Whether it was fate or mere chance, author Bob Beatty said it was a creepy, cool, full-circle moment when he finished his new book, which centers on Duane Allman, on the 50th anniversary of the music legend’s death.
What was certainly no coincidence was Gainesville being the first stop of his book tour around Florida.
Beatty gave his presentation Wednesday night at the Matheson History Museum to a crowd of about 40 people. During the talk, he discussed the writing process for his new book, which was published this month and is titled “Play All Night!: Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East.”
Duane Allman was one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, one of the most famous bands of the early 1970s. The group was among the most significant pioneers of the Southern rock genre and one of the earliest prominent jam bands.
Beatty also talked about the history of the ABB, the legacy of their seminal 1971 live album “At Fillmore East” and Duane Allman’s death months later at the age of 24. The other locations on his itinerary are Winter Park, Lakeland, his native Stuart and Miami.
Both of Beatty’s parents were UF students who raised him an avid Gator, he said. Though he lives in Nashville, Tennessee, he said he retains a deep fondness for Gainesville, which is also just a few dozen miles from where the ABB was founded in Jacksonville.
“I’m really glad to be in Gainesville to do my first talk on this book, ‘cause of what this town means to my family,” he said.
The book is a product of Beatty’s fervent fandom for the ABB, whose music has enthralled him for decades.
“It was music that just absolutely captivated my soul,” he said. “My approach to music is almost weird to some people because it’s so deep.”
A historian who has worked with museums and published plenty of writings throughout his career, Beatty said this recent project posed the unique challenge of having to, as he described it, put his “fanboy” aside. The book’s preface starts with an immediate admission to bias toward the ABB, which he ranks among the greatest bands of all time.
“I think the best thing to do is to acknowledge your biases, acknowledge what they are, and do your best to shape something that accounts for them,” he said. “I owned it up front, I had to find a way not to look just like a cheerleader.”
Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney, the Matheson’s executive director, said she was excited to host this event after having read Beatty’s work.
“When we were able to take a look at Bob’s book, he has just done a really fascinating job of sharing their story,” she said.
Beatty’s talk also goes hand-in-hand with the museum’s current exhibit Return to Forever: Gainesville’s Great Southern Music Hall, which focuses on a local concert venue that rose to prominence in the 1970s. Hof-Mahoney noted the pride that Gainesville citizens have for the city’s deep cultural history.
“People in Gainesville and this area really enjoy music history,” she said. “It’s just something that is really part of the fabric of our community and people are really passionate and excited about it.”
Among the audience was Kenny Jones, a 69-year-old retiree who said that he learned things he never knew before despite being a huge ABB fan and himself a player of Southern rock, the signature genre of the band.
“It was great,” he said. “This guy brought up some things that I’d never seen, pictures I’d never seen, facts that I’d never heard about before.”
David Hammer, 68, who was also in the audience, said the whole crowd was captivated throughout Beatty’s presentation.
“The talk tonight was fascinating,” he said. “I was interested that Bob kept saying, ‘Oh, I’ll let you go, I’ll let you go.’ This crowd would’ve stayed another hour.”
Contact Ben Crosbie at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @benHcrosbie.