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Southern Rock

I recently had the honor of interviewing musicians and organizers involved in the restoration and re-opening of Macon’s historic Capricorn Studio. For those of you who don’t know, most people in the music business and beyond consider Capricorn the birthplace of Southern Rock. The studio hosted legends like the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Bramlett and others.

Southern Rock is the soundtrack of my youth. I grew up singing along with all those iconic artists who made their pilgrimages to downtown Macon to make and record their “new kind of music.” Indeed, Capricorn sits at the confluence where the mighty rivers of blues, soul, rockabilly and country flowed in and converged, creating what most of us know today as Southern Rock. Up until the Seventies, there was nothing like it. Today, almost five decades later, that beautiful music still pulses through my veins. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, when I hear the first few notes to one of those anthems, something caresses my soul. I turn it up. My mind drifts back in time to a bygone era — one where life was happy, easy and full of wonder. I guess what I’m trying to say is Southern Rock takes me home again.

I grew up in the Warner Robins area. My dad (Herman Lanier) and uncle (Edwin “Big Ed” Jarriel) owned AAA Trailer Hitch Shop on Rocky Creek Road in Macon. They opened in 1965 and installed trailer hitches, did wiring, and rented UHaul trucks and trailers until a few years ago when Mom and Uncle Edwin made the difficult decision to close its doors.

One evening in the 1970s, my father returned home from the trailer hitch shop and tossed a tee shirt into my lap. Big, stretched letters read, “The Marshall Tucker Band.”

“Have you heard of them?” he asked. “They are a band from South Carolina, but they’ve been in Macon for a few days recording music downtown. We did some work for them today and they gave us several tee shirts.” My mouth fell open. My father and Uncle Edwin had met Southern Rock royalty. I, of course, was familiar with them. We all were. We heard them on the radio. Many of their songs like “Can’t You See,” featured masterful flute solos, which we took note of since my sister played the flute. On a side note, there was no Marshall Tucker in the band. They chose that name after finding it inscribed on a key that unlocked the door to one of their rehearsal spaces. They later learned that Marshall Tucker was a blind piano tuner who had rented the space before them. continued from page

I wore The Marshall Tucker Band tee shirt until it was so threadbare that Mom forced me to add it to the rag bag containing old washcloths and underwear we used to wash cars and clean house. In 1973, the Allman Brothers Band released, “Rambin’ Man.” We heard it on the radio, too, and my brother looked at me and said, “Hear that line — ‘I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus, rollin’ down Highway 41?’ That’s our Highway 41!” Today, when I hear Dickey Betts sing the line, “My father was a gambler down in Georgia,” I smile and think of my father who was also a Georgia gambler. I have always been able to relate to the lyrics in Southern Rock because the musicians sang about my beloved South — my beloved people.

On another side note, the Allman Brothers hesitated to record “Ramblin’ Man” because they thought it was a bit too “country” for them. I’m glad they changed their mind. Duane and Gregg Allman (namesakes of the band) adopted Macon as their home (because of Capricorn Studio). They are buried there — sideby- side in Rose Hill Cemetery.

And Lynyrd Skynyrd. What Southerner doesn’t love the chorus, “Sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue, sweet home Alabama, Lord I’m coming home to you?” I mourned with others in 1977 when I learned that some of their band had perished in a plane crash.

My final side note is that Lynyrd Skynyrd took their name from a Jacksonville High School PE teacher who strictly enforced the school’s policy regulating male hair length. His name was actually, Leonard Skinner. Ha!

Anyway, all those legends were there at Capricorn recording the songs we love. If those walls could talk.

Capricorn’s glory days were short-lived and the label filed for bankruptcy in 1979. The studios changed hands a number of times, and the building fell into major disrepair in the 1990s. It was reborn as Mercer Music at Capricorn in December 2019, and now artists in the studio are “Macon” music again.

They tell me that the ghosts of the luminaries who recorded there in the Seventies roam the building and help them with their projects.

“There’s definitely magic there — I can feel it,” one musician told me.

I believe it. As for Southern Rock, the music is timeless and treasured and will go on forever. Amen.

From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

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