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Historical Society Plans Jacksonville Music Museum In Old Casket Factory
June 19, 2020

The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynryd, Molly Hatchet and The Derek Trucks Band are among the internationally successful acts with roots in Jacksonville.

Now the Jacksonville Historical Society wants to celebrate Jacksonville’s role in music with a new museum and performance venue dedicated to the musical genre.

Friday the historical society announced plans to launch the museum in the old 1882 Florida Casket Company building in the sports complex area of Downtown Jacksonville.

“A museum recognizing, and commemorating, Jacksonville’s rich musical legacy is long overdue. From LaVilla in its heyday, to the origins of Southern rock and beyond, it’s time Jacksonville’s contributions to American music were counted,” said Mitch Hemann, a musician, as well as the senior archivist at the JHS.

Hemann will be recording a performance at the Florida Casket Company to formally launch the project on June 25. It will air on the JHS YouTube page, with the title: The Music of the Allman Brothers and the Birth of Southern Rock.

A 14-member task force has been assembled to move the idea from concept to reality. In addition to Hemann, the members are:

  • Alan Bliss, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s Chief Executive Officer
  • The Rev. Canon J. Allison DeFoor, of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida
  • Mike Boulware and John Gordon, owners of B-Side Vintage, a music shop in Gainesville
  • Dr. Richard Danford, Jr., president of the Jacksonville Urban League
  • David Chauncey, Esq., an attorney with ADB Legal
  • Ennis Davis, an urban planner and founder of The Jaxson
  • Dennis Whittle, president of The Whittle Group and a founder of Normal>Next
  • Stanton Hudmon, principal at Pine Street/RPS Commercial Real Estate
  • Charles “Chip” Storey, a founder of Normal>Next
  • Randy DeFoor, Jacksonville City Councilmember
  • Michael and Leigh Howton Philips, Southern Rock aficionados.

Bliss believes artifacts will stream in once the project is launched.

“There are people here who went to school with Ronnie Van Zant [founder of Lynyrd Skynyrd] or knew Gregg and Duane Allman when they lived here for a brief time in early 1969 and established the Allman Brothers Band,” he said in an email to WJCT News.

Although Southern rock is expected to be prominently featured, the plan is for the venue to encompass more than that, including blues, jazz and country, which all have influenced Jacksonville musicians.

In addition to showcasing musical history, the JHS expects bands and musicians to perform at the new venue starting in 2021.

The JHS is inviting the public to participate by donating artifacts from music performers who came from Jacksonville or are otherwise connected to the city.

“I believe we’ll see a treasure trove of items come flying out of attics, garages and other places,” said Rev. DeFoor, a member of the JHS’s board of directors and one of the originators of the idea.

People who wish to contribute can contact the Jacksonville Historical Society at (904) 665-0064 or email info@jaxhistory.org. To donate online, visit jaxhistory.org/donate-now/

THE MUSIC THAT MADE SOUTHERN ROCK: Jacksonville Historical Society announces launch of music history experience, invites participation
JAX Chamber of Commerce – June 19, 2020

The Jacksonville Historical Society and aficionados of music genres rooted in Northeast Florida, particularly Jacksonville, have taken on an ambitious and alluring project that is sure to draw bands and musicians to perform at a new venue in 2021.

One part museum, one part intimate concert venue, the as-yet-unnamed venture will leverage the memories and memorabilia of people who lived through the birth of Southern rock and roll, according to Dr. Alan Bliss, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s Chief Executive Officer. “The roots of what we know today through the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers stand on the shoulders of giants in the blues and jazz genres in Jacksonville’s African American community,” he said.

Bliss believes interest will be high and that artifacts will stream in once the project is launched. “There are people here who went to school with Ronnie Van Zant [founder of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band] or knew Gregg and Duane Allman when they lived here for a brief time in early 1969 and established the Allman Brothers Band,” he said.

Mitch Hemann, musician, as well as senior archivist at the Jacksonville Historical Society, will tape a performance to introduce the launch. He plans to record Please Call Home: The Music of the Allman Brothers and the Birth of Southern Rock in the Florida Casket Company building where the Society plans to locate the music experience in downtown Jacksonville and release it on the Society’s YouTube page June 25. Hemann’s video is a follow-up to his June 2019 program Deep Roots, Many Branches: The Roots of Blues in Northeast Florida, which was a sold-out performance.

“A museum recognizing and commemorating Jacksonville’s rich musical legacy is long overdue. From LaVilla in its heyday, to the origins of Southern rock and beyond, it’s time Jacksonville’s contributions to American music were counted,” said Hemann.

Under direction of the Jacksonville Historical Society, the 14-member task force includes Bliss and Hemann; the Rev. Canon J. Allison DeFoor, of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; Mike Boulware and John Gordon, owners of B-Side Vintage, a music shop in Gainesville; Dr. Richard Danford, Jr., president of the Jacksonville Urban League; David Chauncey, Esq., an attorney with ADB Legal; Ennis Davis, an urban planner and founder of The Jaxson; Dennis Whittle, president of The Whittle Group and a founder of Normal>Next; Stanton Hudmon, principal at Pine Street/RPS Commercial Real Estate; Charles “Chip” Storey, a founder of Normal>Next; Randy DeFoor, Jacksonville City Councilmember, and Michael and Leigh Howton Philips, Southern Rock aficionados.

