A Southern Music Hall of Fame in Jacksonville?

October 23, 2012 104 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A Metro Jacksonville forum debate about determining what to do with the old Duval County Armory building has energized discussion of a Southern Music Hall of Fame in Jacksonville. Today, Hugh Simpson, co-founder of the Southern Music Hall of Fame shares his executive summary of the concept for public discussion.

Southern Music Hall of Fame Executive Summary

The Southern Music Hall is the creation of its two co-founders Hugh Simpson and Ron Rich, who began with this concept in 1990.  When we first came up with the concept for the Hall, we visualized the facility as being eight floors of glass exhibits with artifacts from the eight forms of music: Jazz, Blues, Rock, Gospel, Country, R&B, Bluegrass and Folk.

Today museums like the one envisioned above are becoming dinosaurs. Kids and their young parents that have grown up with MTV are not interested in static glass exhibits. They want to be able to interact with the exhibits.

Therefore, we now see the Hall offering more than fifty audio/visual kiosks in the shape of musical instruments. These kiosks would offer DVD productions on the history of Southern Music and the attendees will receive a headset similar to the ones offered on the airlines. They will then be able to plug in the headset at any of the kiosks so as not to disturb others attending the Hall.

In addition with the vast experience of our associate Chris Stapleton, founder of the Media Convergence Laboratory at University of Central Florida we will now be able to really bring the history of music ALIVE using Augmented Virtual Reality.  For instance, Elvis performed at the Florida Theater in 1956.  We will be able to recreate that performance as if a person is there for it!

Elvis Presley with the "Win a Date" contest winner, Angela June Stephens at the Florida Theatre on August 10, 1956. Image courtesy of http://50sspirit.blogspot.com/2012/08/elvis-presley-florida-theater.html

Collaboration will be a key factor in presenting this history. We will become a high tech, cross-referenced, collaborative information center. Our attendees will be able to learn about other museums they might like to visit and also researchers will be able to use our facility for their projects. It is our desire to involve the Jacksonville schools, colleges and universities in on-going research into Southern Music offering the students the opportunity to work on audio/visual projects that will become our new exhibits.

From these eight forms of music have come well over 100 variations including: ballads, zydeco, Dixieland, ragtime, swing, country blues, holler, bluegrass, beach music, boogiewoogie, hillbilly, big band swing, jump music, soul, new wave jazz, punk, rap, Cajun, and even operetta – just to name a few.

Come with us on a tour of the Southern Music Hall of Fame!

As you enter the Hall, one will see a “time-line” creating the history of Southern Music done by the people in the Jacksonville area through the medium of watercolors that goes around the entire open room.  In the center of the open area will be the kiosks representing the eight forms of music.

FOLK.  Each country had its Folk Music: Czech, German, Polish, Tex-Mex, Cajun, English, Spanish, French, etc. We will show how the square dance came from cotillion; the black cakewalk was a burlesque of formal white dancing; and the Virginia Reel was a variation of the upper-class dance called the Sir Roger de Coverley.  Fiddle tunes, five string banjos, Chautauqua tents, medicine shows, tent-rep shows and vaudeville all came together to create the southern folk process.

BLUES.  Continuing the tour, you enter the Congo Square in New Orleans where black slaves are performing their music that originated in the heart of Africa.  They continued their performances on the plantations and we have come to know this as Blues.  You become caught up in the songs telling of toiling at hard labor on plantations, mines, logging camps and railroad construction.  Here you learn the history of the “blue note” and the role of the accompanying instrument as the second voice.  Blues instruments were primarily the piano, harmonica and guitar.  Different types of Blues were heard in Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, the Carolinas (The Piedmont Blues) and Georgia. Professional Blues singers included Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Clara Smith, Ida Cox, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, and Blind Willie McTell.  With the advent of the electric guitar, Blues combos became very popular led by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Aaron “T-Bone Walker and the legendary B.B. King.  Another form of the Blues was developed by white performers, which became “hillbilly” music of legends like Jimmie Rogers.

Blind Blake, a former Jacksonville resident, was known as a guitar master.  His repertoire of blues and ragtime was showcased by a string of popular releases on the Paramount label between 1926 and 1932. Image courtesy of http://www.oldhatrecords.com/paramount13123.html

GOSPEL.  Next you are surrounded by the sounds and sight of a southern gospel church where you hear congregational songs, ring shouts, quartets, sacred harp choirs, sanctified groups and even work songs.  Contrary to popular portrayal, black Gospel Music is a relatively recent music phenomenon emerging in the early 20th century.  Thomas A. Dorsey is regarded as the Father of Black Gospel Music.  Dorsey went on to work with gospel greats like Mahalia Jackson and Sallie Martin.  Black Gospel groups like The Spirit of Memphis, The Soul Stirrers and The Blue Jay Singers began to tour the country in 1945.
White Gospel Music also played a major role reflecting working class Protestant ethos. This form of music began before the Civil War with camp-meeting songs, sacred harp singings and revival music.  With the formation of the Ruebush-Kieffer Publishing Company came James Vaughan, who started the South’s first home-based record company.  After World War Two, the Grand Ole Opry featured gospel quartets: The Oak Ridge Quartet, The Blackwood Brothers, The Statesmen, The Jordanaires and The Happy Goodman Family. Today, performers like Dallas Holm, Amy Grant and Jars of Clay dominate Gospel Music.

JAZZ.  Jazz began early when white and black folk music was woven together into a new musical tapestry.  The home of Jazz as we know it does seem to have originated in New Orleans as a mixture of brass band marches, parlor music, Creole and Cajun folksongs, Caribbean music and church hymns.  It was originally called “ragtime” but by 1915 it was being called “jass” or Jazz.  Other centers of influence were Memphis with bawdy Beal Street and Kansas City and St. Louis with their ragtime.

Jazz also grew out of the Blues with every major ethnic group (Irish, Italian, French,
Spanish, Jamaican, German, Greek and Jew) and every city in the South having its identity with the Blues.  Also Jazz and Gospel blended together to create great songs like
“When The Saints Go Marching In” and “Down By The Riverside.”

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