Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Freebird Cafe Music and Memories of Lynyrd Skynyrd

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Freebird Cafe Music and Memories of Lynyrd Skynyrd

Article excerpt

The life and times of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a story of triumph and tragedy, has found a permanent home in Jacksonville Beach.

The Freebird Cafe opened Wednesday in the former location of Sloppy Joe's Bar. The legend of The Old Man and the Sea was not enough to attract customers to the two story balcony wrapped building. Maybe Freebird -- the classic anthem of Southern rock 'n roll -- will.

Judy Van Zant Jennes, widow of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant, and her daughter Melody Van Zant have acquired the Sloppy Joe's building at 200 N. First St., and have remodeled it into a restaurant and bar that is a living museum of music and memories.

The remodeling eliminates the presence of Ernest Hemingway and Key West and replaces it with the story, music and memorabilia of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Gone are the pictures of Hemingway fishing, replaced by gold and platinum albums (bottom far right) earned by the band. Rare posters, including one with the original Street Survivors album cover with the band surrounded in flames (far right) and the re-released cover after the fatal plane crash -- which took the lives of three band members -- without the flames (right).

Personal items of Ronnie Van Zant will also be on display such as the jacket (below right) he wore on the cover of Street Survivors, microphones, T-shirts (bottom far right) and one of his signature stage hat.

Memorabilia from other band members will also be on display; rare photographs, amplifiers, leather bell-bottoms (it was the '70s after all), backstage passes and even the key to the city of Jacksonville presented to the band in 1975.

Two of the most obvious changes to the building are the relocation of the stage and the new thick black carpeting. The stage and dance floor have been moved out of the front corner window of the first floor and repositioned in the center of the room. …

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