(Disclaimer: Any opinion contained in this column is that of the author)
Featured photo Flo Carter and the late Sharon Jones. Photo courtesy Bryton Entertainment
Local music stars Flo Carter, Wayne Preston and David Weston all knew the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and will be closing out Black History Month along with some other historical offerings.
Flo Carter will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Nancy Carson Library, 135 Edgefield Road, North Augusta, about her many decades of performing regularly on WJBF’s Parade of Quartets show and her experiences that grew out of those appearances.
The talk goes with the library’s displays of North Augusta-connected black celebrities which currently is on view in three glass cases until Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Carter in the 1950s began co-hosting WJBF’s Today in Dixie mid-day program with a little known singer named “Jimmy” Nabors, who would become world famous as Mayberry, N.C., gasoline station operator turned U.S. Marines soldier Gomer Pyle.
Her musical idols included Mahalia Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald which influenced Carter’s black, bluesy sound. But Carter also became one the South’s first female rockabilly singers with her energetic performances similar to country rock artists Wanda Jackson and Brenda Lee.
The 1950s and 1960s saw Carter performing classic ‘30s and ‘40s blues songs at popular area nightspots as The Georgian, the Golden Camp Inn, the Partridge Inn and the ballroom of the Bon Air Hotel.
By the 1980s, she had her own gospel music show on WJBF featuring her band, The Sounds of Joy, which included her drummer husband, Don; her daughters Toni, Cookie and Donna; and her late guitar-playing mother, Ada “Groovy Granny” Collins.
Her friendships with Parade of Quartets co-hosts Steve Manderson and Henry Howard led Carter and her band to become long-running performers on the Parade of Quartets show and a soulful favorite with black music fans including James Brown himself.
It also led Carter and her band to perform in both black and white churches throughout rural Georgia and South Carolina as well as major events like the Lock ‘N Ham Jam, Arts in the Heart festivals, Tuesdays Music Live at St. Paul’s series, Evenings in Appleby Gardens series, Beech Island Heritage festivals and many events organized by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon.
Carter, who turned 94 in December, became a favorite of the late Georgia Gov. and U.S. Sen. Zell Miller and many Nashville stars. She was honored in 1997 by the Greater Augusta Arts Council as the Artist of the Year.
R&B superstar Sharon Jones loved Carter so much that Jones agreed to portray the train conductor in Carter’s gospel music video This Train’s Bound For Glory. Carter later sang Amazing Grace at Jones’ memorial service in the Imperial Theater at the request of Jones’ family.
Preston & Weston in Aiken – tickets will go fast
The City of Aiken’s 13th annual Black History Concert will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior and Youth Center, 841 Edgefield Ave., featuring the popular jazz and blues duo Preston & Weston.
There will be dancing, a catered meal and door prizes. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door available at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center, 1700 Whiskey Road; Smith-Hazel Recreation Center, 416 Kershaw St. N.E.; or the Lessie B. Price center. For more information, call (803) 642-7634.
In 2004, vocalists and instrumental players Preston & Weston were voted “Best Jazz Band” by readers of Augusta Magazine and “Best Band” by Easy Street Magazine, an Aiken publication.
Both saxophonist Wayne Preston and keyboard/guitar player/percussionist David Weston toured the world with James Brown.
Preston also toured with Edward Starr, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton, Albert King and Bobby Bland and recorded with Barry White, Joe Sample and Gene Page.
His father was trumpeter Swanee Preston and his mother was gospel pianist Grace Preston.
While attending Los Angeles City College, Preston recorded television and radio jingles, participated in bit movie roles and was a popular studio session player.
He played with a Cleveland, Ohio, jazz group called Bell Telephunk, later renamed Kinsman Dazz which became simply Dazz Man. The band had recordings produced by Earth Wind and Fire lead singer Philip Bailey and became known for the dance hit Let it Whip.
Preston and his wife, Natalie, have been active at Mt. Transfiguration Baptist Church in North Augusta where Natalie is a gospel pianist and minister of music and Wayne is their choir director.
David Weston, who has been playing bass guitar since the age of 12, spent his junior and high school years playing in rock, soul, country and jazz bands.
James Brown and his bandleader heard Weston and hired him. Weston toured with Brown for seven years; playing bass guitar on six continents and recording with Brown on 12 albums and several single releases.
Weston also appeared with Brown on television shows like Saturday Night Live and in the classic Blues Brothers movies.
From 1992 to 1998, Weston owned and operated the “Word of Mouth Cafe” in the 700 block of Broad Street in downtown Augusta where his six-members band performed a variety of music. Visiting celebrities in the audiences included James Brown, Jamie Foxx, Bernie Mac and Grover Washington Jr.
Weston has taught jazz music in local schools, played on projects with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and played keyboards at Universal Ministries Christian Fellowship church.
Harlem Nights Gala
The Snelling Conference Center, 3165 Washington Road, will be the venue for the “Harlem Nights Gala” from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, benefiting the Transformation Training Institute which provides free and low cost trainings on cultural diversity and mental health.
Local radio personality and community activist Cher Best will be the keynote speaker with the event hosted by comedian Poncere.
There will be food, a silent auction and entertainment with tickets costing $100 for general admission, $125 for VIP tickets and $150 for partner tickets.
Visit transformationtraininginc.com, email Sandra V. Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (706) 750-4275.
Creative Impressions performs at Augusta Museum
The Augusta Museum of History, Sixth at Reynolds streets, at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, will present the free program “Creative Impressions. Genius in Chains: The Evolution of Black Music in America.”
It will be the museum’s final event celebrating Black History Month 2023.
The museum has posted, “Join us in the Museum Rotunda for a soulful celebration as we chronicle the rich legacy of African American music beginning with its conception from various countries in Africa to modern influences, covering a multitude of genres.”
Call (706) 722-8454 for any questions.
Donald Sweeper portrays Richard Greener
The Nancy Carson Library in North Augusta also is offering a free presentation at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, by Donald Sweeper, a former sixth grade teacher in Lexington, S.C.
He is known for his portrayal of black historical figures including U.S. Congressman and Civil War hero Robert Smalls of Beaufort, S.C.
For the North Augusta program, Sweeper will portray professor Richard T. Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard University.
Greener also was the first African American faculty member to teach at the University of South Carolina during Reconstruction from 1873 to 1877.
At USC, Greener reorganized and cataloged the library holdings which were in disarray after the Civil War.
Sweeper will dramatize the frustration and disappointment that Greener experienced when S.C. Gov. Wade Hampton closed the university in 1877 to rid the school of blacks only to reopen in 1880 as an all-white institution. Greener then became Dean of the Howard University Law School in the District of Columbia.
The reenactment is an estimated 35 minutes with a question and answer period to follow.
Sweeper has been performing his reenactments of famous African Americans for nearly 10 years and also is known for his storytelling about the Gullah Culture.
Don Rhodes has been a by-line journalist since 1963 writing for his Chamblee, Ga., High School newspaper and two weeklies in Decatur. He has worked for Morris Communications Co. since joining the Savannah Evening Press in March of 1967. He also has authored four national books, four regional books, national magazine articles and album notes for several music artists.