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They call him Doc Rock

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

William McKeen

William McKeen

Professor of Journalism
College of Journalism and Communications

Prof. William McKeen often reads as he walks to Hume Hall to teach his honors course, Rock ‘n’ Roll and American Society. As chair of one of the top-ranked journalism departments in the country, a professor who teaches two to three classes a semester, a prolific writer and editor, and the father of seven, he must maximize his time.

After writing and editing eight books in the past two decades – including the critically acclaimed “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” and “Highway 61″ – McKeen is turning up the volume, producing three projects at once: He’s writing a biography on the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and a coffee-table book on rock shows, and he’s putting together a collection of Florida childhood stories.

The Thompson tome, in particular, has been testing McKeen’s time-management skills.

“I’m interviewing everyone who knew him and culling through all of his works and interviews,” said McKeen, who has profiled Bob Dylan, Tom Wolfe and The Beatles. “It’s the definitive story of his life.”

He views writing and editing – including the book reviews and freelance articles he pens for the St. Petersburg Times and other publications – as a personal mission.

“I wouldn’t want to be that cliché – the one about ‘those who can do, those who can’t teach,’ ” said McKeen, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. “The ‘doing’ part is very important to me, so I take every opportunity to write.”

He jumped at the chance to write “Rip this Joint,” a “photo-heavy book that will focus on performance, from the house parties and juke joints in the first days of electric blues to the arena rock of today,” and to gather the material and write two pieces for “Paradise Recalled,” a collection of Florida stories by UF alumni Carl Hiaasen and Michael Connelly, among others.

“I feel that if I don’t write,” McKeen said, “I would be a pretender.”

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