Macon: You’re My Blue Sky

 
 

Eliza Myers
Published July 13, 2017

No matter what song is playing in your head when you arrive in Macon, Georgia, you will soon find yourself tapping your feet to “Rambling Man,” “Tutti Frutti” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” The sounds of soul, rock and blues music still ring out in the city, now legendary for the number of musicians who have lived and performed there.

Groups can discover how Macon preserves its rich music history with stops at the house where the Allman Brothers lived, a site dedicated to Otis Redding and the theater where Little Richard and other influential African-Americans performed.

Tours of Macon not only highlight the classic hit songs associated with the town, but also relate captivating stories about the musicians, such as Redding’s start as a 15-year-old dropout who performed at talent shows for prize money.

Your group can sing along to some of the innovative tunes that changed American music forever on a trip to Macon’s music attractions.

Douglass Theatre

In 1921, the son of a former slave opened a music venue that attracted an astonishing amount of talent to the small Georgia town. The Douglass Theatre, founded by Charles Douglass, hosted early jazz and blues giants, among them Ma Rainey, Cab Calloway and Little Richard.

Though it looked like the end for the theater after it closed its doors in 1972, it reopened in 1997 following an extensive renovation. Today, groups can take a guided tour through the opulent structure and listen to the stories about those who worked and performed there.

“The Douglass Theatre has a history of famous African-American performances, such as Otis Redding when he was a teenager,” said Valerie Bradley, vice president of marketing for the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “He started his musical career there.”

After dropping out of school, Redding began competing in the theater’s Teenage Party Talent Contest, which he won for 15 weeks until officials banned him so others would have a chance to win. Redding became the first person honored on the theater’s walk of fame.

Guides talk about other famous performers who lived in the town for a while, including Little Richard, whose songs like “Tutti Frutti” helped birth the sound of rock ’n’ roll. Groups can also add a performance or film to their tour experience.

Otis Redding Foundation

Redding’s music plays in Macon 24 hours a day at the “Otis Redding Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” statue on the banks of the Ocmulgee River. Unveiled in 2003, the statue is typically part of a tour of the nearby Otis Redding Foundation, which presents a minimuseum on the beloved singer.

Redding grew up in Macon, where he learned to sing and play music at a local Baptist church. His gruff vocals and inspiring lyrics produced many American classics, such as “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Days after recording his most famous hit, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Redding died in an airplane crash. The song became the first posthumous No. 1 record on the Billboard Hot 100 and ensured Redding’s music legacy would never be forgotten.

The museum’s exhibits provide a glimpse into the talented musician’s life and works. The collection spans his career, which yielded 12 albums and 15 Top 10 hits.

“The Otis Redding Foundation is a minimuseum that the Redding family runs,” said Bradley. “Though the museum is small, groups have a great experience looking around and purchasing Otis Redding souvenirs, like CDs and shirts.”

The Allman Brothers Band Museum

The Allman Brothers’ Berry Oakley, living with his wife, child and sister in a one-bedroom loft in 1970 Macon, needed more space. He and his bandmates ended up renting a three-story Grand Tudor house that would become the center of the band’s activities from 1970 to 1973.

The elegant home became known as “The Big House.” Today, groups can tour the home, restored as the Allman Brothers Band Museum to showcase the rock band’s guitars, clothing, photos, posters, gold records and vast collection of memorabilia.

“The Allman Brothers lived and wrote some of their most famous songs there,” said Bradley. “It was turned into a museum, and now there is memorabilia all over the place.”

Tours reveal the larger history of the Allman Brothers and their impact on the rock genre, as well as the more focused image of a typical day in a house full of musicians, family and friends.

Groups see the rooms where the band composed “Ramblin’ Man,” “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and “Midnight Rider.” Handwritten lyrics are on display in the living room, and the Fillmore East Room re-creates the setup of the band’s jam sessions.

Rock Candy Tours

Since the buildings and sidewalks of Macon can’t talk and tell the stories of the music legends who lived there, Rock Candy Tours stepped in. The music history tour company showcases the hotel where Little Richard lived, the restaurant where the Allman Brothers frequently dined and other homes, rehearsal halls and recording studios that played a part in Macon’s music connection.

“Rock Candy Tours allow participants to see the homes and offices of the important musicians that lived and recorded there,” said Bradley. “The tour is a really great way to become acquainted with Macon’s music heritage and history.”

Rock Candy Tours helps groups discover the favorite haunts of Macon’s musicians in a variety of ways. Groups can choose from step-on guides, walking tours, trolley tours or shuttle tours. Tours last between one and a half and two and a half hours, depending on how many times the group would like to disembark for tours and photos.

The Rock ’n’ Roll Stroll walking tour focuses on Macon’s historic Intown residential and Cotton Avenue business districts, where many of the most famous artists lived and made their mark. Tours end at the famous H and H Restaurant, where the Allman Brothers frequently dined. Visitors learn how “Mama Louise” would serve the band even when they were too broke to repay her.

The Free Birds and Night Owls Tour highlights the downtown Macon commercial and nightlife district. Beginning at the Rookery, guests stop at various Macon restaurants and clubs. The tour ends at Grant’s Lounge, which boasts a long history as an influential Southern rock venue. Guests can end their tour with a drink and free admission to listen to some toe-tapping rock music.

www.maconga.org