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Oceanside, CA to Macon, GA- The Last Waltz
Musical Influences- Why I traveled to Macon
Atlanta, GA | Macon Bound! | Musical Influences- Why I traveled to Macon | The Last Waltz - Ronnie Hammond's farewell performance


Ever since I heard the first 3 bars of  "Sweet Home Alabama," I was a fan of southern rock.  My first introduction to music came when I was 3 years old and my parents took me to see my uncle Jim perform with the Statesman at the Long Beach Auditorium in Long Beach, CA.  I don't remember too much about the show, but I could sense the excitment that was surrounding me.  Mostly I remember standing in the foyer of the Auditorium holding my father's hand in a sea of kneecaps, and I also vividly remember the orange soda swirling around a big round palstic ball.  My dad saw me staring at it and bought me one, it is my earliest memory.
It wasn't until the next year in Long Beach that at 4 years old I discovered the impact that music had on people, especailly southern gospel music.  When the Statesman performed, it seemed that nobody could stay in their seats and everyone was just truly happy.  It helped that the Statesman were truly a remarkable group, and I still listen to their music to this day.  You don't get into the Gospel Music and Georgia Music Hall of Fame's by not earning your chops!  They earned them by traveling 300 days a year on a Silver Eagle bus, singing to "sold out" venues around the country.  The concerts are still talked about to this day, and are the subject of several videos done by Bill & Gloria Gaither.

The Statesman Quartet in Their Hayday - 1950's
D.Crumpler; J. Hess; D. Ott, J. Wetherington; H. Lister(seated)

The Beatles hit the United States in 1964 when I was 6 years old,  and they were the first band I liked, then the Beach Boys- and that was it for a long time.  My twin brother Marty started getting into other music early on like Steppenwolf; Janice Joplin; Cream and Iron Butterfly- then later on Alice Cooper and David Bowie.  That music was okay, but it didn't hold any big attraction to me, it didn't grab me and hold my attention.  The first concert I attended was Chicago, Doobie Bros, with Steely Dan (the only year that Steely Dan toured), and while I really enjoyed that music, it still didn't create a lasting bond for me.
Then I heard "Sweet Home Alabama," and I was hooked. I believe the song had already been out for a year, but keep in mind that I lived on the west coast and it took awhile before all that great southern music hit out here.   "Sweet Home Alabama" hit a musical nerve in me (even more so by the song "Swamp Music" on that same album), when I listened to that song I felt like it was music from home.  Since my mom and dad were born in south Georgia I have always felt that while I'm a native Californian (and I love the fact that I grew up in a great city like San Diego), I have a very "southern" soul, the south just permeates through me.
About a year after discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd, I lost my virginity while ARS's "So Into You" was playing on the radio.  So naturally, "So Into You" became our song.  My girlfriend bought me that album soon afterward, and I thought "great, this should be a nice album to listen to."  When I put it on, I was completely knocked-out at what I heard. "So Into You" was such a lovely easy listening song, that I thought that all of their songs would be similar, and boy was I wrong.  After hearing "Sky High" and "Georgia Rhythm" and "Don't Miss The Message" and "Outside Woman Blues,"  I said to myself, "These guys are rockers!,"  and I've loved them ever since.

Rock n Roll Alternative Album Cover

Over the years I have had the pleasure of attending many great southern rock band concerts.  I never saw the original Skynyrd (although I had tickets to a show they did with Peter Frampton at Balboa Stadium in San Diego- I ended up going on a trip with a buddy of mine, I always regretted that), but I did see the group in 2000, they still put on one hell-uv-a-show.  I have witnessed alot of great shows- Wet Willie; Blackfoot; .38 Special (saw them last June at the House Of Blues in Anaheim, they just about melted the place); Little Feat; Marshall Tucker; Outlaws; Molly Hatchett; Black Oak Arkansas; Allman Bros; Elvin Bishop; Charlie Daniels; ZZ Top, the list is a lengthy one, but I never had the opportunity to see ARS.  I take that back, I did have one chance in the early 80's to see them in San Diego but for some reason that I don't recall, I didn't make the show, and I always regretted that, too.
I joined the ARS chat group (Champagne Jammers) on the internet a year or so ago, but didn't have much time to participate.  Paul Goddard (ARS bass player) was the first ARS member to participate with the group (he unfortunately dropped out after becoming upset over one thing or another), and Ronnie Hammond has been participating with the group for several months.  When he announced he was putting on his final performance at the Whiskey River in Macon Georgia, it was a no-brainer for me, I was going to be there.  50 other CJ'ers felt the same way and we decended upon the unsuspecting good folks of Macon. 
I think the reason I liked ARS so much is that it seemed that there music related to instances or circumstances in my life starting with "So Into You."  When I went into the Air Force in 1979, I got to know several people from the south, and I was suprised to find out that there were several albums by ARS prior to "Rock N Roll Alternative."  The"Back Up Against the Wall" album was staple at our barracks along with "Dog Days."  I think everyone on the 3rd floor knew the lyrics to "Cold Turkey Tenessee,"  and it was hilarious to hear the whole floor break into an impromptu chorus.  Back in those days, we had stereos that pushed 400 watts, and ARS was the preferred music.
"Don't Miss the Message" was very important to me as I struggled with raging hormones and fighting the battles of life.  "Georgia Rhythm" smacked of my roots, "nothin' made me feel so fine" as listening to that song.  "Outside Woman Blues" made me re-think the womanizing I was doing at that stage of my life, and "Not Gonna Let It Bother Me" became a battle song for me of sorts, it seemed around that time I was always bothered by something or someone or another.  The "Boys from Doraville" album is my favorite ARS album, and never received the credit it deserved.  I could never understand why it did't bust the charts wide open.  "Silver Eagle" could have been written directly about my uncle and the Statesman.  I knew several "Cocaine Charlies" in the 80's, and "I Ain't Much" fit so well as I went through a breakup with a lady I was totally in love with.  Then "All Night Rain" was a favorite when I was trying to "woo" a lady.  The Atlanta Rhytm Section had it all- great vocals, extremely talented musicians, great songwriting, and songs you could relate to.  ARS was always a "cut above" all the others for me.

Me & Ronnie Hammond
Georgia Music Hall of Fame - Plaque comemerating the Statesman