What’s the soundtrack to your life?
Greetings from Macon, GA! Our first week here we had the opportunity to not only listen to stories in the Booth but share some of our favorite StoryCorps broadcasts with the community. The night before our opening day, our public radio partner, Georgia Public Broadcasting, (GPB) hosted a reception and listening event. GPB’s President Teya Ryan and Vice President of Radio Jon Hoban were there to welcome us to town along with the Macon Arts Alliance, our host for the evening and neighbor to the Booth! About 80 people joined us for the event and were eager to hear more about StoryCorps, about what exactly happens during an interview, and what it’s like to be on the road with our Airstream. It was a great chance to meet community members before we even started recording!
On opening day Alan Walden came for an interview with his daughter Jessica. Phil, Alan’s brother, was Otis Redding’s friend and former manager. Alan later became Otis’s manager when Phil unexpectedly had to ship out for the army for two years. When Phil came back he, Alan, and Otis founded Redwal Records together. Even though Alan stopped managing for Otis, the two remained close. When Otis moved to Round Oak, Georgia, Alan moved in right next door: “He taught me to write songs, and I taught him how to fish and how to hunt and how to ride horses in particular. We had a ball in our years.”
Growing up with a father in the music business, Jessica used to wish that her dad was more normal – the kind of dad that didn’t pick her up from school wearing a “rawhide headband in your hair and the Lincoln Towncar with the dummy in the car… You know when I think about you driving that Lincoln, one of my favorite memories is just you’re such a prankster.”
The dummy, Alan explained, was a running practical joke of his. Known around town already for being in the music business, Alan used to keep a dummy in the backseat of his Lincoln Towncar and watch people at stoplights trying to see who it was.
As an adult, Jessica told her dad she was grateful for her unusual childhood: “As much as I was embarrassed then, I’m so glad it happened now. I didn’t have a normal upbringing; I didn’t have a vanilla life by any means. I think that it made me a much more creative person by having a different outlook on things.”
Despite his long career working with musicians like Otis Redding, Lynard Skynard, and Percy Sledge, Alan told Jessica, “It is my most proud achievement to be the father of two beautiful girls and one very handsome son. That will always come first in my life. I still have little mementos that hang next to my gold records that you, Georgianna, or Christian has painted for me.”
Jessica’s last question for her dad brought them back around to music: “If I had to make a soundtrack for your grandchildren one day to explain your career, how would it go?”
“I would think ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long To Stop Now’ [by Otis Redding] would be the first choice, ‘Simple Man’ by Lynard Skynard would be one of the second choice, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis again, ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ by Percy [Sledge]. All of those songs would have something to express the way I feel. That was one of the things that made me enjoy the music business so much was that I could relate to the songs.”
So, in honor of Alan, Jessica and Otis…
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