Four Georgia Music Visits Inspired by the Oxford American

The timing couldn’t be better for launching this portal into Georgia’s rich musical heritage — past, present and future. I’m looking forward to sharing with you the nooks and crannies of Georgia music, and doing my own discovery along the way. But in December, the Oxford American made my task a whole lot easier with the release of its Georgia Music Issue.

Oxford American's December 2015 issue

Oxford American’s December 2015 issue features Georgia music.

For those unfamiliar with the Oxford American, it’s an award-winning quarterly with a stated mission of featuring “the best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South.” The magazine devotes an issue each year to the music of one Southern state, and it’s time for Georgia’s close-up. And boy, do we look good!

The current Oxford American serves as a 176-page virtual roadmap to the Georgia music scene, with plenty to offer both newcomers and aficionados. The diversity it reflects is remarkable — household names (James Brown, the Allman Brothers, Indigo Girls), early/mid 1900s icons (Little Richard, Johnny Mercer, Ma Rainey) and the latest generation (Janelle Monae, Killer Mike, OutKast), just for starters. And if you’re the type who digests ideas better through sound than words, the magazine comes with a 25-track CD spanning an equally diverse roster of Georgia artists.

It’s inspiring to note the geographic expanse of the artists covered. Augusta. Savannah. Macon. Athens. Statesboro. Albany. Atlanta. Waycross. Tracing the roots of these visionary performers would make for quite a winding road trip. We’ll explore these strands — and plenty of others — in the coming weeks.

Here are four outings to immerse yourself in the experience:

1. Ocilla First Fridays on the Fourth. One of my favorite articles is Jonathan Bernstein’s human interest piece on Ocilla’s Dave Prater, the less heralded half of ’60s soul duo Sam & Dave (who made “Soul Man” famous well before the Blues Brothers). If you can’t wait for their October Sweet Potato Festival, take a trip to this small south Georgia town on the first Friday of the month for after-hours shopping, dining, music and art on Fourth Avenue.

2. The JinxBill Dawer’s poignant profile of Black Tusk bassist Jonathan Athon, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 2014, celebrates the sense of community that Athon inspired. The Jinx is a cornerstone of Savannah’s live music scene and a key venue for the Savannah Stopover festival, coming up March 10-12 (more on that soon).

3. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate a Legend – A Celebration of Johnny Mercer with Joe Gransden and Kathleen Bertrand. John Lingan’s look at “the moony lyricism of Johnny Mercer” may leave you longing for a revisiting of the Savannah native’s timeless hits. This tribute concert on Feb. 26, 2016, at Georgia State’s Rialto Fine Arts Center in Atlanta fits the bill.

4. Chicken Raid – The 77-year-old blues veteran Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is profiled by Atlanta writer Rachel Maddux. Watkins is likely to be among the dozens of blues artists gathering at the Northside Tavern March 19-21 for Chicken Raid, the annual celebration of another Atlanta country blues legend, Mr. Frank Edwards.

Meanwhile, my book club has taken the unusual step of reading the Oxford American cover-to-cover to discuss at our next meeting. I suggest you do the same — its brand of storytelling is that top-notch.

glenGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s newly appointed 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 You can learn more about the Oxford American’s Georgia Music issue in Glen’s piece at

5 Things to Explore at Tunes from the Tombs

Historic Oakland Cemetery’s summertime music festival Tunes From the Tombs returns for its fifth year on Saturday, June 13. The daylong festival is quickly becoming an Atlanta tradition, and and all proceeds benefit Historic Oakland Foundation, which in partnership with the City of Atlanta works to preserve, restore, enhance and share Oakland Cemetery.

Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet

Headliner Matthew Sweet plays alongside more than a dozen bands, including:

  • Michelle Malone
  • Little Tybee
  • Eliot Bronson
  • Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
  • Sweet Auburn String Band
  • Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen
  • Blood On the Harp
  • Sourwood Honey
  • Max & Maggie
  • Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers
  • Octave
  • The Ghosts Project
  • Sarah Wilson
  • Atlanta Taiko Project

    Little Tybee

    Little Tybee

Here’s our roundup of what to look forward to at Tunes From the Tombs:

Take in some history on a mini guided walking tour
Oakland Cemetery tour guides offer shorter versions of a few of the cemetery’s popular guided walking tours throughout the day during Tunes. Get a peek into the past with the Sights, Symbols & Stories of Oakland overview tour, Malts & Vaults of Oakland: Where Beer Meets History, Oakland’s Boys of Summer Baseball Tour, Fear & Accusation: The Leo Frank Story, The Women of Oakland and Art & Architecture of Death.

Plant yourself in the beer garden
Grab a cold one and take in a performance at the Bell Tower beer garden, which features The Ghosts Project, a cappella group Octave, Bonaventure Quartet and the Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers. No matter your preference, there’s plenty of brews on tap, including: Red Brick Brewery’s Hoplanta IPA, Sessions IPA, Hibiscuwit Belgian Wheat and Laughing Skull Amber Ale; Starr Hill Brewery Grateful Pale Ale; Modelo; Pacifico; Corona Light and PBR.

Fortune Teller Robyn Avalon

Fortune Teller Robyn Avalon
Photo Credit: Historic Oakland Foundation

See what the future holds
Fortune teller Robyn Avalon holds court in the Rawson Mausoleum, offering readings from 1 p.m to 6 p.m. While Avalon’s readings are offered on the house, tips are appreciated (a portion of which are donated back to Oakland!)

RIP and get the VIP treatment
Upgrade with a Rock In Peace (RIP) package for plenty of perks! RIP ticket holders have the chance to meet and mingle with Tunes performers; receive complimentary food from Doc Chey’s Noodle House and Republic Social House; complimentary Historic Oakland Foundation membership for a year, and much more! RIP ticket sales end at 12 p.m. on Friday, June 12, and are available online only at

Bob Seymore, the Living Statue

Bob Seymore, the Living Statue

See illusion come to life
Strike a pose with Bob Seymore, the living statue who’s been performing world-class pantomime for more than 40 years. Seymore’s statuary is one that must be seen to be believed, and is sure to delight attendees of all ages!

Advance tickets for Tunes From the Tombs available online at General admission tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children (kids 3 and under are free). Tickets sold at the gate are $20 for adults and $5 for children.

For more information at Historic Oakland Cemetery and Tunes From the Tombs, please visit or call 404-688-2107.

Georgia Grown: Georgia’s Music Pioneers

Georgia artists topping the charts today frequently acknowledge the influence of the pioneers who paved the way before them. Click on the names below and get to know the singers, songwriters and entertainers who will forever be considered Georgia music legends.
The Allman Brothers Band

Savannah native Johnny Mercer penned more than 1,500 songs during his career. Credit: Courtesy of the Special Collections & Archives, Georgia State University

Savannah native Johnny Mercer penned more than 1,500 songs during his career. Credit: Courtesy of the Special Collections & Archives, Georgia State University

Boudleaux and Felice Bryant

Brenda Lee

Chet Atkins

Gladys Knight

James Brown

Jessye Norman

Joe South

Johnny Mercer 

Though he lost his sight completely by age 7, Ray Charles learned to write and play music and became known as a pop hitmaker. Credit: Corbis

Though he lost his sight completely by age 7, Ray Charles learned to write and play music and became known as a pop hitmaker. Credit: Corbis

Little Richard Penniman

Otis Redding

Ray Charles

Thomas Dorsey

Tommy Roe



lisaLisa Love serves as Director of Music Marketing and Development for the Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office. A somewhat passable bass player who should never be allowed to sing, she is founding editor Georgia Music magazine, which celebrates the state’s legends, landmarks and unsung heroes.