Music News & Reviews

Walden: A shout-out to Macon’s biggest music fan

My husband is a hard-working guy. The plant manager at a candy manufacturing company, co-owner of a music history tour company and new dad nearly six months in the making are just a few of his day-to-day jobs. Then there are the side projects: 2014 Bragg Jam Festival president, live music advocate and music history preservationist. It’s been a heck of a year for Jamie Weatherford. And to top it all off, he turned 40 this week.

As many know, it was Macon music that brought Jamie and I together. We re-connected on the Bragg Jam board and the rest, they say, has been widely documented on social media. I knew he was a tried and true music fan from the moment I laid eyes on him.

I didn’t realize how diligent he was until he showed me his meticulously detailed notebooks of Widespread Panic shows he attended over the years, complete with set lists, ticket stubs and cataloged by order of appearance.

When we launched Rock Candy Tours, our Macon music history tour company, in 2011, I knew the sites and stories, but he did the research. And that research led him down a road of chronicling, connecting the dots and a bit of obsessive behavior when it comes to the street addresses of everyone who was anyone in Macon’s music playbook.

In fact, if there is ever any spare time in Jamie’s day, he can be found in Washington Library’s Genealogy Department, pouring through old phone books and making these notations. From that research, he’s become a walking, talking encyclopedia of Macon music knowledge.

I like to joke that reciting the addresses of every Allman brother is a surefire party trick. He likes to joke it just makes him a better tour guide than me.

With that said, since it is his birthday, maybe it’s time to confess: taking a walking tour with Jamie just may be a better adventure than taking one with me. Sure, I tell secondhand family stories -- some of which I experienced firsthand.

But Jamie tells the stories as a fan. And the fan is far more important. The fan is the one who feels it deep. Music history lives in my DNA, but for the music fan, it lives in the heart. If it wasn’t for the fan, there wouldn’t be a Macon music history to share.

A few weeks ago, Jamie’s fascination with Macon’s music past literally brought someone back from the dead. My father used to manage a soul artist named Pep Brown (if you’ve never heard Brown, I highly recommend checking out some of his singles on YouTube. The man has that true grit soul that no studio can manufacture).

Dad lost touch with Brown over the years and was missing his friend. He reached out to someone who told him that Brown had passed away. My father was devastated. He sent us an email saying his heart was broken.

Quickly, my husband replied. “I was going to surprise you with a reunion, Mr. Walden,” he wrote. “I found Pep Brown in Milledgeville. Try this phone number.”

Dad nervously dialed the number. A woman answered the phone. “Is this the family of Pep Brown?” he asked, still not sure if the rumor was true.

“Why, yes,” she answered. “Do you want to speak to him?”

Dad was weeping by the time Brown answered the phone. This time the tears were those of joy. Jamie scored serious points with his father-in-law that day (and with me, too). His ability to track the players of Macon music -- from the legends to the unsung heroes -- is truly the heart and soul of our little tour company.

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

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