It probably didn’t make much business sense in 1931 for a company called Augusta Amusements to begin investing in downtown Augusta’s theater scene. The company managed the Imperial, Rialto and Modjeska theaters and built the Miller Theater.
Thirty-seven years later, Augusta Amusements faded away, but not before it had made a mark on entertainment in the area.
In 2009, Mike Deas resurrected the name and the organization’s mission of bringing quality entertainment to the Augusta area. Over the next several months, he has a variety of acts coming to the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center.
“I’m from Augusta, and growing up, you had to drive to Atlanta, Charlotte (N.C.) or Savannah (Ga.) to hear a good concert. You’d have a good time, but it would be 2 o’clock in the morning before you got home. You’d be driving home tired and sleepy. That’s dangerous,” he said. “I wanted to contribute something. That’s when I reached out to some of these promoters.”
Deas said he doesn’t have a season per se. He has a lineup, but it is subject to additions as performers might become available.
The performances kick off on Thursday, Aug. 29, with Sinatra Forever with Las Vegas performer Rick Michel.
“He’s also part of a Rat Pack Tribute. He sounds a lot like (Frank) Sinatra, and some of the best of our local musicians are going to back him up,” Deas said.
Another tribute band is coming on Friday, Sept. 13.
Transit Authority, which is billed as the “Premier Tribute Band to the Music of Chicago,” will be playing Chicago’s tunes.
“Tribute bands are very popular,” he said.
And often they are extremely faithful to producing the music created by the original performers, he said.
“These guys love that music, and are closest to the original for that reason,” he said.
Laurence Juber, the former lead guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings, will play Sunday, Sept. 15.
Deas brings back an Augusta favorite in October. The Glenn Miller Orchestra will play two nights on Oct. 3 and 4.
“This is the third time I’ve brought them,” he said. “They are very well-received. Augusta really likes big-band music.”
Deas cautioned people not to wait until the last minute to get tickets. They typically sell out.
The next performance on the calendar is a departure from the lineup. It’s the Corbian and Lightwire Theater presentation of The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise and the Hare. This group appeared on America’s Got Talent, and members use fluorescent light to form shapes of characters and tell the stories. The performance will be Oct. 18.
Deas said the group was popular on the show, and he hopes people will take a chance to come out and view the performance.
“This is a family show, and I try to always offer some family shows,” he said.
The next concert is already selling quickly – Al Stewart, who recorded Year of the Cat and Time Passages, appears on Nov. 1.
“He’s bringing in the most out-of-towners. People from Mobile (Ala.), Marietta (Ga.) and Charlotte, have been calling,” he said.
Stewart has a faithful following, and this is the closest he’s appearing for many of his fans, said Deas.
Mark O’Connor will play an Appalachian Christmas on Dec. 9. O’Connor, a Grammy Award winner, played with the band the Dixie Dregs, which formed in Augusta in the 1970s.
Comedienne Etta May will be at the center on Feb. 7.
Deas said this is the first time he’s brought a stand-up comic to the area. He’s interested to see the response May receives.
Guy Davis will perform on Feb. 28. The son of performers Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Guy Davis is a blues singer/songwriter. He’s appeared on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and nationally syndicated radio programs such as Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.
Rounding out the schedule for the year is Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Diane Schuur on April 4.
For more information, visit augustaamusements.com or call (706) 726-0366.