Living Columns & Blogs

Capricorn studios – preserving a legendary past

By Katherine Walden

Even for the most outrageous bands that have used power tools for background accompaniment, bulldozers would never qualify as musical instruments.

However, on Oct. 6, the rumble of those huge beasts was music to the ears of the crowd who gathered to tour the old Capricorn studios, on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and to listen to the plans for restoring the building as an “incubator” for aspiring musicians.

The sound of earth movers is the sound of progress, for the studio was placed on the “places in peril” list by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in 2010. Through a collaborative effort of Mercer University, Sierra Development and Southern Pines Plantation, the restored Capricorn studio will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development that will include loft apartments, parking decks and retail spaces.

After NewTown Macon purchased and stabilized the building, with a grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation, it was sold to Sierra and Southern Pines, which subsequently donated the building to Mercer, and are responsible for the new Mercer Music at Capricorn revitalization and for the surrounding development.

At the symbolic ground-breaking ceremony on Oct. 6, Jim Daws, owner of Sierra, and Travis Griffith, a principal with Southern Pines, presented Mercer University President Bill Underwood with a check for $350,000 to be used in the restoration of Capricorn.

The event attracted many of the studio’s former employees and musicians who had recorded with some of the bands whose music endures in rock ‘n’ roll history. Jim Hawkins, who built the studio for Phil Walden and was the sound recording engineer until 1971, now lives in Athens. Although he’s still involved in recording music, he has built an impressive resume in feature films and in television movies. John Dixon, manager of the studio in the early 1970s, returned to share memories with former Capricorn connections and to hear the good news that the sound booths and recording equipment will come alive with the renaissance of the studio.

Josh Rogers, president and CEO of NewTown Macon, and Karen Lambert, president of the Peyton Anderson Foundation, recounted the journey from rescuing the Capricorn building from the wrecking ball to ensuring its resurrection, which reflects the concerns of the Walden family. Amantha Walden, daughter of the founder of Capricorn, and her brother, the late Philip Walden Jr., preferred that Capricorn be a viable contribution to music education at Mercer and a thriving venue for the city of Macon.

The surviving youngest brother, Alan Walden, who worked with his brother as a teenager, was in the audience reminiscing about his history as co-founder, with Otis Redding, of Redwal Music, and about his own management and publishing company, Hustlers, which was located in the Capricorn building.

Daughter Jessica Walden Weatherford paid tribute to the names etched in the lore of Capricorn history — her uncle Phil, her cousin Philip and the late Frank Fenter. She and her husband, Jamie Weatherford, are in the business of educating rock ‘n’ roll fans with Rock Candy Tours. She also has a weekly appearance on Macon’s newest radio station, the Creek 100.9 FM, which keeps the city informed about all things related to the music scene.

‘DRAWN TOGETHER’ AT MACON ARTS ALLIANCE

Monroe is a small town with big talent! On First Friday, six members of the Artists Collective, who each interpret their images in different mediums, displayed their work in the gallery at Macon Arts Alliance. The title, “Drawn Together,” reflects the mutual benefit of their collaboration, which runs the gamut from mentor and student to sympathetic ear.

Susan Pelham could have safely stayed with oils on canvas, but a fascination with Magic Realism of the 1940s — expressed in the writings of Franz Kafka and Garcia Marques — discovered when she was a student at Florida State University in the 1960s, recently resurfaced in her collage compositions.

To gain perspective in painting requires the manipulation of oils or acrylics. Imagine replicating a scene from the opera “Lakeme” with pieces of paper, cut with a surgeon’s precision and layered to express the emotions in faces or the subtlety of fabrics and scenery. In all of the 30 collages on display, Pelham references literature, history or opera with a sense of humor and with the cunning of a mystery writer, which draws the viewer closer to discovering the tale behind the collage.

Catherine Liles, one of Macon’s most collected painters, and her husband, Brother, were perusing the works of some of Pelham’s fellow artists, including Bobbie Austin, who prefers the palette knife to a brush, Judy Norman, who has refined her encaustic images, and Stephanie Ruby, whose pastels reflect the “raw emotions” she has seen in her years working in the mental health field. The exhibition will be in the gallery until Oct. 28.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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