Some of the stalwarts of the ‘70s Southern Rock scene, and younger musicians inspired by their sound, will perform Tuesday in a concert to celebrate the Georgia recording studio where Southern Rock was born.
The band was soundchecking onstage, but back in the green room of Macon’s City Auditorium Monday, a little after 3 in the afternoon, Tommy Talton and Duane Betts were meeting for the first time to play through the Allman Brothers classic "Little Martha".
“I’ll just play my dad’s part,” Betts said.
“Dad” is Dickey Betts, former guitarist in the Allman Brothers Band. It didn’t take long for the guitarists to negotiate their own version of Little Martha’s twined lines as they prepared for their part of the concert.
When Capricorn Studios was built, it was meant to be the hometown studio for R&B great Otis Redding. Tragically, he was killed before that could happen. But by the 1970s, the success of Capricorn acts like the Allman Brothers Band made the studios, and Macon, the mecca for Southern Rock. Tommy Talton came to Capricorn with his band Cowboy between 1970 and 1974.
“Those four years, it was like we all had our little fort in the woods,” Talton said of the studio’s halcyon years. “If we weren't on the road, we were there.”
Born in 1978, Duane Betts missed the Capricorn heyday, when his dad Dickey Betts played with the Allman Brothers. But when Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell asked him to play the celebration concert, Betts couldn’t refuse.
“Yeah, I mean, anytime Chuck asked you to do something, that's that's pretty cool,” Betts said.
LISTEN: "Little Martha", at the Macon gravesite that inspired the song
Now the Mercer Music at Capricorn project of Mercer University is aimed at restoring some of Capricorn's former glory by having both state of the art digital recording and a 1970s style analog board, as well as laundry facilities for touring bands and rehearsal spaces for locals.
Tommy Talton said a ropened Capricorn signals a return to older ways of making music.
“I was afraid that in the past 15 years, the studios might be disappearing there for a while,” Talton said. “Everybody thought they could do it all in their bedroom.”
But, Talton said making music has always been better with friends.
Tickets for the Capricorn Concert are sold out, but free performances and tours of the renovated studios at 530 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in Macon start at 2pm Tuesday. The studios of Mercer Music at Capricorn will ready to roll tape and record music again by January 2, 2020.