Exploring Music and More in Macon Georgia

The best time to visit this captivating southern town is now. Visit while it's still a bit of a secret that Macon is a beautifully historic town with stately churches and streets filled with restaurants, unique shops, and music all in lovingly restored buildings. Before it is thronged with folks who have discovered the city that describes itself as Where Soul Lives. It's time to explore the legends of music who lived, played, and recorded here. To delve into the history, and see the 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees that make Macon the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World.

Macon Music History

Music legends Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman) and Otis Redding are part of Macon's musical DNA, as are the Black American performers who played at the Douglass Theatre. But perhaps it is the Allman Brothers Band that brings in most of the visitors. Often considered to be the founders of Southern Rock they arrived in Macon in 1969 when Duane Allman signed with Phil Walden and Capricorn Records. The group lived in what came to be called the Hippie Crash Pad. The building has now been demolished, but people still come to pay their respects on College Street where the grassy area that had been their home is surrounded by lovingly restored mansions.

From there, the Allman Brothers Band moved to the aptly named Big House. Today it is The Big House Museum but it started in 1993 when former Allman Brothers Band tour manager Kirk West and his wife Kirsten moved to Macon, saw that the house was for sale, bought it, and set up his memorabilia. Soon fans began to show up to see his collection. Eventually Kirk and started a foundation, raised money, and turned the home into bought both the house and some of his mementos.

Today the rooms downstairs are filled with posters and photos, drum sets and Hammond organ, even the pool table owned by Gregg Allman and Cher. Fans of Derek Trucks will see the Gibson SG that he used when he played with the Allman Brothers Band. Upstairs the rooms look as if someone might still live there. Berry and Linda Oakley's daughter Brittany's room has been recreated, as has their bedroom. In the room called the Casbah Lounge visitors can hear an actual interview playing on tape. While you're there, pick up their map of the ABB sites in Macon, with a map of the Rose Hill Cemetery on the back.

Make your next stop the Rose Hill Cemetery where Allman Brothers' slide guitarist Duane Allman, keyboardist and vocalist Gregg Allman, and bassist Berry Oakley are buried. It's a little complicated to find the graves, but make the first right and follow the road all the way around until you hit the railroad. It's on the left down the hill. To leave, just keep following the road out. You'll have made a bit of a loop.

Celebrate all the music recorded at Capricon Records at Mercer Music @ Capricorn. The building with its rich heritage was in danger of being lost until Mercer University and other community members came together to save it. The fully restored historic recording studio is open for tours on Saturday morning. The museum tells the story of Capricorn and Macon's music history through artifacts and interactive digital exhibits featuring music, video and text.

For another view of Macon and music, Jamie Wetherford of Rock Candy Tours gives an excellent history of music and Macon. They offer both a bus ride tour of the history of music and Macon as well as a music history walking tour. The name comes from his passion for music and his family business of making candy. Macon Tourism also offers their own one-hour guided tour through Macon history and music.

Macon History

Johnston-Felton-Hay House began in 1855 and construction continued into 1859. Since Macon wasn't a casualty of the Civil War this Italian Renaissance Revival still astounds visitors with its opulence, from the lush glass mosaic windows to the faux marble walls from cleverly engineered pocket doors that slide into fake walls, to rooms dedicated to displaying art. The family living quarters on the second floor are lovely, but can't compare to the grandeur of the main spaces downstairs. There's even a wind room designed to circulate air to cool the house.

Not strictly Macon history, the Tubman Museum, named in honor of Harriet Tubman, highlights the history of African Americans in the United States. They offer rotating exhibits in addition to their fascinating permanent installations. Their sprawling 55-feet long sprawling mural highlights the achievements of African Americans from past to present. Don't miss the Inventors Gallery depicting the individuals and their inventions that often go unrecognized.

The last piece of unexpected Macon history is just outside of town. Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park has been occupied for 17,000 years by several different prehistoric cultures. Most recently it was the ancestral homeland of the Creek Nation until they were removed to Oklahoma. The highlight of Ocmulgee is the displays in the museum. The largest dig ever conducted in this country occurred at Ocmulgee between 1933 and 1936 unearthing hundreds of thousands of artifacts including pottery, pottery shards, metals, arrowheads, spear points, stone tools, pipes, bells, jewelry, and bones. Visitors can see a portion of the discoveries on display in the museum.

Definitely see the video explaining the timeline of the area and the people who lived there. Then, take the short walk to the smaller mound which has been excavated and opened to the public. This meeting mound was the site for community ceremonies and meetings. Further walking leads to the Great Temple Mound, a ceremonial mound that visitors can climb. Hikers will enjoy the trails threaded throughout the grounds and the upcoming river-based recreational opportunities.

Where to Eat

Macon overflows with intimate, locally owned restaurants. Oliver's Corner Bistro is known for its pasta. I had the tiger shrimp and andouille sausage which was perfectly cooked with pops of fresh basil. They serve only wine and beer but create innovative drinks. The Dovetail Restaurant is another great place. They make their own ground beef for burgers and the fries are made there. There is nothing processed about the food in this farm to table dining establishment. The bread is locally made, crusty outside and deliciously soft inside. Served with an array of toppings, don't miss the bacon marmalade which was salty, sweet and smokey. I had the scallops which were lightly browned and perfectly cooked with lightly cheesy rice. The gastrique was a nice bit of sweetness. Ocmulgee Brewpub is long-wooden-tables casual, but the food is stellar. I had the lobster and crab patty which was excellent -- all seafood with just filling to hold it together. H&H Soul Food was founded by Inez Hill and Louise Hudson who generously fed the Allman Brothers Band before they hit the big time. Their kindness was repaid with the band's loyalty. Ownership has changed, but the recipes are the same. It's casual with blue checkered plastic table clothes and yellow cinder block walls, and good home-style Southern cooking. Note: Open for breakfast, lunch, and brunch.

For more information on visiting Macon go to VisitMacon.org

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Neala McCarten



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