Walking Tour Helps Spread Macon’s Music Legacy

PHILLIP RAMATI, The Telegraph, Macon

MACON, Ga. (AP) — Studying music at the University of Southern California, Katie Skene knows a thing or two about the history of popular music.

She’s also performed songs from the likes of Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band as a singer and guitar player.

But Skene, along with her family and 35 other people, got to hear some of the stories behind the stories of Macon’s music heritage, and not just those of the big names like Redding and the Allmans, either, as part of Rock Candy Tours.

The tour, operated by the married duo of Jessica Walden and Jamie Weatherford, has been running as a private business since the spring, and Monday’s post-Christmas tour represented the largest gathering yet.

Walden, daughter of music promoter Alan Walden and the niece of the late Capricorn Records co-founder Phil Walden, shares Macon’s rich music heritage through the experiences of her family and the people with whom they worked.

For those participating in the tour, that meant learning about the house on College Street where Redding wasn’t allowed to practice because of segregation laws, or the building from which Phil Walden was operating when he signed singers such as Percy Sledge and Etta James.

“Everything about Macon is a totally different culture,” said Skene, who took the tour with her parents and brother and sister. “People talk about the Allman Brothers, but that’s different than understanding the brotherhood they had. You get an aspect of that from the tour.

“Walden said local organizations such as NewTown Macon and the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau have worked with her and her husband ever since it became apparent that the Georgia Music Hall of Fame was going to close and something needed to fill that gap.

“NewTown wanted to offer something of value with the hall of fame closing,” Walden said.

Weatherford said they are starting a trolley tour with NewTown, with some of the proceeds going toward the Capricorn Records restoration project on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He and Walden are also talking about creating more specific tours, such as a Southern Rock tour, a rhythm & blues tour and a Historic Macon tour.

The tour, which is just a little more than two miles and lasts a little more than two hours, starts in Washington Park and goes along College Street before passing sites along Bond and Walnut streets, such as Alan Walden’s former office, now the home of Otis Redding III. Walden noted that even when her father was fired by Lynyrd Skynyrd, he retained the publishing rights to many of the band’s hit songs, such as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Freebird.”

“I credit all of those songs for putting me through college,” Walden told the tour group.

Even for those who grew up in Macon, the tour was enlightening.

Gratia Ryne, who grew up here in the 1970s and would see Gregg Allman around town with his then-wife Cher, said she had been looking forward to taking part in the tour for a while.

“I knew a lot of the stories, but I like being able to tell which house they took place,” she said. “Macon was a happening place for a while. … It’s cool that they are bringing it all together.

“Neil Skene, Katie’s father, said he left Macon in 1969, a little while after Redding’s death and just before the Allman Brothers came to town. In town for the holidays, he and his family decided to take part in the tour because of his children’s interest in music.

“I loved it,” he said after the tour ended. “I didn’t think all of this was this close together. It was great — there were lots of stories and lots of things I didn’t know. It’s nice to see that history.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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