Years ago, at an age and era when most teens were absorbed with Gin Blossoms, Dawsons Creek and Marky Mark in his Calvin Kleins, I discovered local music.
Keep in mind, my entire life had been centered on live music. I rode on my mothers hip to the 1978 Capricorn Barbecue & Summer Games. One of my earliest memories was an emergency evacuation from an Outlaws concert in New York City. I grew up tagging along with my dad to Loose Change concerts and Macon nightspots like the Yellow Rose, Ricks Bar & Grill and Rivalrys on Cherry Street long before I could legally do it on my own. Musicians were always around, and there was no shortage of songs in my young life.
But when I became a teen, I began seeking out my own live music discovery. And despite my well-versed upbringing with some of the greatest Southern acts to ever define American music, it was the local act who never made it that made me a real fan.
They were called Stone Puppy. Greg Fordham, Bobby Hall, Rick Ramage and Jud Kingsley were four young guys with the age-old dream to play live music well enough for folks to listen. I heard them, and I was hooked.
The real beauty of being a fan of a local band isnt just singing along to their signature covers or originals, it was the chance to be friends with the band on and off the stage.
Less than a month ago, we lost one of those friends. Stone Puppy bass player Jud Kingsley was killed after his car was struck by someone accused of driving under the influence. At 36 years old, Jud was still doing what he loved since his early days of Stone Puppy, en route to a gig as the bassist of Macons Matt Pippin Band.
Learning of Juds passing brought back a wealth of fond memories from falling for that first local band. Ill never forget the smile he always seemed to have, whether playing on stage, hanging out after rehearsal or paying those early dues, loading equipment, wrapping extensions chords and getting a few bucks from the door, maybe just enough for gas to get home.
Losing Jud was also a reminder that those local bands we all fall in love with dont always last forever. They grow up, break up, move on, move away, go back to school or get real jobs. Maybe they even make it big and leave their local life behind.
I see local frustrated rumblings on social media all of the time. This town doesnt support them. There are high places that remain too closed-minded. Were trapped in the past. There arent enough people in the audience. There are the same people in the audience.
And so to our local musicians, in honor of Jud, I answer: To the past that we are trapped in? Dont disconnect with Macons original misfits. To the town that doesnt support you? It needs you more than you need it. To the closed minds behind big decisions? Play so loud they cant ignore you. Not enough people in the audience? Smile because youre on stage, not in the audience. If youre getting weary of seeing the same faces? Just remember, no matter what happens, your biggest fans will be right then, right now, from here until fond memories, nearly 20 years later.
And to the guys in the band -- Bobby, Greg, Rick and Jud now up above -- I still cherish my Stone Puppy sticker.
Jessica Walden is the director of communications with the College Hill Alliance and co-owner of Rock Candy Tours. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.