Walden: Cherry Blossom Festival parade grand marshal is tickled pink

March 21, 2014 

Much has been written about Alan Walden over the years. He’s shared his stories countless times with our local media, international news agencies, authors, screenwriters and most of all his friends, if you have four hours or so to listen.

If you want to talk about rhythm and blues, he’ll regale you with stories about Otis Redding, from the moment he took on management when his brother was deployed overseas to the unbreakable friendship they formed -- so much so that they bought country homes next door to each other so they could ride horses and fish with abandonment -- and to the sad, sad day he got the call that changed everything, when Otis’ plane crashed.

If you want to hear about Southern rock, he’ll switch decades quicker than kicking off a pair of loafers. Even his dialect changes when he gets cranking about the days he was managing an unknown Lynyrd Skynyrd, the admirable rowdiness of Ronnie Van Zant and all the hail, hail rock ’n’ roll that came with it. Of course, I’ve written a lot about him, too. After all, there is a chance you wouldn’t be reading this if it wasn’t for Alan Walden being my father.

And here I write again as we turn a new page in his history. I’ve seen my dad get excited about many things -- his induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, citations on song plays, Etta James’ last album and just about anything that honors Otis -- but I’ve never seen him so, well, tickled pink, as he was when he got the news that he would be this year’s grand marshal of the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

“Do you think I should hold a megaphone and yell, ‘Do you like good music? Sweet soul music?’” he asked, citing the Arthur Conley song.

“Please don’t, dad,” I replied. “Just wave your heart out, smile and be grateful.”

He nodded his head. “But what if I did, ‘Hail, hail rock ’n’ roll?’ ”

“No, dad. Accept this honor with grace. You’re like a pageant queen,” I said.

“Grace?” he shot back. “By the grace of God, I’m still alive. What if I do my Elvis impersonation?”

I gave up. There is no telling what my dad will do on parade day this Sunday. But I do know that despite any attempted antics, he couldn’t be more excited to be there.

The parade won’t be the only honor he is receiving this weekend. If you look closely, you’ll see a newly minted Phi Delta Theta pin on his lapel. Today, the Mercer University fraternity is pinning him into their brotherhood. The same fraternity where my dad’s brother Phil was serving as president when he started managing Otis is now welcoming the baby brother into their order, 40-plus years later, a nod to their past and noteworthy claim to Phi Delta Theta’s significance in Macon’s music history.

But that’s not all my father will be grinning ear to ear about. Just a few weeks before dad got the news about the parade, he learned there was another “grand” citation coming up in his life. In three months, my dad will become a first-time granddad, as my husband and I welcome our son into this world.

So when you see the six-month pregnant lady waving wildly at the grand marshal, or when you see her turn triple shades of pink if he does, indeed, start doing his Elvis impersonation, you’ll know it’s me.

We all love a parade. But this year, I don’t think anyone is going to love it as much as Alan Walden.

Jessica Walden is the director of communications for the College Hill Alliance and the co-owner of Rock Candy Tours. Contact her at rockcandytours@gmail.com.

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