Interview with Southern rock impresario Alan Walden [classic rock]

Back when I was scheduling tours for Night Train, I scoured this great land of ours for places friendly to Southern rock. There aren’t many places friendlier than Macon, Georgia – and appropriately the site of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Some of music’s all-time favorite stars got their start in Macon: Little Richard, James Brown, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band. One of their more recent inductees was a man who had a hand in it all: Alan Walden.

When his older brother Phil began booking acts, Alan was the high school liason. He booked acts for the high school dances and generally helped out. When Alan was still a teenager, brother Phil got his draft notice. He took 12 hours to teach Alan the business before shipping off. That’s when Alan started representing Otis Redding full time. This was not an easy task for a kid in Jim-Crow days.

When Phil came back, the pair started representing Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Johnnie Taylor, Etta James, Al Green, Booker T and The MGS, Arthur Conley, Joe Tex, Eddie Floyd, Joe Simon, Bobby Womack, Albert King, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, James Carr, Tyrone Davis and many more famous people. After Otis Redding died in a plane crash, the Waldens formed Capricorn records, turning their focus to rock. Soon, they signed Allman Brothers and Boz Scaggs to the label.
 

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Later, Alan struck out on his own, signing Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Outlaws. Now retired, it seems like he is busier than ever! Still, he took some time to answer some questions for us.

What are you doing, now that you’re retired?

Business wise, I manage my publishing catalog, consult young bands, do interviews, write stories, do speaking engagements at schools and business organizations and am working on my own book! On a personal level, I spend most of my time with my six year old son — Christian, fish, camp, ride horses and motorbikes, play chess and ping pong, swim and cook! AND I now get to listen to my huge CD collection!
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What influence has the South had on the music that you selected and promoted?

Everyone knows Southern people in general try harder, are nicer, friendlier, and politer! This shows in our music as well as our drinking, smoking, frolicking, and raising Hell! We out-drink, out love, out fight, and OUT PLAY most of the ones we meet. It’s southern tradition! And they are more open and honest with their lives! All of this shows in their music. Not into spandex and all the trimmings, wearing jeans, tee shirts and sometimes even barefooted these guys are out to PLAY GREAT MUSIC and not worry about all the rest. And Southern people are not afraid to WORK for it! My bands toured constantly! Most of the time you can take a Southern Man’s word as good as a contract!

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How would you describe your own personal effect on music in the South?

I would like to think a strong impact on it all. Before the Walden Brothers, a lot of artists never got paid properly, if at all. This was particularly true, but not limited to the R & B artists. In that area, we got them not only paid, but a raise in royalties and sometimes ownership. Nothing makes happier artists than “Hits” and knowing they will get paid for them. We brought in new ideas and new directions in management of artists.They became a part of the family and were treated as such.They had a say in what happened in their careers. Some of my bands today still live off the foundations I built in their early years. The artists always came first with me. Let me say, I think I added “RESPECT” to their lives and their careers. I convinced my writers to write about the things they had lived, the things they knew, and the things they loved. Not fantasies! Beer, not champagne, fish, not caviar! The experiences they had lived first handed!

Are you involved with any projects or charities?
I like to let people choose their own charities, but my latest project is to get HAMP SWAIN inducted into The Georgia Music Hall Of Fame, where he belongs!!!! We have a web site set up just for the people who are interested in helping at: www.HampSwain.com and I would appreciate everyone writing a simple email or letter recommending Hamp! It will only take a couple of minutes of their time and he deserves this more than anyone I know.

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