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Visitors to Florida tend to overlook Gainesville, the small city that is home to the big state university.  We don’t get the tourist trade up here, despite some efforts to brand the city as a place “where nature and culture meet.”  The slogan sounds swell, but it doesn’t tell you much.  Nature is more easily defined than culture is; the city is surrounded by woodlands (a boon for tree connoisseurs) and with woodlands come birds (surely bird-watching must be more popular in Florida than anywhere else).  There are also swamps, farm land, acres of planted pine for the lumber industry, lakes, ponds, and those snakey hiking trails I am always going on about.

Culture is harder to define.  You could put the label on anything from a kindergarten art exhibit to a bus-and-truck tour of “Hairspray.”  Culture has a broad definition, but on Friday night the Hogtown Music Heroes played a history lesson in Gainesville’s musical culture.

Hogtown Music Heroes are a showcase group that existed for one night.  Assembled by local legend and vintage guitar expert Mike Boulware, they played the opening night of the Free Fridays Concert Series at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

There are some real “Hogtown Music Heroes” of whom you are probably aware:  Tom Petty and Bo Diddley.  Don Felder and Bernie Leadon.  And if we extend the tag a bit to Jacksonville and to people who played the Northern Florida circuit, we get the Allman Brothers.

Friday night, Mike Boulware brought along Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop Les Paul as he and his crew paid tribute to Gainesville’s musical past.  The Goldtop is the guitar that “Skydog” played on the first two Allman Brothers Band albums (“Whipping Post,” “Midnight Rider”).  It was also the instrument Allman played on most of “Layla,” Eric Clapton’s seminal rock romance with its soaring, keening guitar solo. 

The guitar’s for sale and you can read about its history here.

Mike Boulware is one of Gainesville’s finest musicians, and the show he put together brought nearly 800 music-lovers downtown despite heat, and, in my case, flu.  After the break, Mike did a solo acoustic turn on “Little Martha,” the only Allman Brothers song authored solely by Duane Allman.  As Mike played, the crowd went silent.  I remarked at that time that I had never seen a Plaza concert that mellow.  

Mike has a strong emotional connection to the Goldtop. ” I think the best part for me is, you can hear Duane breathe as he plays…wish he was still breathing!”

We left the concert with the echo of Duane’s guitar soaring in the humid night air.  The crowd split, the vendor packed up his cart, the lights went off, and the music never died.

Mike and friends play a regular Wednesday night gig at Sandy’s Place, 5001 NW 34th St., Gainesville, FL.

Free Fridays concert schedule is here.

The Goldtop.

Busted.  Mr. B. is the concert series coordinator.  Here, he introduces the band.

From the left:  Pat Jarnigan, Don David, Dino Campbell, Ron Thomas, Mike Boulware.

Dino Campbell

Dino Campbell and Mike Boulware

Don David

Pat Jarnigan

Mike Boulware playing Duane Allman’s Goldtop.

Pat Jarnigan drum solo.

Mike Boulware acoustic.  Duane Allman’s Goldtop in the background.

The concert photographer.  What a week.  Hit by a bad flu on Tuesday.  Then worked at the Sinbad show on Thursday with a 102-degree fever.  Friday night concert, completely soaked from fever and humidity.  That is the official excuse for this photo.