There are many items in my fathers music memorabilia at which I marvel -- concert posters, radio charts, private photos and sentimental knick-knacks. But what I cherish most is a collection of letters written by my grandfather.
I never knew Clemiel Barto C.B. Walden. He passed away long before I was born. He got the nickname Pop when he started working with Otis Redding. In his letters, he signed each one as simply, Daddy.
Ive read articles and heard vivid stories, but the closest Ive ever been to the man I would have called Granddaddy is standing over his grave in Riverside Cemetery.
Your granddaddy, my father once said, was someone who loved Otis just as much as he loved his own sons.
After his oldest son, Phil, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and sent to Germany just after graduation, Pop worked with my dad, his youngest son, to maintain the momentum of Reddings career. By the time Phil returned, Redding was rising on the charts and Pop was a full-blown business associate.
Through his sons foray into the music business, this crusty Southern cracker changed his prejudices. Not only was Pop representing black musicians, he was evolving into one of the most endearing, protective and trusted father-figures soul music had ever seen.
In spring 1967, Pop traveled abroad as Reddings road manager on the Stax/Volt European Tour. Otis, he wrote, is the biggest thing in England since Henry VIII. Even the Beatles sent their limousine for them at the airport.
He calls Europe the land of opportunity for Reddings career and described it as so much more progressive ... opportunity is wide open. Little did everyone know, Redding would be tragically killed in a plane crash in a matter of months.
After Reddings death, Pop was never the same. He died just three years later.
This year, Pop Walden is being brought back to life at Riverside Cemeterys annual graveside Spirits in October tour. Costumed actors will greet visitors along the guided tour and take you back to their time, place and contribution to the world. The event happens Friday and Saturday and again Thursday through Oct. 28. More information can be found at www.riversidecemeteryconservancy.org.
I look forward to finally meeting my granddaddy.
Jessica Walden and her husband own Rock Candy Tours, Macons music history tour company. Contact her at 955-5997 or email@example.com.