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The Stories Behind the Myths that Made a Legend

Posted on September 19th, 2022
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The Stories Behind the Myths that Made a Legend

The Stories Behind the Myths that Made a Legend

In the first chapter of my novel Song of the Chimney Sweep, we read about Betty’s visit to the Westside of Jacksonville, Florida, to see a band called the One Percent at a saloon called the West Tavern. If you blink you’ll miss it, but I included an allusion to an event that supposedly inspired the popular song “Gimme Three Steps” by local band Lynyrd Skynyrd. There is a lot of debate in our area about the actual location of the incident that inspired that song, and now that the book is out, I’d love to share the process that went into deciding what parts of local legend to include in this scene.

While researching for this novel, I found myself falling down every internet rabbit hole and obscure literal side road you can imagine having a connection to this story. There are books, articles, discussion boards, and even comment sections full of people who claim to have been there or who know details they feel make their testimonials the final word on the matter. What I learned after reading every word I could find (and seriously damaging my eyesight peering around Google maps) is that the final word on this story is wholly unknowable and, since most original members of the band are no longer with us, irretrievably lost to North Florida lore. Every person who claims to have been there only adds to the disparate and highly entertaining mythology.

Some say the real-life, inspirational dispute over a lady happened at The Little Brown Jug at the corner of Edison Avenue and Acosta Street. Some say it happened at West Tavern, but that the band used The Jug in the song because it simply rhymes better (“I was cuttin’ a rug down at The Jug”). Some say the whole thing probably never even happened at all, that it’s just a tall tale. Some say hell yeah it happened sure enough, but it was when Ronnie Van Zant was a teenager and the bar on Edison was, at the time, actually a club for teens. Adding the confusion is that The Little Brown Jug no longer exists, and West Tavern has changed its name to Pastime, but it also bears sign that proudly declares itself: “The Jug”.

As much as I love to get to the bottom of stories like this, even I understand and have to accept that sometimes you have to take legend for what it is, for what it has become, and just embrace the possibility that perhaps we will never know the precise, pesky ‘facts’. Perhaps the uncertainty is part of the fun (though I'd still love to know the truth).

So for all you local history buffs who may (I hope) read Song of the Chimney Sweep, here is how I ultimately decided to handle the scene: I blended the myths. When Dominicus announces from the porch, “Live! From the porch on Edison Avenue!” and it is in the same scene where Betty has just arrived at West Tavern, know that this was my way of honoring and including more than one side of the debate. Consider it my subtle invitation to an Easter egg hunt of your own, should you be interested in following me down that endless rabbit hole…



For further info click on these links:

Jacksonville and the Roots of Southern Rock by Michael Ray Fitzgerald

Tim Gilmore's article at Jaxpsychogeo https://jaxpsychogeo.com/west/juglynyrdskynyrdcuttintherug/

Fascinating comment section here at Songfacts.com

Lynyrd Skynyrd history page created by Ronnie Van Zant's widow: http://www.lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com/less4.html


Posted on:
September 19th, 2022