Augusta tends to attract a few visitors each April for a certain golf tournament, and the city fathers made a savvy move in attracting its closeup during peak season. But there’s another master hailing from Augusta who’s worth a visit year-round: James Brown.
The Augusta Museum of History features a permanent exhibit on the Godfather of Soul, documenting native son James Brown’s rise to fame. This year, Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas, added a weekly bus tour to the mix. “Dad was proud to grow up in Augusta, and so many fans from around the world are always looking to learn more about him,” Ms. Thomas says of her inspiration for organizing the tour. “After much prayer, I felt good that a tour would be both informative and entertaining,” she adds, working in one of her father’s classic song titles.
Thomas’s cousin Taefa Ayers will conduct the weekly Saturday morning tours, with Thomas pitching in for select private events and special requests, providing participants a family perspective. Stops include Brown’s childhood home and elementary school, and the various local businesses and radio stations he owned. Thomas is particularly proud of JAMP (the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils), a “non-profit music village” housed at the museum and operated by the James Brown Family Foundation, with a mission of childhood music education and enrichment. JAMP’s house combo was named Best Augusta R&B Band in 2015 by Augusta Magazine.
The tour starts and concludes at the museum, and the $15 fee includes museum admission.
Ms. Thomas offered a few of her favorite exhibit items. “An original cape, and an award from the Department of Defense for going to Vietnam.” In 1969 Brown put a modern spin on Bob Hope’s World War II model, performing for troops at the height of hostilities. Always politically conscious, Brown saw the trip as his expression of support for black troops but also took steps to tour with an integrated backing band to send a message of inclusion.
The James Brown Family Historical Tour departs from the Augusta Museum of History at 11 a.m. each Saturday morning. Reservations can be made by calling 803-640-2090 at least 24 hours in advance. The tour runs roughly 90 minutes. Private bookings are available.
While you’re in Augusta, don’t miss the chance to sample two of Georgia’s 100 Plates Locals Love (look under Classic South): the catfish and hush puppies at T’s Restaurant, and Sheehan’s Irish Pub’s green jacket salad. Hmm, I sense another golf reference….
For more music travel ideas in Augusta, check out Explore Georgia’s Augusta music page, featuring an itinerary of music venues, festivals and other points of interest in the city, and a playlist of songs by Augusta-area artists to accompany your trip.
Glen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.