The Rolling Stones recently returned to Jacksonville to rave reviews. The legendary band electrified the crowd at TIAA Bank Stadium and one of the pithier and most repeated comments was that frontman, Mick Jagger, “still moved like Jagger.” This was not the Stones’ first trip to Jacksonville. Many remembered they had played the Gator Bowl twice, once in 1975 and then again in 1989. Several local news sources reported this was the band’s third trip to Jax, but that is wrong. It was actually the Stones’ fourth appearance in Jax. Almost everyone forgets the Rolling Stones first performed locally on May 8, 1965, less than nine months after the Beatles came to town.
The 1975 show is well remembered and with good reason. The band was at the height of its popularity. They also stayed for several days at Joseph Adeeb’s Sea Turtle Inn. Many beach locals remember seeing them either at the Sea Turtle or at Pete’s Bar. Hemingway drank there, so did Jagger. Ronnie Wood had just joined the band and Billy Preston, sometimes called the fifth Beatle, was also part of the act. Opening acts included the J. Geils Band and the Eagles.
Many people will say that 1975 marked the Rolling Stones’ first appearance in Jacksonville. The 1965 performance is the forgotten show. Apparently, neither the Times-Union nor the Jacksonville Journal saw the show as newsworthy — neither covered the event. When they played the old Florida Coliseum, Mick Jagger was just 21 years old.
The Stones had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show less than a week earlier and had the No. 4 song in the U.S., “The Last Time.” Some remember the Beach Boys were the opening act. That makes sense, the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers had opened for the Stones the day before in Birmingham. Both shows were promoted by Don Brennan and his radio stations which included WAPE in Jacksonville. The Stones may have played only one original tune, the aforementioned “The Last Time.” Jacksonville.com reports that they also played “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction,” but that seems unlikely as Stones legend says that Mick Jagger had first written the lyrics to that song two days earlier in Clearwater. The Stones would first record “Satisfaction” two days after the Jacksonville show on May 10 in Chicago. It is intriguing to think that if they did play the song, it would have been the first time it was ever performed.
The coolest thing about the ’65 show may have been who was there. A youing, 17-year-old Ronnie Van Zant was in the audience. Legend has it that the Robert E. Lee High Schooler decided then and there he wanted to become a rock star. He succeeded. The band he formed went through several iterations before finally settling on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969. That name was a play on the name of Van Zant’s high school gym teacher Leonard Skinner.
Local musician, Rick Doeschler, remembers attending the 1965 Rolling Stones concert with Van Zant. Nine months earlier he had seen The Beatles at the Gator Bowl with his parents. He thought his parents liked that show, but on the way out, his dad ran into some friends and announced that he “needed an aspirin.” But this show would be a different experience altogether.
Ronnie drove and the two showed up in a 1963 red convertible Mustang. There is a popular meme circulating on the internet that says “you may be cool, but… .” I would submit a new version for approval: “You may be cool, but you’ll never be riding to the Stones in a red 1963 Mustang with Ronnie Van Zant cool.”
Doeschler remembers the event as inspiring but did not place unusual significance on it at the time.
“It was just two guys going to see the Stones,” Doeschler said.
Scott A. Grant is president of Standfast Asset Management in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. He is known for writing and speaking about local history. For booking information, call (904) 285-2130.