In June the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon closed its doors for good. The state’s music memorabilia collection has been packed up and put into storage at the University of Georgia. GPB's Josephine Bennett reports on how Macon’s music community is moving forward.
On a recent warm summer evening Jessica Walden leads 30 people on a Rock and Roll history tour of downtown Macon. They pause on a College Street sidewalk.
“This is where it really all began for the Allman Brothers. There was a two room apartment in this home where the whole band lived together before they set out to conquer the world.”
Walden is the scion of the iconic music family that founded Capricorn Records. The label is credited with the birth of Southern Rock in the early 70’s after signing bands like the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker. She says there is still plenty of Georgia music history to see here.
“When you actually walk the actual sidewalks, and you actually visit the street corners and see the homes, it becomes very clear that Macon history doesn’t exist within a museum’s walls, that it is everywhere in our downtown area.”
And, that history is not just downtown. The Allman Brothers moved to the nearby Vineville neighborhood in 1970 to a home referred to as the Big House. It sits along Highway 41, made famous by one of the band’s biggest hits ‘Ramblin’ Man.’ Peggy Thompson is the director of the Allman Brothers Big House Museum. She says most mornings there’s a line of people waiting to get in.
“Even though the Georgia Music Hall of Fame is closed and it’s on to a new chapter, that doesn’t mean that the incredible history of Macon and its influence in music has disappeared.”
Thompson says Macon’s live music scene is also thriving with bands playing nearly every night in downtown clubs like Grant’s Lounge.
“We are right now sitting under the Grant’s Lounge Wall of Fame Sign….I guess it’s a collage of 40 years of music and entertainment and fun at Grant’s Lounge…….”
Ed Grant, owner of the 40 year old bar, has a wall of photos with Charlie Daniels, Little Richard, Tom Petty, the Marshall Tucker and Lynrd Skynrd. Grant says positive things could come from the hall’s closure.
“I think Macon’s had a dose of reality and I’m hoping that it’s a wake up call that we need to support the one economic engine that has made Macon what it is, and that’s music.”
And that music history also includes several soul singers like Macon’s own Little Richard and one Augusta native.
“James Brown recorded Please, Please, Please right downstairs here in Macon, Georgia before he went on to become the Godfather of Soul.”
Macon’s rich music history is what Jessica Walden is working with tourism officials to market in a new way.
“We’re having to pick ourselves up off the ground here in Macon after suffering a loss like that. But it’s taken us back to where it all began. It’s taken us back to the roots of it all where the Allman Brothers began. It’s taken us back to the existing historic structures that have been here all this time, have great stories to tell and we’ve kind of been ignoring them.”
And Walden hopes the community will get to tell the stories of their music history for years to come.