“This is an opportunity go through the history of Blues to Jazz to Country to Rockabilly to Southern Rock that came from here and the Southern Rock-influenced sounds of the Country Rock that is popular today – to which Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers are seen as one of the foundational sounds for bands like Florida-Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell, Jake Owen, Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett, etc., all of which are from Florida or Georgia and may be the only modern popular music with a guitar riff every once in a while,” said Chauncey, a member of the Jacksonville Historical Society’s board of directors.

“Take Lynyrd Skynyrd, for example,” Chauncey continued. “The ‘Ballad of Curtis Loew’ is a song really about the influence of African American music, specifically the Blues, on Ronnie Van Zant. Even though Curtis Loew was not a real person, Loew was a composite of several influential African American individuals important to Van Zant, including, legendary Blues icons Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters and family friends in Jacksonville.”

The task force invites the public to participate in establishing the music history and performance venue by donating artifacts from music performers who came from Jacksonville or paused here for a time and who subsequently contributed to the rich history of American music that has its roots established in Jacksonville.

“I believe we’ll see a treasure trove of items come flying out of attics, garages and other places,” said Rev. DeFoor, a member of the Jacksonville Historical Society’s board of directors and one of the originators of the idea, who draws on experience as a former board member of the Museum of Florida History, and founder of the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys.

To contribute to the unnamed venture, contact the Jacksonville Historical Society at (904) 665-0064 or email info@jaxhistory.org. To donate online, visit jaxhistory.org/donate-now/ Media: For more information email communications@jaxhistory.org.

Dennis Whittle, UNC Chapel Hill ’83, co-founder of GlobalGiving, Feedback Labs, launches two Jacksonville-based startups to help organizations adapt post-COVID-19
Morehead-Cain Spotlight – June 3, 2020 Head shot of Dennis Whittle ’83

“Leadership requires being willing to think differently, the skills and courage to bring about change and the persistence to keep going when you fail, and fail, and fail, because you usually have to–many times–before you succeed.”

Normal>Next will serve private sector companies while the nonprofit FutureProof will focus on public enterprises. Both will enable clients nationwide to successfully transition during times of widespread industry disruption by providing personalized crisis playbooks.

These guidelines will serve entities across a diverse range of fields, including philanthropy, higher education, museums, and film production.

When public health officials made clear that no states would be impervious to COVID-19’s reach, Dennis said that his team began to recognize how the outbreaks would exacerbate weaknesses in nearly every area of business.

“We realized that the world is facing a crisis, and that the organizations and companies who bury their heads in the sand and hope that all of this just goes away are going to be in big trouble if they don’t have the skills to reinvent themselves,” said the serial entrepreneur, who co-founded the startups with four others.

The alum said he hopes that Normal>Next and FutureProof will give people “the courage to see the silver lining” amidst the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine their future.

“There’s still going to be huge costs for many businesses, but the idea is to help them face head-on how the world is changing and to demonstrate how they can thrive on the other side of the crisis, as supposed to just mitigate damage,” said Dennis, who served as an economist at the World Bank in the ’80s and ’90s.

As the co-founder of GlobalGiving, the first global crowdfunding website that connects donors with grassroots projects worldwide, Dennis has dedicated his career to helping organizations undergo transformations. After serving as CEO of the platform for a decade beginning in 2000, he also went on to co-found Feedback Labs in 2010, an organization that facilitates community feedback for services provided by philanthropic and aid-based institutions, civil society groups, impact investors, and government agencies.

Dennis developed and led the team for five years before appointing Britt Lake ’03, a founding board member of Feedback Labs (and the former chief program officer for Global Giving), as CEO and moving to Jacksonville, Florida last winter.

The city’s history as an epicenter of motion-picture production in the early twentieth century first sparked the idea to form a company that might aid redevelopment efforts in the Sunshine State, said the alum (who once played an extra in the 1984 movie Missing in Action, directed by Joseph Zito).

When prohibition laws of the 1920s drove many silent film producers to transplant to the more libation-tolerant Hollywood, there seemed little hope of restoring Jacksonville’s reputation. That is, until now.

With concerns over hotel safety with regard to virus case resurgences, Dennis believes secondary homes that lie dormant for long periods of time along the Atlantic coast could be used to house cast members, as one example of how the playbooks might envision alternative logistical schemes.

“Locals would love to have movie stars in their houses, and who wouldn’t? Jacksonville has an opportunity here to embrace the rebirth of the movie industry,” he said, saying even Morehead-Cains from Florida whose plans are diverted (again) due to future pandemics could be hired as extras. “You could create a lot of excitement around that idea.”

In addition to real estate, the playbooks will help companies work through contractual, design, community-building, and health- and safety-related issues, according to the co-founder.

Dennis launched the startups with Charles (Chip) Story, Ernest Koe, Marcia Conner, and Steve Ritchie. The team is also growing: Normal>Next and FutureProof are seeking to hire current scholars this summer as interns to work with the entrepreneur. Those interested in joining the team can contact him through the Morehead-Cain Network or by sending an email to contact@normalnext.com.