Here in Clearwater FL, and for the whole Tampa bay area for that matter, there is actually an abundance of history surrounding famous celebrities, both dead and alive, like Mel Tillis, Col. Tom Parker, The Rolling Stones, and yes Jim Morrison.
Born in Melbourne, Florida, Jim lived the first three years of his life right here in Clearwater, FL with his mother at his grandparents’ house roughly 3 blocks away from downtown Clearwater.
When Jim’s father returned from naval duty, Jim was hauled off and eventually ended up in Virginia.
Now, given his known history, it is no stretch of the imagination why his parents, finding their now teenage son incorrigible, shipped Jim back to his grandparents here in Clearwater where he went to St. Petersburg College, a junior college at the time. He spent a few more years here and actually graduated albeit with a shaky C average. Of course there were a couple of trips to Crazy California during that time as well that eventually drew him back out to the West Coast for what Paul Harvey would have called “The rest of the story”.
This is where he met the first love of his life, Mary Werbelow right out on Pier 60, not 2 miles away from downtown Clearwater.
This is where he studied philosophy. This is where he lived when he would take the bus to beatnik coffee house in Tampa called The House of Seven Sorrows Café where novelist and poet Jack Kerouc hung out at the time.
This is where he wrote poetry that he would then read at the smoke hazed Beaux Arts Coffee House in Pinellas Park roughly 10 miles south of downtown Clearwater. This is an historical venue that hosted an array of artists including Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Woody Guthrie.
Was Jim there when Woody was there? Bob Dylan, Phil Octs, Tom Paxton, and countless others acknowledge that Woody Guthrie was a major influence for them. Is Jim Morrison also a part of that list?
Picture this. March, 1962, Clearwater FL, a young Jim and Mary board a bus on the corner of Cleveland and Ft. Harrison bound for Pinellas Park. Jim is eager yet quiet in mental preparation for this nights performance. Mary leaves him to his silence knowing that, although he won’t admit it, he’s a bit nervous. It is rumored that THE Woody Guthrie will make an appearance tonight at Beaux Arts.
Jim and Mary step off the bus hand in hand at the corner of 60th St. North and 77th Ave, a short walk from Beaux Arts. As they walk into the smoky coffee shop it takes Jim a moment to spot Jack Kerouac seated at a table in the corner pouring over his own notes for the evening.
Jack looks and smiles absently at Jim and offers a wink to Mary, or was it just a squint through the smoke trailing up from the cigarette in the corner of his mouth?
Jim asks, “Is he here?” They both know who he’s asking about. Jack’s gaze shifts to a point behind Jim with a upward nod. Jim turns around to see Woody Guthrie standing behind him.
“Hey man, I hear good things about your work” Woody says.
It could be argued that the most formative years of an artist’s life in regards to their craft occur between the ages of 18 and 22 and Jim spent most of those years right here in Clearwater, FL not 3 blocks away from downtown.
That’s about as close to the heart of Clearwater as one can get. As for being an influence, we would have to ask Jim himself to be sure, but my money would be on yes.