News Columns & Blogs

Into the musical heart of Georgia

Crossed two more cities off my bucket list: Macon and Athens, Ga.

Rock ’n’ roll took me to both this week.

In Athens, it was the 40 Watt Club, a legendary place where R.E.M. and many other up-and-coming acts cut their teeth back in the day.

Tuesday night with temperatures about 19 degrees outside, bands Flesh and Blood, The Warm Fuzzies and Doctor Squid took the stage.

The kid on lead guitar for Doctor Squid -- in a Christmas elf costume -- was my nephew Mark Spurlock.

Seems like just yesterday that he was about 5 years old in our kitchen and helping Aunt Kim make her famous oatmeal cookies.

Now he’s all grown up, a University of Georgia grad working at his alma mater, and a very decent, quick-witted fellow, too.

In between the sound check and the concert, Mark did something I’ve never heard of a band member doing. He baked cookies for Squid fans.

Doctor Squid played rocking versions of a couple of Christmas classics and some straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll of their own creation, including their “Whoa” song where they substituted “ho-ho-ho” for “whoa” and my favorite, “You Got It.”

Then all three bands came on stage and joined in singing a heart-felt “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” by John and Yoko.

Great finish. And I am so happy that I was able to finally see Doctor Squid and some of their contemporaries on the Athens music scene.

One other note: The bands collaborated on a CD that they sold for $5 with all proceeds going to Girls Rock Camp Athens, a nonprofit that seeks to build female youth empowerment through music education and creation.

The next morning, I drove back to Bradenton, stopping for an hour in Macon to visit the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

They’ve got everybody in there from Ray Charles and Johnny Mercer to R.E.M. and the Skillet Lickers.

For heaven’s sake, they even have Emma Kelly, known as the “Lady of 6,000 Songs,” who rated a mention in the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” as well as the B-52s and Little Richard.

I couldn’t stop exclaiming “wow” to no one in particular.

One of the most touching portions of the museum is the Allman Brothers Band exhibit.

Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971 in Macon, and band member Berry Oakley was killed in motorcycle crash a year later near the same spot.

The two rest in peace side by side in a Macon cemetery just a few miles away.

The exhibit includes a photograph of just the two band mates in concert, Duane bent over his guitar, his face hidden by his long blond hair, and Berry playing his bass.

I do declare that when I came through the museum gift shop, the Allman Brothers Band’s “Eat a Peach” was on the top of my shopping list.