GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Because of COVID-19, fans of live music have been stuck home, far away from the normally-busy concert halls and amphitheaters during the summer season.
Curt Towne’s amplifiers and electric guitars have been silent since March 12 – the day Clay County reported its first novel coronavirus case and the same day when the Clay County Agriculture Fair was canceled.
So Towne found a new stage.
“This Towne Rocks” has become a popular podcast where viewers get to visit with some of the legends of music every Tuesday night. It’s become a time to tell stories, talk about the future and give fans updates.
“Basically, it’s a backstage pass,” Towne said.
Each week, Towne hooks up virtually with one of his friends for a breezy conversation a diversion from the stark realities of the day.
“The podcast came out because I wanted it to be a bright spot in someone’s day. I wanted it to be with good, lighthearted fun stories the general public would never get to hear,” Towne said. “Hopefully, that would brighten their day to give them something to think about or reminisce about. Something in a positive light.
“I felt like I’ve been so blessed with so many of my friends, my whole life, honestly. There are stories they’ve shared with me, like when we’re backstage. Stories would come up. It was all fun. I’ve never seen it anywhere. I’ve never heard it anywhere. There are stories nobody knew what to ask about. Everyone seems to ask the same questions. I thought it was like a backstage pass where you could be a fly on the wall and hear these stories.”
For Towne, appearing in a weekly podcast wasn’t a way to remain relevant with his fanbase. It was to remind fans how relevant they always will be to him.
He longs to be back on stage, working with old friends like Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet. Blackberry Smoke, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Black Stone Cherry and the Dickey Betts Band.
Until then, however, he’s like everyone else – at home, keeping his hands washed, practicing social distancing and praying for the day when it’s safe to be in public again.
Music created the connection between Towne and his fans. He worked hard to create that bond, and he never took any success for granted. That’s what makes the shutdown so frustrating.
“For me, I put my heart and soul into it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to do it again,” he said. “When you say you make people smile, I look at people. I look them in the eye. I want them to understand I appreciate them. I want to make sure they know I acknowledge the fact they came to the show. I hear people say how much they miss it. I know my musician brothers and sisters feel the same way.
“We miss the audience as much as the audience misses us. Speaking for myself, I hope they don’t forget about us. I feel like the audience is feeling the same way. For me, my job is to entertain. When I’m on stage, I’m an entertainer. I do everything I can to be as honest as I can with writing the music, contributing to write music. When you’re on stage, everybody, including me, wants that magical time for things to be just about music. To bring a smile to someone’s face is absolutely part of it. I miss it. I think about it constantly. With social media I’ve been able to stay in touch with some of the friends that we’ve made.”
That includes the podcast.
The original idea came from music producer Steve Janowitz. The plan was to create a revenue stream with the online interviews, but Towne decided the benefits of reaching out to fans was worth more than money.
The podcasts, “This Towne Rocks,” can be found at GetAMPED Magazine’s page on Facebook. If you hit the like button on “ThisTowneRocks” page on Facebook, it automatically will make future podcasts available. There’s also a YouTube page for “This Towne Rocks.”
The show started with Wet Willie lead singer Jimmy Hall. Actor Danny Vinson also has done a show, as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke and Tom Petty biographer Jon Scott. Skynyrd’s Johnny Van Zant has agreed to appear in a future episode, as well as Barry Rapp of the Henry Paul Band, Henry Paul and Rodney Justo of the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Hall told stories of the early days traveling with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Back then, Skynyrd opened for Wet Willie, but it didn’t take long for the bad from Jacksonville’s Westside to become a headlining act. Hall recalled stories of Ronnie Van Zant that few, if any, know.
Towne’s biggest regret is not being able to work with Charlie Daniels. The Curt Towne Band was supposed to open for Daniels at the Clay County Fair on April 3, but that date was canceled by the virus. Towne quickly agreed to open for Daniels at next year’s fair.
Daniels, however, died of a massive stroke on July 6.
“Charlie was my Elvis,” Towne said. “For me, when I was little Charlie Daniels was one of the coolest cats on the planet. We were supposed to open for him but because of the COVID, it got rescheduled to next year. They were very gracious. They knew how much it meant to me. They offered us several different spots. We said, ‘Man, we want Charlie.’ We were very fortunate we were going to do it again. With all this stuff, it was quite the bummer. We had the privilege meeting him and spending time with him.”
Towne misses all of his friends, particularly the fans. Until the houselights dim and the volume buttons are turned to full blast again, the guitarist from Green Cove Springs will stay in touch with his podcasts.
“We want people to sit back and laugh and enjoy themselves,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect of it. I don’t know if it will be fun. If it runs its course, it runs its course. But it’s about people finding an escape for a while.”