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Gainesville Bands, Music & Musicians, Part I

by Gary Gordon

Buffalo Springsteen, 1987; one of many bands not among the greatest Gainesville bands of the 60s and 70s:
Barry Sides on harp, Gary Gordon on guitar and vocals, Kevin Wilson (back) on bass, at the New South Music Hall.

Recently the editor of The Gainesville Sun Scene Magazine, Bill DeYoung, contacted me and asked me to contribute to a piece he was putting together on the great bands of Gainesville, Florida. Since I played in bands there when I was in high school (late 60s) and after college (late 70s) and after I left political office (late 80s), he asked me to be on a panel that included folks like Stan Lynch (Tom Petty's former drummer and now a co-writer and producer with Don Henley) and Mike Boulware (longtime Gainesville musician and music store owner).

Many of you may know that several folks who "made it" came from Gainesville, including Petty and his bandmates Lynch, Benmont Tench, and the Heartbreakers original bassist Ron Blair; Jeff and Marty Jourard (The Motels), Bernie Leadon (Flying Burrito Brothers and Eagles), Don Felder (Eagles), Bob Harris (Zappa) and more.

The feature story Bill put together was good for what it was, with six or seven panelists weighing in on two or three bands each, and a lot of emphasis given to the 80s and 90s. It's available at Unfortunately, space limitations and deadline pressures limited what he had intended to be a larger, more grand piece.

Meanwhile, if you want to chew on more information, from memory (and please pardon any misspelled names-- it's been awhile), here's what I wrote before Bill asked me to cut it down to just three paragraphs on three bands.

What makes a great band? Talent, craft, chemistry, thrill, originality, creativity, fun-- at least that's what I come up with when I think back. But as I remember certain bands, it's very hard to separate the band from the times, and from the events.

For instance, I'll always remember The Secret Agents, with Trantham Whitley and Jack Nettles. I really don't know how good they were, but when I heard them practicing one afternoon in the P.K. Yonge auditorium (circa 1965), they not only sounded just like the records I'd heard of the songs they were playing, but they were the very first live local band I'd ever seen. There were so many important and instant lessons: you could know people who did this (since they were PKY upperclassmen who I passed in the halls now and then), you didn't have to just see it on Ed Sullivan or American Bandstand, and, perhaps more importantly, you could conceivably do it yourself. That was an amazing, empowering notion.

I know The Maundy Quintet and Beloved (with Larry Bobroff) were very popular in the mid-60s Gainesville rock band scene, but I never heard them. I was too young. There were two bands I heard often, though: The Centurys and The Certain Amount. The Centurys played at a PKY High School dance; their drummer, Steve Bobroff, was an old friend from Sunday School. And they did something none of us had heard before: they covered the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations and sounded just like the record. It was great. The Certain Amount, with Pete Murphy and Jim Lanahan, played several times at one of Gainesville's first teen dance clubs, The Place, later called The White Rabbit--it had been Rebel Lanes Bowling Alley, on University Avenue, a few blocks east of 13th Street. They played all the popular dance music at the time (which, for most bands, consisted of a lot of Young Rascals), and I remember one time they opened for The Five Americans.

Were The Centurys and The Certain Amount great bands? They were a vital part of the Gainesville music scene, and they seemed to play everywhere, all the time. Maybe that's another part of being great: getting a lot of work, having a following.

Sometime around 1968, maybe a year after the Reitz Union opened (my band, The Controls, was the first rock band to play in the new ballroom in '67), there was a concert and light show that seemed to define the new standard, which was clearly psychedelic. There were two bands: Ginger Bread (featuring Don Felder and Jonathan Winter and Chuck Newcomb) and City Steve (featuring Jeff Jourard and Steve Alday and Amos Filmon). And a group of lighting people from around Tampa (as I recall) called The Lovelights brought 16 strobes, overhead projectors, film projectors, black lights: it was a soup of wild lighting and great music.

Were they great bands? Hard to separate it from the event.

Meanwhile, I wound up in the position of hiring the band for the PKY Homecoming dance sometime around Fall '68. I hired The Epics, featuring Tom Petty and one of the Leadon brothers (I think Tommy) for $80. I wish I still had a copy of the contract, although I don't remember if it was Petty or Leadon or someone else who signed it for the band. The Epics covered a lot of Stones material. Marty Jourard, who was hanging around and not yet in my band, helped put together a phenomenal light show in the PKY gym. Again, it was another defining moment, another great show. That night, The Epics were great.

