Garage bands, bar bands and the singer-songwriter 1965–2015

by Gary Gordon

Gainesville has an extensive rock music history, and I was glad to be part of it. So when the Matheson Museum called and asked me to participate in their series of evenings about that history it took me about ten seconds to say yes.

Who am I? Well, I was well known locally several years ago, but I’m not nationally famous. I titled this event as I did because my history in Gainesville was to play in garage bands and bar bands, and to write and perform as a singer-songwriter. It was not a career; it was a journey.

Some people reading this know I served on the Gainesville City Commission from 1983 to 1986 and was Mayor-Commissioner from 1985 through 1986.

Others remember I worked against nuclear power in the Catfish Alliance. Some know I was manager of Hyde & Zeke Records in the early 80s. Some know I had a comedy radio show on WGGG then, for almost two years, on WUFT-FM, or that I wrote and produced satirical plays like “North By Mideast,” “Primary Colors,” and “Chief Micanopy’s Revenge” and the play “The Life & Times of Abbie Hoffman,” or that my first novel, “Crossfire Canyon” came out when I was in office.

And some know I left Gainesville for L.A. in 1991, just after I produced a huge benefit concert for the Vets For Peace as we geared up to oppose the first Gulf War, and that I’ve returned to Gainesville a few times since and have performed at benefits for the Civic Media Center.

And although the politics and music intersect at some points, the event at the Matheson is primarily about my life in music in Gainesville (with a bit of what I’ve done in L.A.). That is, I may talk about writing and performing protest songs and rallies but I’m not going to talk about zoning codes and the police budget.

I was lucky living in Gainesville during the cultural revolution of the ’60s. The Beatles went on Ed Sullivan and several of us started forming bands. So I formed The Controls with a friend and it morphed into The Airemont Classic, which then morphed into Uncle Funnel & The Push. We played high school dances and frat parties as Gainesville became an epicenter for great live music.

None of these bands became famous, but these bands and others were the training grounds and proving grounds for musicians like Tom Petty, Don Felder, Stan Lynch, and Marty Jourard (who was in Uncle Funnel).

In the mid to late ’70s I was in one of the most popular bands, The Archer Road Band, playing covers and originals. We started as a duo playing for free at the base of the steps at the Reitz Union and for a few bucks and sandwiches at Joe’s Diner; we graduated to a biker/law student bar called Cockneys, then became popular, drawing larger and larger audiences at the Alibi and Backstage Bar and became popular enough at the time to make an album and sell it so that we made money on it.

Near the end of the ’70s I shifted gears into political activism, started writing protest songs and singing at every rally on and off campus. After serving on the City Council I returned to rock n roll, reconstituting The Archer Road Band and forming other bands like Buffalo Springsteen, The Band That Never Was, and playing in the house band for the BlueMonday Jam at Richenbacher’s and forming The Luca-Gordon Band with Nancy Luca. And I created and produced the Urban Folk nights at the Thomas Center.

Here in L.A. I have The Gary Gordon Band, which plays my original songs.

I intend for the evening to be a more detailed presentation about the times as things changed from the 60s to the 70s to the 80s, tell some stories, show a bunch of photos and maybe a couple of videos, and play pieces from a few of my songs that were popular.

There’ll be a Q&A moderated by my good friend Bob McPeek, which will be punctuated with his remarks, as he has an extensive music history in Gainesville, too, including starting Hyde & Zeke Records and Mirror Image Studios and playing in several bands: his current band is the Erasables.

For those attending I hope it will be an enjoyable and insightful evening with elements of memory lane; for those who weren’t there or who may be younger, if you have an interest in that period and want to hear from someone who played music, took some of that music in political activism, was a politician, and returned to rock n roll, well … I’m one of the survivors.

And maybe it will be inspirational—but having it be fun is my goal.

Gary Gordon will be performing at the Matheson Museum at 513 E. University Ave. on April 10 as part of the “Florida’s Got the Blues Exhibition.” 

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