Saturday night in Macon was a very special night. It was the night that the city of Macon, and many of her own, thanked one of her hardist working and most beloved citizens.
A pessimist might say, “a good deed never goes unpunished,” but last weekend, in a room full of smiling optimists, Gregg Allman told the crowd that, “one shared plate of smothered fried chicken at the H & H Restaurant quickly became several plates,” and those plates fed the emerging soul of Southern Rock, and helped keep it alive while the world caught-on to their musical concept. What started as dinner “on the house” for a group of scruffy, hungry, long-haired hippie types, almost forty years ago, morphed into one of the most loving evenings in Macon Georgia’s history…Mama Louise Hudson’s landmark birthday party.
After dinner the evening’s festivities kicked-off with an almost never ending parade, to the stage, of Macon music royalty, political dignitaries, and colorful local characters; all of whom were there to honor Mama Louise for a lifetime of kindheartedness, benevolence, and good will. Master of ceremony honors were shared between Kirsten West of The Big House, Lisa Love of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and John Griffin of Flat Broke Productions. Mama was led to her center stage seat by Chank Middleton who kicked things off with a few colorful stories from his, “always interesting” perspective. Next to the microphone was Kim Payne, former Allman Brothers roadie, followed closely by Bonnie Bramlett. Between the two of them, Bramlett and Payne have probably spent more hours enjoying Mama’s hospitality, and relating her stories, then any other two people on earth. Next, Lisa Love, director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame recognized Mama Louise with a plaque for her “role as a longtime friend, supporter and nurturer of the many musicians and patrons who have enjoyed warmth, and generosity and a satisfying meal…”
Doing her best to move the evening along, Lisa Love next introduced, Gregg Allman, who shared many stories about lunches and dinners at the H & H with different members of the Allman Brothers Band over the many years, and told the excited crowd at the Macon Armory Ballroom that, “there is a good possibility, a very good possibility that without Mama Louise there wouldn’t be an Allman Brothers Band.” Gregg went on to relate another humorous story about being served, “a great big humongous, bowl of cornbread,” in the restaurant one day, “along with fried chicken, potatoes and gravy,” and Mama slapping a hand that was reaching for butter, as she warned the fledgling musicians, “don’t you boys know that butter causes fat to grow around your heart?”
U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga. followed Allman to the microphone, delivering a proclamation from Washington, DC, honoring Mama as “Lady Mama Louise,” and then he told the story of how he was almost hit by a train one day in Macon, “while driving under the influence of Eat A Peach!” Vergil Watkins, from the Mayor’s office, proclaimed July 26th forever “Mama Louise Day” in Macon, and Steve Bell presented a brick which will be added to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame walkway, proclaiming Mama Louise “The Mother of Southern Rock. Last but not least, Kirsten West concluded that portion of the evening’s festivities by presenting a crystal statue and a strand of cultured pearls to Mama Louise.
Chank and Gregg then escorted Mama back to her seat where she could better see the large screen that was set-up to the right of the stage. Comfortably seated back at the head table, Mama Louise was treated to a wonderful video put together by Kirk West and the Big House Foundation, which included interviews with many friends and members of the Allman Brothers Band who could not attend…all attesting to Mama Louise’s kindness, and wonderful cooking. Following the video, another Macon musician/character, Kodak Harrison took to the stage, and recited the first verse of a song dedicated to Mama Louise called “The Heart of the Soul.”
Griffin, West, and Love saved the best for last, however…Alan Walden who had plenty of “Mama Louise” stories, was introduced, and when he finished his personal stories he, in turn, introduced the evenings entertainment…The Capricorn Rhythm Section. For those who don’t know, the Capricorn Rhythm Section is made up of musicians that are the threads that make-up the fabric of the Macon music scene. Johnny Sandlin, bass, and Paul Hornsby, keyboards, of Capricorn records (who also played in the Hour Glass, a pre-Allman Brothers band, with Gregg and Duane Allman), are joined by Billy Stewart, drums, Tommy Talton, guitar and Scott Boyer, guitar, from the early 70s Capricorn band, Cowboy. Special guests this night included Lee Roy Parnell, Bonnie Bramlett, and of course, Gregg Allman. CRS, as anyone who was at the Armory will tell you, was hot Saturday night…really hot. How hot were they? Well, it was probably Sunday, after church, before they started to cool down…that’s how hot they were.
Gregg was clear and relaxed; joking with his old band mates, and friends. Bonnie was, as always, ever so soulful. Lee Roy’s slide guitar electrified the stage, and Talton and Boyer sang like birds. All the while, Sandlin, Stewart, and Hornsby were the most quietly obvious rhythm section, ever to take a stage, laying a powerful foundation for the rest of the band to build on. The Capricorn Rhythm Section played a wide-ranging mix of music, most of which was written by someone on stage, or by former friend, and Sandlin/Hornsby band mate Eddie Hinton.
Joined, onstage by Gregg Allman, the band treated Mama Louise to “Midnight Rider,” “Melissa,” and “These Days.” Bonnie Bramlett was up and down all night long singing back-up, and serenading Mama Louise with “Oncoming Traffic,” “Atlanta GA,” and the Cowboy penned “It’s Time.” Lee Roy Parnell and the band treated Mama Louise and the crowd to a couple of numbers from his exciting new blues CD, “Back to the Well.” The Capricorn Rhythm Section is made up of the pro’s of the music business, and what a wonderful honor to have them play for such a grand lady.
Near the end of the night Jimmy Hall’s brother, Jack Hall, from Wet Willie, relieved Johnny Sandlin of his bass for a few numbers, and when Johnny made his way back to the stage, the band ended their set with a rousing version of the Hinton anthem, “Shout Bamalama.” Not missing a note, Lee Roy Parnell literally slid into the intro of the band’s encore, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” The Capricorn Rhythm Section was joined by just about everyone, and anyone who could fit on the stage—Kim Payne, Kirk and Kirsten West, Bonnie Bramlett, John Griffin, Jack Hall, and many others sang while the crowd joined hands, forming a circle on the floor around the lady of the evening—Lady Mama Louise.