Macon Music History: A Retrospect Forward
By Jessica Walden, Co-Founder of Rock Candy Tours

I am not a historian. I am not a musician. I am not even a music aficionado by any sorts. I wasn’t even a twinkle in my dad’s eye when he met a man named Otis Redding, who would ultimately change all of our lives and the rhythm of rhythm and blues forever.

But I’ve heard the stories. So, I am here today to share with you some of the stories I’ve heard second generation and first hand from my father Alan Walden, a 2003 inductee of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, who was pulled into the fabric of Georgia music history through his big brother Phil Walden, a 1986 inductee of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Phil was one of the most passionate music fans the South ever saw and right behind that was his passion for historic preservationist.

Along the way in the Walden family’s journey in Macon music history, my grandfather came on board, going from single-minded segregationist to an open-minded road manager to some of the world’s most famous rhythm and blues artists, who he loved and protected maybe even more so than his own children.

In 2010, I started conducting casual music history walking tours in the College Hill Corridor area of downtown Macon. A year later, Rock Candy Tours was formed. For over two hours we take you on a journey back in time that covers everything from the location and story behind the Allman Brothers’ first album cover to the first office space of my Uncle Phil and Otis Redding, which incidentally, became the first integrated staff of Macon. We can tell you about the birth of the concert t-shirt. The hotel room where Little Richard once lived. The room where James Brown recorded “Please, Please, Please” and the place where Lynyrd Skynyrd was treated as a business just as much as much one of the world’s greatest rock bands.

Just down the road from my home, across the Phil Walden Interchange and Otis Redding Memorial Bridge is Cherry Street. It was there that in the late mid-fifties, you might see a man named Richard Wayne Penniman twirling a parasol. By then he was known as Little Richard, and he was well on his way to being named the Architect of Rock and Roll. Before that he had been known for hitting the high notes at church or while washing dishes at Macon’s Greyhound Bus Station or doing crazy stage antics that nobody in this town had ever seen – or rarely approved – at Anne’s Tic-Tock Lounge.

My Uncle Phil was a teenager then. It was Little Richard’s “race records” that began his deep love affair with black music. Phil got to meet Richard several times over the course of his career – but the family legend goes that the first time was on Cherry Street. What was Richard doing? Twirling a parasol. My Uncle was star-struck but managed to speak:

“Tutti Fruitti,” he mustered. “Good booty,” replied Richard with a hop, a jump, a skip and I can only imagine an elegant twirl of his parasol.