One crew from New York City was in Augusta and North Augusta a few days ago filming a VH1 documentary about world-famous rhythm & blues singer Sharon Jones.
Another from the main TV network in Sweden was in nearby Irmo, S.C., filming Linda Martell, the first black female guest performer on the Grand Ole Opry.
The production crew from New York City was filming Augusta native Jones for a VH1 documentary tentatively titled Long Way Home.
They filmed her with family members and friends at several locations including the Augusta Museum of History and the North Augusta Arts & Heritage Center where displays have honored her.
Other locations were the Soul Bar on Broad Street, at her area home, at one of her favorite fishing spots and at North Augusta Baptist Church on Jackson Avenue where Jones first sang publicly as a child.
The VH1 special is expected to air early next year close to when Jones’ new CD, Give The People What They Want, should be released.
Jones’ was sidelined a few months ago with bile duct cancer. She released this statement in early September:
“Although my surgery to remove my cancer in June was successful, my doctor recommended that I do a six-month course of preventative chemotherapy, which I started a month ago. Thankfully, I’m feeling stronger and more focused on getting back on stage every day.
“I want you all to know that YOU are the reason why I am so motivated and driven to stay healthy and work through my recovery. Can’t wait to see you all soon! Much love, Sharon.”
And a few weeks ago I was contacted by Teresa Brown, a production manager for Eyeworks International, the third largest independent film company in the world, and for Eyeworks Sweden, one of the largest television companies in that country.
Brown had come across two of my columns on The Chronicle’s Web site from 1998 and 2000 about Linda Martell of Leesville, S.C., who was born as Thelma Bynem.
Martell in 1969 made the first of 12 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and also was featured on the syndicated TV series Hee Haw.
She also was the first black woman listed on national country music charts with her Top 20 single Color Him Father on Shelby Singleton’s Plantation Records, the same label that produced Jeannie C. Riley’s giant hit single Harper Valley P.T.A.
I tracked her down 20 years later driving a bus of physically and mentally challenged children for Batesburg-Leesville High School this side of Columbia.
The Eyeworks company is doing a series on Swedish country music performers who sing American country music songs and has been filming in the Nashville area.
The host of the show, Jill Johnson, is a top selling country music singer in Sweden and other parts of Europe. The show is to air in January in prime time on SVT1, Sweden’s main national television channel, which broadcasts to millions of viewers in the Nordic countries.
One of the singers on the series is a woman who just goes by the name Titiyo. She has made five albums with her singles heard on European radio stations.
Since one of Titiyo’s songs is Color Him Father, the Eyeworks production crew wanted to hook her up with Martell and fly her to Nashville to film a segment with Titiyo.
But the phone numbers listed online for her were inoperable. So the company turned to yours truly for help.
My online searching turned up an obituary listing several of Bynem’s siblings and where they lived. I managed to contact her only sister, Evelyn Green, living in Maryland, who contacted Linda and told her about the project.
Linda, in turn, called me and I hooked her up with the production people. The hitch, however, was that Bynem’s 95-year-old mother was having heart problems, and Bynem didn’t want to leave her and fly to Nashville.
So, the Swedish production crew came to Irmo, between Leesville and Columbia, and filmed her at her daughter’s house. And to go with the segment they filmed Titiyo singing Color Him Father at a honky tonk in Pulaski, Tenn., near Nashville.
BRENDA LEE RETURNS TO NEWBERRY: Brenda Lee, who got her show business break in Augusta’s Bell Auditorium and performed live on WRDW-TV station, returns to the Newberry (S.C.) Opera House for shows at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.
Tickets are $45 and $40 for the 3 p.m. show and $40 for the 8 p.m. show. They can be ordered online at newberryoperahouse.com or by calling (803) 276-6264.
Lee has been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, the Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.