What a great year it has been for music of all kinds especially country, blues, bluegrass, Southern gospel, folk and classic rock and soul music that I typically cover in this column.
Here are some highlights of the past year in a fond farewell to 2017:
THE PIANO MAN AND HIS BAND: Keyboardist Ed Turner and Number 9 sold out the Imperial Theatre again for the umpteenth time with their Rock &Soul Revue. And they even took their classic hits show on the road to Waynesboro, Ga., for that city’s concert series.
Imperial Theatre General Manager Charles Scavullo announced that the theater’s floorboards where James Brown rehearsed his world tours would be known as the “Miss Sharon Jones! Stage” at the Imperial. The audience teared up when a video subsequently was played of Jones singing It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World with No. 9 in 2014 on the same stage.
GUITAR PULL PACKS JAMES BROWN ARENA: WKXC-FM radio station again sold out its Guitar Pull acoustic show at James Brown Arena. Well, this time several of the stars including Jake Owen, Lee Brice and Big &Rich had performed just a few weeks earlier at the Route 1 Harvest country festival in Las Vegas where so many music fans were killed. The evening was kept light with only a few references to the tragic event.
The WKXC staff has done a great job for almost 20 years in offering this annual special concert to raise money for local nonprofit groups since the first one was held in Sacred Heart Cultural Center. So here’s a year-end Ramblin’ salute to the crew and the joy they bring!
OTHER GREAT FESTIVALS AND SERIES RETURNED: Fans continue to keep alive many great festivals and series that make the Augusta area such a musical capital of Georgia. They include the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que, Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser Southern Soul &Song series, Augusta Amusements Inc.’s series and the Waynesboro-Burke County Concert Series as well as a newer series sponsored by the Edgefield, S.C., Historical Society.
MAKE WAY FOR THE MILLER: If you want a real feel good treat, go stand in front of the News Building in the 700 block facing Broad Street in pre-dawn or early twilight evening. Then look right to see the beautiful Imperial Theatre lighted marquee, and then look across the street at the even more beautiful Miller Theater marquee.
Can you name any one thing that said the Miller is back in business more than when people stood outside in October and cheered when the marquee was lit for the first time publicly at the start of the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival?
WELCOME TO AUGUSTA: And speaking of new changes, be sure and say hello when you can to newcomers Marty Elliott as executive director of the Miller; Dirk Meyer as Symphony Orchestra Augusta conductor and artistic director whose home base will be the Miller, and to Scott Seidl, the new executive and artistic director for The Augusta Players following Debi Ballas, who retired this year.
NEW COLUMBIA COUNTY ARTS FACILITY: This new year of 2018 we’re looking forward to the new Performing Arts and Cultural Center at the new Plaza in the heart of Evans. County Commission Chairman Ron Cross has said the 2,000-seat arena will have two balconies, an ample stage and an orchestra pit.
WINNERS OF THE GREATER AUGUSTA ARTS COUNCIL AWARDS: The GAAC earlier this year saluted as its annual winners:
President’s Award, The Morris Museum of Art, William S. Morris III, Celebrating 25 years;
Artist Award, Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman, creator of the “Happy” campaign;
Arts Professional Award, Trey Maxwell, popular sound guy and owner of Tracer Audio;
Volunteer Award, Sue Alexanderson, president, Friends of the Symphony Orchestra Augusta;
Media Award, Mary Frances Hendrix, editor of the Applause section, The Augusta Chronicle; and
Sponsor Award, Gold Mech for local arts support.
CMA AND ACM AWARDS: The 51st annual Country Music Association and the 52nd annual Academy of Country Music awards shows were held. These were the top honorees:
Entertainer of the Year, CMA: Garth Brooks, ACM: Jason Aldean
Male Vocalist, CMA: Chris Stapleton, ACM: Thomas Rhett
Female Vocalist, CMA and ACM: Miranda Lambert
Vocal Group, CMA and ACM: Little Big Town
Vocal Duo, CMA and ACM: Brothers Osborne
New Artist, CMA: Jon Pardi, ACM: New Male Artist, Jon Pardi, New Female Artist, Maren Morris
Best Album, CMA: From A Room: Vol. 1 by Chris Stapleton, ACM: The Weight of These Wings by Miranda Lambert
Single of the Year, CMA: Blue Ain’t Your Color by Keith Urban, ACM: H.O.L.Y. by Florida Georgia Line
WINNERS OF THE 59th ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS:
Best Country Solo Performance, My Church, Maren Morris
Best Country Duo/Group Performance, Jolene, Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton
Best Country Album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson
Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: Thy Will, Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum) &The Scott Family; Bernie Herms, Hillary Scott &Emily Weisband, songwriters track from album Love Remains
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Love Remains, Hillary Scott &The Scott Family
Best American Roots Performance, House of Mercy, Sarah Jarosz (past performer in Morris Museum of Art’s series)
Best Folk Album, Undercurrent, Sarah Jarosz
Best Bluegrass Album, Coming Home, O’Connor Band with fiddler Mark O’Connor
NOTABLE COUNTRY FIGURES LOST IN 2017: Gregg Allman, May 27 at 69; Glen Campbell, Aug. 8 at 81; Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, Sept. 8 at 50; Sam Lovullo, TV producer of Hee Haw, Jan. 3 at 88; Jim Nabors, former North Augusta resident and local TV performer and Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, Nov. 30 at 87; Mel Tillis, Nov. 19 at 85; Butch Trucks, drummer and co-founder The Allman Brothers Band, Jan. 24 at 69; Jo Walker-Meador, former director of the Country Music Association, Aug. 16 at 93; Don Williams, Sept. 8 at 78.
AND, FINALLY, GOODBYE TO TERE LUKE: One of the truly sweet, funny and clever people lost this year locally was Tere Luke, who was part of the theater community for nearly 50 years as an actor and director.
Luke, who died Aug. 19 at 63, gave this advice to this columnist in 1985 for an article in The Chronicle about cheering yourself up when you are depressed:
“If I’m in a real bad mood, I buy a bottle of really good champagne, light every candle in the house, put on my favorite album and get in the bathtub until I turn into a prune and the champagne is gone. Then I’m fine.”