A new book about a fascinating chapter of Jacksonville history is earning recognition. Author Michael Ray FitzGerald’s 2020 historical study, Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock, published by University Press of Florida, has won a bronze medal in the nonfiction category at the Florida Book Awards sponsored by the State of Florida. “It’s great to be recognized by the State of Florida, and it’s also great to see the devoted musicians who created this genre (southern rock) getting their due,” says FitzGerald.

The Jaxson interviewed FitzGerald about the book in December 2020, and included it in our running list of the best books written about Jacksonville. The book chronicle’s Jacksonville’s unlikely rise as the epicenter of the Southern rock genre beginning in the 1960s. Chapters cover the histories of the various bands and musicians who made the city a hotbed, including the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gram Parsons, Cowboy, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, 38 Special and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Michael Ray FitzGerald, courtesy of the author.

“There’s been a resurgence of interest in southern rock, possibly because it’s been 50-plus years since its inception, so it’s become a legitimate topic of historical interest,” Fitzgerald told The Jaxson in December. “Also it’s one of the few things this city is famous for, and I and several other people–including members of the Jacksonville Historical Society and some city officials–think it’s about time we exploited it.

FitzGerald argues that this is a phenomenal accomplishment from a mid-sized city, which never had much of a music-business infrastructure. “These guys accomplished something next to impossible through sheer determination and hard work,” he says. “Whether you are a fan of this music or not, it’s an amazing story that deserved to be told.”

Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock is available in most local bookstores. To order a copy online, visit the University Press of Florida or Amazon.

Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at wdelaney@moderncities.com.