I recently spent a few days in Macon, Georgia as a guest of VisitMacon.Org. I was provided with accommodations and meals during my visit.
When it comes to visiting Georgia, everyone automatically thinks of Atlanta. Well, it’s time to expand your horizons and take a trip to Macon! It’s Marvelous!
“This is a Southern adventure that is sure to be good for your soul. Macon, Georgia is “Where Soul Lives.”
I do wish I had more time to explore the area. To be honest I don’t know where to start with telling you that EVERYBODY HAS TO VISIT MACON! Should we talk about the food? The music history? The people? I really don’t know where to start!
Macon is a city in central Georgia. It is located about 1.5 hour from Atlanta. The area is full of museums, great food and lots to see.
The Ocmulgee National Historic Park has large Native American earthen mounds from around 1000 A.D. The museum displays artifacts spanning thousands of years.
The Tubman Museum exhibits African-American art, history and culture. The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House shows memorabilia in the rock band’s former home. Otis Redding, Little Richard, James Brown and Jason Aldean are just a few of Macon’s most famous.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in Macon and is the largest state sports hall of fame in the United States.
THE MUSIC OF MACON
Capricorn Records, run by Macon natives Phil Walden and briefly Alan Walden, made the city a hub for Southern rock music in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Otis Redding – The idea that music could be a universal force, bringing together different races and cultures, was central to Otis’ personal philosophy.
Otis Redding, Jr. and his family moved to Macon when he was two years old. At an early age, he began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. As a teenager, he began to compete in the Douglass Theatre talent shows for the five-dollar prize. After winning 15 times straight, Otis was no longer allowed to compete.
Otis Redding died at the young age of 26 in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. One of his most famous songs “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” was released after his death. His music, as well as his legacy, continue today through the Otis Redding Foundation run by his widow and family.
If Otis Redding had lived – he would’ve been one of the biggest stars of the 1970’s.
Little Richard – Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932, in Macon. Because of his effeminate mannerisms and flamboyant ways, his father kicked him out of their family home at age 15.
Little Richard’s hits of the mid-1950’s, such as “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Keep A-Knockin'” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”, were generally characterized by playful lyrics with sexually suggestive connotations.
James Brown and others credited Little Richard and his mid-1950’s backing band, The Upsetters, with having been the first to put the funk in the rock beat. This innovation sparked the transition from 1950’s rock and roll to 1960’s funk.
Ray Charles introduced him at a concert in 1988 as “a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what’s happening today.” Rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley called Little Richard “one of a kind” and “a show business genius” that “influenced so many in the music business”. Little Richard’s contemporaries, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and The Everly Brothers, all recorded covers of his works. Taken by his music and style, and personally covering four of Little Richard’s tunes on his own two breakthrough albums in 1956, Presley told Little Richard in 1969 that his music was an inspiration to him and that he was “the greatest”.
The Allman Brothers Band – the Allman Brothers Band, founders of what became known as Southern rock, changed the course of popular American music and turned Macon into the recording hot bed of the 1970’s.
The band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969 by Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar) with Gregg Allman (vocals, organ, songwriting), Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and Jaimoe (drums). Shortly thereafter they moved to Macon and called it their home throughout the 1970’s.
In January 1969, Duane Allman signs a management and recording contract with Phil Walden and Capricorn Records, after Phil hears his incredible guitar solo on Wilson Pickett’s version of “Hey Jude”. Duane begins to assemble a band. The band moves to Macon within weeks.
They spent several of the early years living in Macon in the “Big House” which is now an Allman Brothers Band Museum.
Group leader Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on 10/29/71. One year later Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident on 11/11/72. The band carried on and achieved even greater commercial success in 1972 with the Eat a Peach Album reaching #4 on the charts.
The Allman Brothers Band continued throughout the years earning a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2012.
Greg Allman kept busy performing music with his solo band, releasing the live album Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA in 2015. He died at his home in Richmond Hill, Georgia, on May 27, 2017, due to complications from liver cancer at the age of 69.
Both Allman brothers are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon along side their band mate, Berry Oakley.
Jason Aldine Williams, known professionally as Jason Aldean, is an American country music superstar from Macon! The musical history of Macon keeps going strong.
So many talented musicians have called Macon home.
THINGS TO DO IN MACON
Rock Candy Tours is a fabulous way to see most of what Macon has to offer. They offer walking tours, riding tours, food tours and music history tours. Rock Candy Tours is a music history tour company that showcases the legacy of Macon, Georgia’s rich music history.
Rock Candy Tours has several options for visitors to explore Macon’s music history, including a private tour of Rose Hill Cemetery and Friday night tour of the city’s nightlife. Rock Candy’s co-owner, Jessica Walden, is the daughter Alan Walden, the co-founder of Capricorn Records.
Macon Soul Sights Tour (from the Visitors Center) – You will get to see the sites that helped create this beautiful thing called ‘soul.’ From architectural masterpieces to the places that inspired musical legends, the one hour journey through the heart of Georgia is a can’t-miss. The tour gives you a glimpse into many of Macon’s most soulful stories at historic Macon sites.
From the Visitors Center you can also take the Rock N’ Soul Riding Tour that will take you through Macon’s music history with a two-hour driving tour tracing the journey of southern rock and soul legends and their landmarks along the way. During the comprehensive driving tour, you will learn about the legends, landmarks and favorite haunts of southern music’s most influential players.
The Tubman Museum is the largest museum in the nation dedicated to educating people about the Art, History and Culture of African Americans.
The museum is an educational experience named for Harriet Tubman, the “Black Moses” who led hundreds of slaves to freedom.
The Tubman Museum is a beautiful facility that you can roam through for hours and should not be missed.
