marching in the Homecoming parade one year with a giant flag that read “legalize freedom.”
“There weren’t a whole lot of career choices,” Boulware says. “You could be a football player, a surfer, a drug dealer.”
Or a musician.
“Just growing up in the hub of Gainesville with the bands we had around here shaped everyone,” says Boulware, who played in country and folk bands with Gainesville musicians like Cathy DeWitt in his younger years. He still plays regularly as a member of about eight different bands that include various combinations of his friends and family as members.
UF AND MUSIC
The university atmosphere of Gainesville also lent itself well to a booming music scene, according to the panelists.
“It was really like a breeding ground and environment that was rich for music to come from it,” says Jourard, who now teaches music and plays with a bossa nova band. “It also feeds on itself. You’re in a band because you can get work because there are clubs, and the reason there are clubs is because there are students who want to hear music. The reason you wanted to play in Gainesville is because you saw so much of it. I used to ride my bike to fraternity row when I was 14 and hide in the bushes and crash parties all night and see all the bands.”
Eventually, though, the Gainesville rockers who were serious about “making it” left Gainesville and migrated west to seek their fortunes.
And fortunes they found. Marty Jourard and his brother, Jeff Jourard, found success with The Motels. Petty, Tench, Lynch, and bassist Ron Blair went on to form the Heartbreakers. Don Felder and Bernie Leadon became part of the Eagles.
“I knew I wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roller,” Gordon says. “I knew I enjoyed it, but those guys lived it, they drank it, they ate it, they went to bed with it.”
But looking back, Gainesville’s original rockers say they feel lucky to have had the influence of the university and its liberal music lovers who brought acts to town like a previously unknown band of gangly towheads who called themselves The Allman Brothers.
“I guess we figured every town had this amazingly thriving scene,” Jourard says. “But later we realized that, no, that wasn’t going on hardly anywhere else.”
GAINESVILLE ROCKERS WHO MADE IT BIG
Marty and Jeff Jourard – Joined the New Wave group The Motels in 1978 in Los Angeles. Jeff was lead guitarist (he was later replaced) and Marty played saxophone and keyboards.
Don Felder – Joined the Eagles as a guitarist in 1974 and wrote the music to the song “Hotel California.”
Bernie Leadon – Spent time with the alt-country group The Flying Burrito Brothers in the 1960s, and later was a founding member of the Eagles in 1971 after he, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner quit their job as a backing band for Linda Rondstadt. Leadon left the Eagles in 1975.
Tom Petty, Benmont Tench, Stan Lynch and Ron Blair – Formed Tom Petty and Heartbreakers along with guitarist Mike Campbell, releasing their first album in 1976. Lynch left the band in 1994. Petty also played with the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, which included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.
Stephen Stills – The former UF student was a founding member of the groups Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.