Ramblin’ Rhodes: Plan ahead to fill coming weeks with music festivals

It’s been 230 years since the first organized concert was held in Augusta on May 1, 1787, presented by a music instructor named Claude Simon who had moved here from Savannah.


There was no listing of Simon’s program, but The Chronicle of that day reported the concert was held in a house located near Elbert (Fourth) and Reynolds streets owned by Emanuel Wambersie.

And we know that Simon played selections on a pianoforte (an early version of the piano) to raise money for musical instruments he was buying from a dealer in Charleston, S.C., for his students. The admission price – a decade after the Americans had defeated the British in the Revolutionary War – was 10 shillings.

Simon offered another concert on the Fourth of July celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He again played the pianoforte while a “Mr. Verdel” played a French horn and clarinet.

Jack Wolf Broucek, writing in his book Eighteenth Century Music in Savannah, Georgia, notes, “To judge from his several advertisements, Simon was a flamboyant character; not only a teacher he was a performer on several instruments, a fund raiser, an entrepreneur, a diplomat-philosopher and a sales and pitch man.”

Eventually Simon would move back to Savannah but not before performing two more concerts of vocal and instrumental music (clarinet and harpsichord) in January 1788.

That was the start of organized concerts in the Augusta area. So here is a sampling of some fun things coming up:


Steep Canyon Rangers With Symphony Orchestra Augusta: Local area music fans have watched the North Carolina-based band Steep Canyon Rangers rise from playing in nightclubs on Broad Street to performing on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol with comedian and banjo player Steve Martin.

They will be back to perform with Symphony Orchestra Augusta at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in Bell Auditorium. Tickets are $43.52, $21.30 and $10.19 online at soaugusta.org. Call (706) 826-4705.

The band is promoting its new album, RADIO, produced by the legendary Dobro player Jerry Douglas, also known for his work with Alison Krauss and Union Station.


WINSTON SLADE’S NEW SOUND: Lincoln County, Ga., resident Winston Slade is showcasing his new sound at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at American Legion Post 63, 90 Milledge Road, in Augusta. Tickets are $20 with proceeds going to improvements for the post building.

Slade’s new single I’m The One comes from working with songwriter Rivers Rutherford (Brooks &Dunn’s Ain’t Nothing ’Bout You) and producer Rodney Mills (Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Atlanta Rhythm Section). It is sort of rock country meets NSYNC or Back Street Boys.


JEFF BARNES BACK IN EDGEFIELD: Popular local singer Jeff Barnes will be presenting his An American Salute to Country Legends show at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Discovery Center, 405 Main St., in Edgefield, S.C., to benefit the Edgefield County Historical Society.

Tickets are $12. Barnes will be singing hits by Conway Twitty, Alabama, George Strait, George Jones, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks and others.


FIFTH ANNUAL LITTLE ROY &LIZZY MUSIC FESTIVAL: Music begins at 11 a.m. May 4-6 at Elijah Clark State Park, Georgia Highway 378, east of Lincolnton, Ga.

Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith, bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent, country star Daryle Singletary and vocal group Oak Ridge Boys each will perform one 90-minutes set at 8:30 p.m. with Smith on May 4, Singletary and Vincent on May 5 and The Oaks on May 6.

There will be a free barbecue and covered dish supper at 6 p.m. May 3 for three-day ticket holders.

Other headliners over the weekend will include Marty Raybon, Jeff &Sheri Easter, The Marksmen, The Band Kelley on Thursday; Leroy Troy of The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV, The Rebekah Long Band, The Chuck Wagon Gang on Friday; The Jeff Little Trio, The Doug Flowers Band, The Moron Brothers, The Inspirations on Saturday. Banjo king Little Roy Lewis and his performing partner, Lizzy Long, will perform all three days.

Daily tickets are $45 advance, $55 at the gate on May 4-5 and $50 advance, $60 at gate on May 6 or $25 daily for ages 7-13. Visit adamsbluegrass.com.

24TH ANNUAL BLIND WILLIE McTELL BLUES FESTIVAL: Saturday, May 6, one mile north off Exit 172 off Interstate 20, at Thomson, Ga., gates open at 11 a.m., music starts at noon.

Featured acts are The Wood Brothers, Mingo Fishtrap, Sugar Ray &The Bluetones, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jay Landreth Trio and Marcus King Band.

Gates open at 11 a.m. Tickets are $40 at the gate; ages 12 and younger admitted free. Visit blindwillie.com.


NINTH ANNUAL JEFF &SHERI EASTER HOMECOMING: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11, and Friday, May 12, and 6 p.m. Saturday, May 13, The Lewis Family Home Place, 1935 Lewis Family Road/Washington Road northwest of Lincolnton, Ga.

Headliners include Triumphant Quartet and The Little Roy &Lizzy Long Show on May 11, Ivan Parker and Lewis Tradition on May 12 and Karen Peck &New River and The Primitive Quartet on May 13. Jeff and Sheri Easter, stars of the Gaither Homecoming TV specials, will perform all three days.

Tickets are $20 per day with ages 12 and younger admitted free. Visit jeffandsherieaster.com.

11th ANNUAL AIKEN BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL: Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, Aiken (S.C.) County Fair­grounds, 1566 Columbia Highway North.

On Friday, music starts at 5 p.m. Doug &The Henrys, The Herman Clan, Guitacolypse Now, ABF Super Jam, The Infamous Stringdusters.

On Saturday, music starts at 1 p.m. Gipsy Moon Band, Brad Parsons Band; Lindsay Lou &The Ladies with Jenny Keel, Mimi Naja, Allie Kral and Mackenzie Page; ABF Super Jam, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings and Fruition.

Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at gate on Friday; $30 advance, $35 at gate on Saturday; $50 advance, $60 at gate for the weekend. Visit aikenbluegrassfestival.org.


EIGHTH ANNUAL PAPA JOE’S BANJO-B-QUE MUSIC FESTIVAL: Friday, May 26-Saturday, May 27, Evans Towne Center Park.

On Friday, gates open 4 p.m., music until 11 p.m. Headliners are Greensky Bluegrass, The Defibulators, Hog Slop String Band, Villain Family, West King String Band, The High Divers, The Ramblin’ Fevers.

On Saturday, gates open 10:30 a.m., music until 11 p.m. Headliners are Avett Brothers, Natchez Tracers, Cicada Rhythm, Harvest Thieves, Niles Foley, Kyshona Armstrong, The Little Roy &Lizzy Show, Larry Jones &The Spirits, Royal Johnson, Mason Jars, Delta Cane, Porter Oaks.

General admission tickets are $35 Friday and $45 on Saturday. VIP and weekend tickets available. Visit banjobque.com.