The Airemont Classic at the Gainesville Westside Rec Center, circa 1968.
The band included Gordon (in the photo) on guitar, Steve Soar (later in Road Turkey) on guitar, Tommy Freeland on drums, Glenn Anton on bass, and Joe Folsom on vocals.
The setlist included White Room, Born To Be Wild, Good Lovin', Hello I Love You, Badge, Sookie Sookie, and Midnight Hour

(Sometime around then my band also played a PK dance and got shut down for playing Steppenwolf's The Pusher because of the line "God damn the pusher man.")

There were many popular bands in Gainesville, many who played a lot at high school dances in town and in the surrounding counties, but the real money was at the fraternity dances. I think all the bands mentioned here, and The Jades and The Soul Blues and Riff and Sam and Limits of Persuasion and The Styrophoam Soul and others all played frat dances. My band (then with Marty Jourard and a singer named Joe Folsom, and known as Uncle Funnel & The Push) played at TEP and AEPi, but our main gig was at Alpha Gamma Rho. That was the era of Creedence, Hendrix, and Cream, and our lead guitarist, Steve Soar, could do it all.

But there is really only one band in that period of the late 60s and very early 70s that stands out and should hold the title of the best band of that era: RGF, which stood for Really Good Fuck or Really Good Friends, depending on where they were playing. They were everything mentioned above and more. While people might say "oh yeah, Riff's playin' at the Union", people drove miles to see RGF. Featuring Jeff Jourard, Thomas Patty, Carl Patty (and later, Ron Blair), Mike Hitchcock, Doug D'Amico and Randy (whose last name I don't remember), this band combined the best of the Allman Brothers and the Rolling Stones, with their own signature sound and frenzy. They had great dual guitar work, two great lead singers who were also showmen, great arrangements of covers (their Jailhouse Rock never failed to bring down the house), great originals, and great jams. Most of them, perhaps all of them, had played in many bands before (Jeff certainly had) and it was as if the three or four years of practice and seasoning had all come together in this band at the same time that everything the culture (or more accurately, the counterculture) wanted from a band had come together.

RGF were the perfect intersection of a band of creative artists and entertainers satisfying the exact desires, wishes and fantasies of the crowd. They were rock n roll incarnate.

And volatile. And shortly after they moved to Boston they split up and it was over.

Road Turkey, one of Gainesville's best with one Gainesville's best ever lead guitarists:
Steve Soar, Marty Jourard (later in the Motels),
Stan Lynch (later in the Heartbreakers), and Carl Patty

In their wake, two really fine bands rose to popularity: Road Turkey (Marty Jourard, Soar, and Stan Lynch-the outgrowth of Uncle Funnel) and Mudcrutch (with Petty and Tench). But as great a guitar-player as Soar was-and he was one of Gainesville's best, neither band was ever as raw or powerful as RGF. Ultimately, after moves to the west coast, Petty formed the Heartbreakers, and the Jourard brothers formed The Motels.

The Motels.

Shortly after, the disco era overtook Gainesville, and it wasn't until the late 70s, with bands like The Dixie Desperados, The Jim Connor Band, The Northeast Band, Lash Lane, and my band, The Archer Road Band (with Dave Durham and Kenny Shore), that live music began to enjoy another heyday.

Vocalist extraordinaire, songwriter, guitarist & bassist Don David, of The Northeast Band,
playing in A Gary Gordon Band at the Greenpeace Benefit, 1989

I have three memories of RGF: the time they played at the Women's Club (I got in as a roadie) and although most of the crowd loved them, the women who hired them were clearly disappointed at their extreme longhaired looks as well as the content and volume of the music, and I overheard one of the women say "But they were supposed to be good."; the time they headlined at the UF Auditorium and, along with playing great, the two lead singers rubbed raw hamburger meat over themselves and threw it in the audience (okay, you probably had to be there); and their arrangement of Martha & The Vandellas' Dancin' In The Street: it's an arrangement I still play to this day, over 30 years later.

