Peter Stroud, guitarist for Sheryl Crow, waits backstage during a Stillwater reunion show, Friday, March 18, 2016, in Macon, Ga. Photos by Branden Camp
By Branden Camp
MACON, Ga.- Cigarette smoke lingered in the air outside the Crazy Bull music venue in Macon Georgia. Longhaired men wearing The Allman Brothers Band and Marshall Tucker shirts congregated together awaiting the start of the annual Stillwater reunion show.
One by one, music industry personalities walked in the door and most people had no clue who just walked passed them.
A man with long blonde hair made his way to the entrance that led to the green room where artist can clear their minds and relax before the show. Only if you knew the music scene well would you know Peter Stroud, guitarist for Sheryl Crow, just passed you.
Another man with a dominating yet cheerful personality arrived greeting and hugging other musicians. You knew he was someone, but who? Only later when he took the stage to perform, you then realized that he was Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie who had a Top 10 hit in 1974.
Jimmy Hall, of Wet Willie, sits backstage during a Stillwater reunion show, Friday, March 18, 2016, in Macon, Ga. Photo by Branden Camp
Rising to the top
All these local legends were part of a much larger picture in the 1970s. Southern rock exploded in Georgia and spread like a wild fire across the nation.
Mark Pucci, who was published in Rolling Stone magazine, relocated to Macon, Georgia from Memphis to join the Capricorn Records’ publicity department in 1974.
Pucci said that the bands in the 1970s were like families. They would tour with each other and introduce the new bands to Capricorn and get signed to record deals. There was no Youtube video or website that record executives could go and check out the band before deciding if they should offer them a record deal.
He recalls how Capricorn strategically placed smaller up and coming bands on tour with well-established bands.
“What Capricorn would do through The Allman Brothers Band, would get the opening slot for the Marshall Tucker Band,” Pucci said. With this strategy, bands adopted other bands fans and became famous.
Behind the sound
Many of the most iconic songs in the 1970s were recorded in Studio One, a recording studio that once stood in the Atlanta suburb of Doraville, Georgia.
Rodney Mills, chief engineer and co-designer of Studio One, was the man behind many of the most famous songs that still resonate to this day.
“TURN IT UP”
Mills remembers the most famous song he ever worked on. He said it’s phenomenal that it still transcends generations as he sat for an interview with former radio DJ Charles Camp.
“Sweet Home Alabama by Skynyrd is the most enduring and stands the test of time,” Mills said. “It still is instantly recognized.
During the recording of the song, founding Skynyrd member Ronnie Van Zant, who would later die in a plane crash, looked over at Mills and producer Al Kooper during their recording session and said the famous line “Turn it up” so he could hear the music better during a recording session.
Rodney Mills recalls times when he would be walking through a grocery store and he would hear a hit song on the store sound system.
These are not just any songs that play overhead as people cross items off their grocery list. These are songs that shaped an entire industry.
“Don’t people know that the guy who recorded that is standing right here,” Mills said.
Stillwater guitarist Bobby Golden remembers his sessions with Mills as special times.
Stillwater worked with Mills on their song “Mind Bender” that hit number 46 on the Billboard music charts in 1978.
“When Rodney mixed a record, man, it sounded like a record,” Golden said.
“The genius of what Rodney could do was to get all those parts together and make them mesh together,” Pucci said.
Mills is one of many unsung hero’s in the music industry that came out of Georgia. The ones the listeners never hear about. They are the cogs and moving parts in the machine called the music industry.