Wednesday, May 9, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA. It’s the stage where Elvis performed four shows in the spring of 1956 before the Ed Sullivan TV appearances. A magnificent Moorish design, a tribute to the performing arts, the old gal with its splendor and history was once scheduled to be torn down by mindless developers and likely would have met a wrecking ball without local outrage, philanthropy and some special events by The Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers and other celebrities.

All is forgiven now as this great Deep South city welcomes back to the Fabulous Fox stage an old friend, Garrison Keillor hosting a live broadcast nationally and internationally of A Prairie Home Companion. Keillor long ago revealed that the inspiration for the show combining music, comedy, farce and variety came from enjoying Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry on a journalism assignment.

During past shows, Keillor has, through music and program segments reintroduced many who fell into obscurity, all Georgia natives and local stars in another era, particularly Blind Willie McTell who played a 12-string guitar and performed for quarters at the Blue Lantern, a honky tonk that once flourished on nearby Ponce de Leon Avenue. Blind Willie is easy to remember when the Allman Brothers sing his glorious, “Statesboro Blues.”

This week’s show also features the incredible vocal sound effects of Fred Newman, a native of LaGrange in West Georgia.

Atlanta is a near perfect place for Prairie Home. A crossroads of momentous events and home to many who transformed America and the world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up here, preached sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church and is buried not far from the Fox. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in minutes away. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia DeHavilland, Margaret Mitchell and the cast of “Gone With The Wind,” partied the night away across the street at the posh Georgian Terrace Hotel after the world premiere of the movie. Ray Charles recorded “I Got A Woman” at a nearby radio studio.

I’ll be there, looking for friends and famous faces. Maybe a glimpse of Ted Turner, Hank Aaron or Andrew Young. Might spot comedians Ron White or Jeff Foxworthy, musicians Sir Elton John or Greg Allman or even movie mogul Tyler Perry. Before the curtain rises, there’s time for hot dogs and a frosted orange at The Varsity, literally around the corner.

A special starry night in the capital of the South.

Vacation idea: Thomasville near Georgia's border with Florida.

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