To think about these bands so many years ago, it may be important to spend a moment thinking about those times. Media coverage of rock music was almost non-existent until the underground press emerged. (Most of what I'm writing about here was pre-Rolling Stone magazine.) There was a cultural war that must have given Bill Bennett his first heart attack. There was not only the typical teenage rebellion against parents, there was a rebellion against the prevailing culture: dress codes, sex codes, free speech codes, music codes, volume codes, drug laws, and especially The Draft. And there weren't all that many places to play.

Many of the pioneer rockers in Gainesville spent a lot of time not only working on their craft but also on sweating out the Draft. Some outlying high schools were still segregated as late as 1969, which meant that integrated bands were totally out of the question (except Charlie Steadham, known as Charlie Blade, traveled with Weston Prim's Soul band, wearing an afro, gloves and black socks to disguise his whiteness). Abortion was illegal. Cohabitation was illegal. (Most of the counterculture was illegal, making us, in the words of The Jefferson Airplane, "outlaws in the eyes of America".

And it was a real Event when the Stones or the Airplane were on a national TV show-one of the then three TV networks, before Cable. The campus venue for touring acts was the gym (Donovan and Vanilla Fudge played there) and The Rathskellar (the Allman Brothers, Brewer & Shipley, and Biff Rose played there). A guy named Andy Kramer used to organize outdoor concerts at the UF, and, looking back, it's amazing some of those were allowed-but student power really did exist after awhile. And even though there was a culture war, many parents did support and encourage the efforts of their sons to form bands, rehearse in garages, and play. (I say sons, because women guitar players did not exist: I think Nancy Luca was the first in Gainesville and probably one of the first in the nation.)

The other amazing thing about that time and that scene was this: it wasn't about selling booze and it really wasn't about selling recorded product. Much of Gainesville's music scene in the late 70s thru the 80s and probably still is about selling booze at nightclubs and bars. The national music industry these days is dominated by producer/focus group narrowthink-oriented hitmaking. Radio stations are full of preprogrammed crap. It wasn't like that in the late 60s in Gainesville. Radio was more free. A lot of the concerts were outdoors. RGF didn't have to record an album to be popular. People came for the music, the crowd, the lifestyle.

The Archer Road Band, in the road outside the Alibi Lounge, 1978:
Dave Durham, Bruce Shepard, Gordon, Kenny Shore

I don't know if these reminisces are worth much--is it history or fond memories, or both? Bill's article stirred up a bit of a stew over who got included and especially over who got left out. One friend called me to point out Skatterbrainz, with Jane Yii and Jim Connor's band weren't there. (Connor's band featured bassist J.D. Foster who later worked with Dwight Yoakam.)

Jane Yii, premiere singer/songwriter, soloist and co-founder/lead vocalist with Skatterbrainz

Another mentioned Road Turkey and The Archer Road Band weren't featured. Another noted band, Mutley Chix, were missing from the list. Nancy Luca wasn't mentioned! Neither were longtime Gainesville musicians Chaz Scales, Mike Lowe, Larry Thompson and Don David, whose observations, if they'd been on the panel, would've been very interesting.

I'm sure Charlie Steadham, longtime musician and band manager/agent (Blade Agency) would've made some interesting comments, too, having worked in a soul band in the segregated south, and managed many area bands. And I know there was an incredibly popular band in the early 70s that included Bob Harris, but it was while I was away in college and I don't remember the name. Apparently no one else thought to mention them.

Nancy Luca; rock 'n roll incarnate, at Alachu-Aid I, 1987

For many of Gainesville's musicians, it starts with the song. Don Grooms, not a rock 'n roller, was a singer/songwriter in the Woody Guthrie tradition. Don was a journalism professor by day and an entertainer by night, bringing his numerous songs about Florida and Native Americans to a variety of commercial venues and benefit concerts. Don passed away a couple of years ago.

Don Grooms, circa 1987

I called Stan, and we talked for awhile about Bill's article and the old days; my favorite thing he said was this: "Steve Soar was the best lead guitarist Gainesville ever produced. Ever." And I worked with Steve for over four years, so that felt good.

Steve, Marty, & Stan, of Road Turkey, circa 1972

Before the Super, the Tele, and the Strat: A $35 guitar, a kit amp, and a homemade cabinet. Rock 'n roll!



For more of the story...
Great Gainesville Bands & Musicians, Part II
Gary Gordon Productions Homepage


Hi. If you like this essay and the other essays on Great Gainesville Bands, please consider making a donation.
--Gary Gordon