The Jacksonville Historical Society is creating a museum that unites the community across racial, economic, and generational divides through the Jacksonville area’s rich musical history. Like the music itself, the spirit of the First Coast arises from an incredible fusion of influences and experiences taking voice together and through each other.
Jacksonville is best known as the springboard for the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, and other bands that gave shape to the southern rock movement. However, our musical history stretches beyond recent memory to the inception of popular music as we know it. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Northeast Florida was the site for some of the earliest blues performances and recordings; indeed, the record of these early innovators was instrumental in the canonization of the blues genre. Jazz pioneers such as Jelly Roll Morton and Ray Charles launched their careers in Jacksonville. James Weldon Johnson -- a Jacksonville native, scholar, diplomat, and artist of national renown -- wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing," widely known as the Black National Anthem and performed by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Art Blakey, and Alicia Keys. The song, like so much of Jacksonville’s music, heralds the arrival of a new world informed by the collective recognition of the past.
And still, the legendary voices of Jacksonville's musical legacy have more to share. From roots rock to hip-hop, the First Coast continues to be the source for a wellspring of cultural revolution and musical innovation. As the artists that brought the scene to life make their experience known, a new generation of talents is rising to the fore. Just recently, twelve-year-old Keedron Bryant was signed to Warner Brothers Records, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, and name-checked by President Obama in 2020 for his music about social justice. Just as Jacksonville's music continues to thrive, The Jacksonville Area Music Museum remains committed to telling the story of our shared history and appraising the arts and culture that make us who we are.