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In 1974, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their sophomore album Second Helping, which featured the hit song The Ballad Of Curtis Loew. Although the characters mentioned in the tune were fictional, the country store that makes up the setting was a real place in the band’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately for southern rock lovers, the building was torn down last week.
Written by frontman Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Allen Collins, The Ballad Of Curtis Loew tells the story of a young boy who searches for soda bottles and trades them in for money at a local store, which was real-life “Claude’s.” The boy then gives the money to an old black man named Curtis Loew who returns the favor by playing blues on his guitar for him. The kid becomes mesmerized by Curtis’s playing and calls him “the finest picker to ever play the blues.” Despite the criticisms of their friendship, the boy continues to visit Curtis until the man passes away.
Lynyrd Skynyrd has said the store “is based on Claude’s Midway Grocery on the corner of Plymouth and Lakeshore [Blvd] in Jacksonville.” Claude’s later reformed to Sunrise Food Store and then became a game room before changing to Woodcrest Grocery. However, the building had been vacant the past couple of decades.
Listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s The Battle Of Curtis Loew here: