Little Richard, now eighty-two years old, has reportedly been living the last several years in a penthouse suite at the Hilton hotel in downtown Nashville (the Hilton will neither confirm nor deny that they have a guest named Mr. Penniman). I knew someone who knew someone who had his cell phone number, and in June, I cold-called him.
In 1913, the murder of Little Mary Phagan rocked the people of Atlanta, Georgia, setting in motion a series of events that involved a botched and terribly obfuscated trial; a tinder box of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and “white rights”; and another murder. “Fiddlin’ John” Carson set it all to music.
The truth is, I had no intention of making a life out of writing until I read an article on OutKast by a writer from my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. So when the Oxford American asked me to write about OutKast for their Georgia Music issue, I knew I needed to talk with Charlie Braxton before crafting a word.
From the beginning of Sam & Dave’s career, Sam’s otherworldly high tenor overshadowed Dave’s low harmony, and for a variety of reasons—some personal, some practical, some musical—the history of the duo has been rewritten in the nearly thirty years since Prater’s death so as to diminish Dave’s contributions.
Everybody I met in Augusta had a James Brown story: the Godfather of Soul roaming around town in his baby-blue Rolls-Royce, showing up unbidden at parties and concerts, hanging around like he was anyone while making sure everyone remembered exactly who he was. Many people also had a Sharon Jones story.
She is insignificant in the universe, God a sublime, untouchable peak. On the stereo is a song by her new favorite band, the Indigo Girls: Georgia nights softer than a whisper, peach trees stitched across the land, farmland like a tapestry.