Macon’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage comes to life

She is a princess of true rock and roll history; he is a third generation candy maker. When Jessica Walden and Jamie Weatherford got married, the two of them decided to form their own walking tour of Macon music history. It came in the wake of the closing of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the desire to preserve and educate locals about their own musical heritage.

Jessica’s father, Alan Walden, was brought into the music business when his brother, Phil Walden, was commissioned to serve in the army as a 2nd Lt. and was was in charge of USO shows. At that time, Alan was left to manage up-and-coming singer Otis Redding.

“Phil had started managing R&B artists while president of Phi Delta Theta at Mercer, and my dad was attending Mercer and dropped out to take over running the business while Phil was in Germany,” said Jessica. “This was an interesting time for all of them. Not only was Otis trying to break as an international recording artist, but he was also doing it during the civil rights movement.”

Fast forward to the present time. Taking one of the Rock Candy Tours, you can hear personal stories that Walden grew up hearing from her own family. When her husband Jamie takes the wheel, things can become a little more colorful. Be sure to take one of the evening tours to hear the more adult versions of stories. On Friday nights you can bring your own beverage of choice on the tours, and stops are made at many downtown nightlife locations.

Leila Regan-Porter said she went with a group from the Center for Collaborative Journalism. “It was such a fun way to get to know the city and its history, especially on foot and at night, when you can feel the years of soul, rock ‘n’ roll and blues in the thick air. And seeing all the students, some new to Macon, drink in the history was awesome too.”

“I did it last year on my birthday with Ruth Sykes and we had too much fun,” said Betsy Campbell. “Since I am not a native, it was very informative. I definitely will do it again and bring my out-of-town family and friends when they come see me.”

Saralyn Collins, owner of Good to Go restaurant, said, “I have (gone on a tour) and it was fantastic. I thought I knew more than I ever wanted to know about Macon music, but I was wrong. The tour is informative and fun for natives, and a must do for visitors.”

“One thing that I am most proud of is that Otis Redding was a full business partner with my dad and Phil,” said Jessica, also revealing that Redding would perform concerts for Phil Delta Theta fraternity on Mercer’s campus.

“I’ve had to debunk the myth many times that Otis was a janitor for the Phi Delts. He wasn’t and he never worked as one. In fact, because of the concerts he would give for free with the Phi Delts, he was made an honorary member of the fraternity.”

The tours are held every Friday night starting at The Rookery in downtown Macon for $10 per person and last about an hour. There is also a slightly longer walking tour that begins in Washington Park every other Saturday that tells the story of the neighborhoods in the area. Private tours can also be booked by emailing Jessica Walden or Jamie Weatherford at [email protected]