UNF Digs: Dr. Feelgood invited by Thomas G. Carpenter to teach music at UNF

Danae Leake

Graphic by Ben Cross
Graphic by Ben Cross

UNF Digs is a weekly column that delves into UNF’s archives to find treasures worth sharing. This column would be more of a snapshot of UNF’s history than an excerpt from a history textbook. But let us do the digging and brush up on your university history with UNF Digs.

This week: Dr. Feelgood invited by Thomas G. Carpenter to teach music at UNF

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Dr. Feelgood, or William Brown Photo courtesy UNF Oral history Project

Many of William “Bill” Brown’s students knew him as Dr. Feelgood. Dr. Feelgood was one of the first music faculty members for what is now a highly recognized, performance-based program at UNF. Before he was approached by UNF’s first president Thomas G. Carpenter, Dr. Brown had an extensive history in his musical career.

Brown got his first taste of the stage early on in life, and went on to Jackson State University as a jazz musician. There, he found himself at a voice audition and reluctantly began majoring in vocal studies. He soon warmed up to the idea.

After a fellowship at Indiana University in 1960, led to an appointment with the Navy Band in 1962 in Washington, D.C. In 1966, Brown left the Navy and started doctoral work at Peabody where he taught classes.

His career really picked up when he had a starring role on ABC’s network television premiere of John LaMontaine’s Christmas opera “The Shepherdes Playe.” He began performing more than 40 weeks a year around the country, including in Jacksonville.

“I hated Jacksonville. There was a terrible stench here. If someone had told me that I would ever return to Jacksonville I would have told them they were crazy,” quoted a faculty bio on Brown.

But UNF President Thomas Carpenter was at the Jacksonville show and tried to get Brown aboard as a music professor for the university-to-be. Brown initially turned the offer down.

But he later decided to take a chance with UNF, and his career flourished here. During his time at the university, Dr. Feelgood also performed in Carnegie Hall in 1981.

“I had made a pact with myself that I would never enter Carnegie Hall until I played there,” Brown said, according to his faculty bio.

A former faculty member, Lenard Bowie, recalled his fond memories of Dr. “Feelgood” as part of the UNF Oral History Project.

“He was just a fantastic guy. He met no strangers. He was no stranger to anybody and he called himself in the classroom, most of his students didn’t know what his real name was, he called himself Dr. Feelgood in his classes. Do you feel good today, child? Come on into class, I’m going to make you feel good. I’ll make you feel good. They call me Dr. Feelgood.”

 

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