Originally created 04/09/06

From 'tribute' to disgrace



Charles Walker Jr. is so eager to "pay tribute" to James Brown that he appears willing to sue Brown to get it done.

How ludicrous is that?

Walker wants Brown and his band to play for free here at a Memorial Day weekend tribute to Brown - and insists Brown is legally obligated to do so; he wants other internationally known acts to appear for free; he wants local bands to pay fees to perform; he wants the local government to donate facilities and services - after failing to get $250,000 in cash from the Augusta Commission; and he wants attendees to pay for tickets.

Any questions about what revenue he estimates such a festival would bring in - even from supportive city officials - are answered with angry none-of-your-business responses from Walker.

And, oh by the way, he wants the revenues for his own nebulous "charitable" purposes. This, after his father, Charles Walker Sr., was convicted of bilking his charitable football game of $400,000.

And he can't understand why everyone isn't just champing at the bit to do his bidding.

To the Godfather's eternal credit, even after Walker's mishandling and legal threats, Brown was willing to fly here with his band in-between engagements for the mere $25,000 cost of a charter flight. Brown's entourage normally would be paid in the six figures.

Walker's response? He threatened legal action against Brown for not getting here on his own dime and performing for free.

Walker's belligerent attitude and countless dropped balls also chased off local concert promoter Tom Clark, who until recently had come on board to give the festival a realistic plan and an air of legitimacy.

Moreover, the Augusta area, including its indomitable arts community, never was allowed to buy into the festival. Anyone adventurous enough to try was quickly disheartened.

Charles Walker Jr. has now successfully alienated nearly everyone involved in his misbegotten effort to ride on James Brown's coattails - including Brown himself.

"This unprofessional attitude leaves a bad taste and feeling around the event which is supposed to celebrate the achievements of Augusta's finest export," read a statement from Brown's camp.

There also are many unresolved questions surrounding Walker's charity - questions that he first sought to deflect by refusing to release public documents regarding its tax status, but which government officials are now demanding answers to.

What a terrible shame this all is. James Brown, and Augusta, deserved better. What should have been a first-rate, world-class tribute to Augusta's international superstar has devolved into chaos and an attempt by Walker to bully James Brown into performing at his own expense at a tribute supposedly in his honor.

Charles Walker Jr. has singlehandedly managed to turn a tribute into a disgrace.