A local musician has parted ways with an annual charity concert after his criticism of a member of the Georgia Board of Regents over a new university name got him into hot water with an event sponsor, which is also the board member’s bank.
Ed Turner, whose band Ed Turner and Number 9 worked with the Columbia County Exchange Club to raise money for children’s charities with its annual Concert for Kids, informed the club Thursday he was ending their six-year relationship.
Turner’s decision was in response to a request from club President William H. “Chip” Lowe III for an explanation and an apology for remarks made about Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz and Synovus Bank at a recent series of concerts at the Imperial Theatre.
Turner, who also writes a column for The Augusta Chronicle, said he got into trouble for criticizing Azziz and state regents over the selection of Georgia Regents University as the name created for the merging GHSU and Augusta State University. Turner said he “poked fun” at Azziz by comparing his photo to one of the characters from The Munsters, Eddie Munster.
He also called out regent and Synovus Bank CEO Kessel Stelling Jr., an Augusta native, for voting for the name.
“He just turned his back on his hometown,” said Turner, who said Stelling’s father, Kessel Stelling Sr., was a comptroller for the city of Augusta.
“I grew up with him,” he said. “His father would have never done such a thing.”
Lowe said one of the event’s sponsors was Augusta First Bank & Trust, a division of Synovus Bank.
“He actually told the crowd to boycott the bank during his presentation,” Lowe said.
Augusta First President W. Tattnall “Tat” Thompson IV and several bank board members were at one of the concerts.
“They were really in a tizzy,” he said. “They wanted an explanation about how we allowed this to happen.”
Synovus spokesman Greg Hudgison said the company did not request an apology from Turner.
“Our support of worthy causes – including this event – is not impacted by the words or actions of any one individual, but by the overriding benefit to the entire region,” Hudgison said in an e-mail.
Lowe said the club was apologizing to sponsors for what happened and had asked Turner to do the same.
Turner said he didn’t intend to offend sponsors, but he isn’t about to apologize, either. He said as an artist and a steadfast supporter of Augusta, it was his prerogative to express his opinions on stage.
“I had no idea those banks were even related,” he said. “We’ve had a very good six-year run with the Columbia County Exchange Club, but we find it necessary to partner with another club that is more on the same page with the band and I.”