The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House is located at 2321 Vineville Avenue, Macon, GA. In 1969 it was for rent, and by January 1970, it became the house where members of the band, their roadies, friends and families lived until 1973. It was the focal point of gathering in those early years when the magic that is the Allman Brothers Band was just taking shape and radiating from this historic Southern town.
In January of 1970, Linda Oakley rented the house for Berry and her to live in while the band worked and recorded at Capricorn Records. The first to live there were Berry, Linda, and their daughter Brittany, Duane Allman, his lady Donna and their daughter Galadrielle, Berry’s sister Candy Oakley and Gregg Allman. Others came and went, but eventually the “Big House” was a place that was touched by all who were part of the extended family of the Allman Brothers Band.
Today the house is full of the Allman Brothers Band memorabilia and is a fantastic walk down memory lane for fans of the band.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Macon is the country’s largest state sports museum. The state-of-the-art museum houses over 3,000 artifacts. From the old style ticket booths to the brick columns in the rotunda and special lighting, the museum lets you experience the history of sports in Georgia.
Rose Hill Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Set in a scenic location on the banks of the Ocmulgee river, it was opened in 1840. The Allman Brothers’ guitarist Duane Allman, keyboardist and vocalist Gregg Allman, and bassist Berry Oakley are interred here. It’s an interesting cemetery in design and is a a great spot for visitors who love to explore old cemeteries.
Look for a grave with a statue of a little girl named Martha. She was the inspiration for the Allman Brothers song “Little Martha.” Macon was a key location during the Civil War and the cemetery has a section dedicated to the Confederate soldiers who fought in it, particularly during the Atlanta campaign. More than 600 Confederate soldiers are buried at Soldier’s Square, which overlooks the river,
Also among the cemetery’s occupants is Lieutenant Bobby, a brown terrier who was the official mascot of the 121st infantry in the Georgia National Guard. The pooch was commissioned as Lieutenant by President Calvin Coolidge for his regular attendance at training in Fort Benning.
The Hay House is a stunning historical landmark in the heart of Macon. It was built from 1855 to 1859 in the Italian Renaissance Revival Style and was way ahead of its time for amenities and decor. One of Georgia’s most distinguished structures, the Hay House was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
The 18,000-square-foot mansion spans four levels and is crowned by a two-story cupola. Commissioned by imaginative owners and constructed by the most skillful workers of the time, its technological amenities were unsurpassed in the mid-19th century. When constructed, the house had hot and cold running water, central heat, gas lighting, a speaker-tube system, in-house kitchen, and an elaborate ventilation system – the first of it’s time.
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park has a long and ancient history. While visiting the park, you will see Native American earth lodges with it’s original floor that has been carbon dated to 1015.
The park’s visitor center houses a museum with over 2000 artifacts and offers a short orientation film about the parks and the discoveries there.
THE FOOD OF MACON
Every meal I had in Macon was outstanding. I ate much more than I should have at each every restaurant. I don’t think you can go wrong at any restaurant you choose in Macon.
Dovetail was opened in October 2012, and has been featured in Southern Living Magazine, Atlanta Eats, Macon Magazine, and has received Opentable.com “Diners Choice Awards” for Most Booked in Macon, and American Cuisine in Atlanta/Georgia.
Dovetail serves uniquely crafted, southern cuisine. With dishes inspired by seasonal availability and traditional southern fare, the chefs create outstanding and delicious meals. They source all their locally to support local and regional farmers.
Ocmulgee Brewpub offers handcraft brews and burgers. You can add some of the greatest options to any sandwich or salad – A lobster patty? Sure! A venison patty? No problem! This is a great spot for a meal.
And some great beers brewed right in the dining room!
Oliver’s Corner Bistro is said to be casual dining meets upscale service, fine food, wine, & beer with value-packed prices.
H & H Soul Food Restaurant will definitely be a favorite when you visit Macon. It not only has an impressive story but also has the best fried chicken and macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had!
Founded in 1959 by Inez Hill and Louise Hudson, H&H Restaurant is a Macon institution and a huge part of Macon’s music history. As the story goes one day in late 1969 a couple of young hippies came into the restaurant and ordered one meal to share. Mama Louise, as she was known, asked why they were sharing a meal.
They explained they didn’t have enough money to pay for more than one meal. No one went hungry at H & H so Mama Louise gave them all their own meal. They came back every day for a meal and promised that some day they would pay her back. They kept their promise. Those young hippies were members of the Allman Brothers’ Band who counted Mama Louise as one of their closest friends.
The friendship took Mama Louise on quite a ride that included a seat on the tour bus in 1972 to feed the boys while they toured. Mama Louise had a lifelong friendship with Gregg and the rest of the band, as well as most all of the figures of Macon’s southern rock explosion.
Photo via The Big House
After Inez Hill passed away the restaurant closed for a while. In 2014 it was taken over by the Moonhanger Group with the cooperation of Mama Louise.
On the cover of their second album, Idlewild South, the band included her in the credits: “Vittles: Louise.” Hudson received the Harriet Tubman Act of Courage Award for her lifetime of caring for others in 2017. She was around 88 years old.
WHERE TO STAY IN MACON
The Macon Marriott City Center is located right in the heart of everything there is to see and do in Macon. The hotel is super nice. The staff is by far the friendliest I’ve come across in a long time. With a bar and a Starbucks right in the lobby – what else do you need? Great room – check. Friendly staff – check. Southern hospitality at its finest – check. And a restaurant too!
If you are planning a visit to Macon: The Historic Macon Music Registry is a series of markers on sites that played a part in Macon’s music history. You can download a map and create your own tour.
Don’t forget to stop by Visit Macon on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. They have self-guided tour selections and some insider information on Macon’s music history!