When Charlie Starr started laying out the itinerary for the Spirit of the South Tour, he knew there was one city where the traveling celebration of Southern rock music would have to visit.
“If you are a person who uses the term ‘Southern rock’ then Jacksonville, Florida, is hallowed ground,” Starr said last week as he was preparing for the tour.
Starr, singer and guitarist with Georgia rockers Blackberry Smoke, is not wrong, of course. Just a few miles from Daily’s Place, where the tour stops Tuesday night, is the Riverside house where the Allman Brothers Band first came together. Around the corner from that is Riverside High, which was still called Lee High School when a teacher named Leonard Skinner hassled some students about their long hair enough to make them name their band after him. Blackfoot, .38 Special and Molly Hatchet all got started in Jacksonville and sold a lot of records with their high-flying guitar lineups.
The Spirit of the South Tour is a tip of the hat to all of those “Southern rock” bands that set the stage for acts like Blackberry Smoke, Starr said. But it’s also a salute to Ray Charles and Little Richard and countless acts that were Southern and rock, but not necessarily “Southern rock.”
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That term rankles some, who equate it with racism and small-mindedness. Not so with Starr.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Some musicians down through the years have scoffed at it. I think that might come from the idea that you’re being compartmentalized. If it’s a term that people would use that put you into a box, then I don’t like it. I just say that we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band from Georgia. We’re a confusing bunch anyway because we also like to play a traditional country song now and then.”
The tour is a salute to Southern music in general, but the Allman Brothers Band in particular. The Allman Betts Band, which features the sons of Allman Brothers Band founders Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, plays before Blackberry Smoke.
Jaimoe, a founding member and longtime drummer with the Allman Brothers Band, was supposed to be part of the tour as well, but had to drop out due to medical issues, Starr said. Jaimoe is expected to join later in the tour, but won’t be at the Jacksonville show.
The Big House, a museum in Macon, Ga., that celebrates all things Allman Brothers, will have a touring display at the concert. Starr said the Big House people approached him with the idea of a traveling exhibition when they heard about the tour.
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The show was supposed to happen last year but was put off by the pandemic. In the intervening year, Blackberry Smoke put out a well-received new album and Allman Betts Band grew into a headline act on its own right. Starr said fans will be getting a pretty good deal at the Spirit of the South Tour.
Blackberry Smoke’s new album is called “You Hear Georgia.” Starr laughed when asked what reaction he expects from Gator fans when he plays the song at Daily’s Place, which is attached to the stadium where the annual Florida-Georgia football game is held. “Maybe we’ll wear Georgia football helmets,” he said.
Spirit of the South Tour
With Blackberry Smoke, the Allman Betts Band and Wild Feathers
6 p.m. Tuesday at Daily’s Place