Augusta's music scene is gradually transforming
Pop Rocks
By Steven Uhles| Columnist
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Augusta is turning into the music town I always felt it could be. Fans are showing unprecedented support for local acts, and people are working (and playing) hard to ensure that promoters' gambles and the labors of Global Spectrum at Bell Auditorium and James Brown Arena are not in vain.

Concerts are selling well. Tours are beginning to look toward Augusta. There are substantial concerts (Jason Aldean, Willie Nelson, Rodney Carrington, B.B. King) on the horizon. I'm not sure, but it feels as though we have some capital, both literal and figurative, that we can blow on a show, and I think I've got just the bill.

Before I pull back the curtain for the big reveal, let me warn those who still seem to think Prince, Petty and the Stones will perform here. They won't. The going rate for A-list acts remains out of reach here. Selling $1,000 tickets -- and that's what it would take -- just doesn't make sense.

Instead, I'd like to suggest a three-act bill that celebrates the roots of rock and Augusta's contribution to popular music: Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee and Wanda Jackson. Feel free to commence with the head scratching.

Done?

Good. Here's my logic.

Brenda Lee is an obvious choice. Her musical roots start here in Augusta, but it's been decades since she has done a local show, according to resident expert Don "Ramblin" Rhodes. The closest she has come is taking her Christmas production to the Newberry Opera House in Newberry, S.C.

Wanda Jackson is, in many ways, Ms. Lee's closest living contemporary. Both started young and embraced the raucous sounds of rockabilly. Although it's true that Ms. Lee's music has mellowed over the years, Ms. Jackson remains a rockabilly purist, still ripping it up more than 50 years after her bang-and-twang beginnings. It would be interesting to see whether having Ms. Jackson on the bill might inspire that old rock 'n' roll fire in Ms. Lee.

Jerry Lee Lewis, 74, opened the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shows at Radio City Music Hall with his hit Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On . He plays the famous rave-up a step or two slower than he did during the early days of rock, but it certainly hasn't lost its charm.

What's interesting about this theoretical show is how much sense (and dollars and cents, we hope) it seems to make. It appeals to a variety of generations, from the folks who were fans during the first few years of the rock revolution to younger audiences who have embraced rockabilly in recent years.

These are also all acts that, even combined, probably won't break the bank.

It's also, quite clearly, time to have Ms. Lee back on an Augusta stage. A local promoter came close to bringing her solo last year, and I thought -- and still think -- that would have been a winner. As part of this three-act show, the pot is even sweeter.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

From the Thursday, December 10, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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