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Soulful sounds make music at Iron Works
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Gainesville Iron Works was a fixture on South Main Street for more than a century.

It began as a foundry and was purchased by R.I. Mealor in 1897. It remained in the Mealor family until 1961 when R.H. Thompson and V.C. Puckett bought the business and expanded it, eventually moving part of the operation to Oakwood. U.S. Metals later acquired all the iron works operations.

Albert Anderson worked at Gainesville Iron Works eight years. Now a commercial contractor, in 2011 he bought the historic buildings on South Main that for so many years housed one of the city’s longest-running businesses.

The Georgia Bulldog statue on the Athens campus, as well as the Clemson Tiger on that school’s grounds were cast at the iron works. The company also provided machinery parts for industries such as the original Gainesville Mill, farm equipment components and other machinery for customers across the country and into Canada.

The clanking of steel hoisted by cranes on the property and sounds of other machinery were familiar to neighboring businesses and passersby for many years.

Different sounds emanate from inside the building nowadays, and they come from Anderson’s son, Dave, who as a musician is Dave Boyd. The buildings were rebuilt after a 1903 tornado and a 1958 fire, but they stand today as Trackside Studios and the Rooster’s Perch, a coffee and gift shop operated by Randy’s Place.

Dave’s band, “Dave Boyd and the Shadetree Smugglers,” has produced one album and is working on another.

His musical roots grew early on, when he and his brother were exposed to the family’s love of music. Growing up in Clermont, he listened as his aunts and others would play and sing gospel songs at family gatherings. He maintained his interest while attending Wauka Mountain Elementary, North Hall High School and Bethany Baptist Church.

Anderson attended Gainesville College, then majored in music at Crichton College in Memphis. His wife Heather is a school teacher, and they have a 3-year-old son.

Two years ago, he and Ivan Duke started Trackside Studios in the old iron works building. It’s a full-service recording studio within the original walls.

Anderson gets up at 4 a.m. every day to load United Parcel Service trucks. The rest of the day he’s in his studio or volunteering with Marty Owens and Randy and Friends. He also teaches guitar lessons and plays at River Bend Baptist Church Sunday mornings.

The studio has been busy, not just with his music. It is recording Georgia Red Clay’s debut album, “Don’t Tread on Me.” It also has worked with the music of Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie and Chuck Leavell of Eric Clampton and Rolling Stones fame.

Numerous other musicians, local and otherwise, have used Trackside to record their music.

Dave Boyd and the Shadetree Smugglers includes two guitars, bass, organ and drums featuring Christian Owens, Michael Pozz, Kerry Leo and Ricky Fargo. Anderson describes their music as a blend of “bluesy, folky and jazzy.” It’s influenced some by his gospel growing-up, but the songs he writes from the heart tend toward love or the lack of it.

One of the props in the studio is “Dancing Sam,” a wooden toy Anderson’s grandfather, John David Wilson, made. He would make the doll dance in his lap as he manipulated a plank on which it stood. That inspired one of the tracks on his album, “Dancin’ Sam.”

Another is “Brother, Hear Me Callin’,” about his older brother, Gary, who took guitar lessons with him and got him seriously immersed in music. Gary Anderson died two years ago from a brain tumor.

The group’s album has sold hundreds locally and online in countries such as Germany and Denmark, where there is a demand for “roots music” and Americana.

Their next album due by the end of the year is with a Nashville producer to be recorded locally and in Nashville.

The band plays locally and in Atlanta. Its next gig at Re-cess in downtown Gainesville, where it’s a regular, is June 21. It also performs at Peachtree Tavern in Buckhead. Its website is Anderson’s studio is a small, but sophisticated operation, “different from somebody’s basement.”

And while the sounds aren’t the same as those the iron works made for years, “it’s still beating and banging,” Anderson said.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at

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