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Musicians fill the square with song
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Bands set up to play a free concert Friday as part of the John Jarrard Songwriters Festival on the Gainesville downtown square. The event continues tonight at Riverside Academy. - photo by Andrew Akers


The John Jarrard Songwriter Festival

What: Musicians Kent Blazy, Kim Williams, Doug Johnson, Jim Collins and Bob Morrison will play to honor the late John Jarrard, Gainesville native and Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee

When: Today; doors open at 5 p.m., music starts at 6 p.m.

Where: Riverside Military Academy’s John L. Beaver Field House, 2001 Riverside Drive, Gainesville

How much: $20

More info:, 770-710-9191

Music filled the late summer air Friday night at the John Jarrard Songwriter Festival on the Gainesville downtown square.

The show featured David Lee Murphy and Band, Riverstreet Again and Berklee College of Music students, with Roger Brown, president of the college and a native of Gainesville.

Riverstreet Again is a local cover band that has been playing on and off for about 40 years. They were joined on stage by Marcus Henderson, who played flute for the Marshall Tucker Band, to play their rendition of the hit song “Can’t You See.”

“It was awesome,” said Terry Austin. “They are my favorite band and they did a great job.”

The festival was created by the John Jarrard Foundation, Art in the Square, the city of Gainesville and Hall County’s Vision 2030. It is quickly becoming a yearly local attraction.

“This is our second year attending and it was great last year,” said Joy Morris. “I think it is a great thing for the city.”
Others were just excited to see local talent getting the attention.

“I love it,” said Brad Dunagan. “There is a great history of music in this community that most people don’t know about.

“It’s about time Gainesville did something like this.”

The main portion of the festival will take place tonight, featuring some famous songwriters playing their own tunes. The lineup includes Kent Blazy, Kim Williams, Doug Johnson, Jim Collins and Bob Morrison. Collectively this group has written songs for musicians such as Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, the Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers and The Dixie Chicks.

Gainesville native Jarrard was a prolific country music songwriter who scored 11 No. 1 hits performed by musicians such as Alabama, George Strait and Reba McEntire.

Dunagan grew up going to Sunday school with Jarrard at New Holland Baptist Church and was one of the original members of the Riverstreet band.

“Johnny and I just loved that old Baptist gospel music,” he said. “I think he took a lot of that with him when he went to Nashville.

“Once he got paired up with all of those talented musicians, he made some really great songs, and it was ashame when he died.”

After moving to Nashville in the 1970s to pursue his songwriting career, Jarrard began losing his sight due to diabetes and within two years, he was blind.

As diabetes slowly took its toll, Jarrard required two kidney transplants and lost both of his legs, but he continued to write music and raised more than $100,000 for diabetes research, awareness and education programs.

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