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“Johnny had a million stories, and he knew a million songs—an endless flow of songs.” Johnny Knapp accompanied artists from Billie Holiday to Tony Bennett to Barbara Streisand. His friendship with Col. Bruce Hampton introduced him to a new audience of Atlanta music lovers. He died in Lawrenceville on November 9 at age 89.
Though Blind Willie’s has a Cajun feel and Northside Tavern has more of a roadhouse vibe, these two mainstays have a lot in common. Small, dark, and loud, these blues bars that are full of character—and interesting characters.
Along with recording artists Lady Antebellum, Wet Willie, Jeff Foxworthy, Francine Reed, and Collective Soul’s Ed Roland, Wax ‘n’ Facts and DB Records owner Danny Beard was inducted at the 36th annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame ceremonies.
Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell began his music career as a tagalong kid brother on his older sister’s date to a Ray Charles gig in Tuscaloosa in 1965. “I was 13 and my parents had something else going on that night,” Leavell recalled to Atlanta magazine this week from his 2500-acre tree farm in Macon. “So they said, ‘Why don’t you take Chuck with you?’ She graciously said yes. I was already playing music, learning piano and guitar. I was very interested in music. But I had never seen anything that powerful. I mean, Ray Charles is Ray Charles but then he had [David] Fathead Newman on sax, the Raelettes were singing. The band was just so tight. I walked away that night knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. If I could be in a band that was anything near that good and that powerful and that moving, that’s what I wanted to do. It was life changing.”
Twenty years ago, Phoenix-based singer Francine Reed moved into an apartment across the street from Blind Willie's in Virginia-Highland, looking for a fresh start. Her requirements were few — she wanted a place to drop her suitcases and her weathered cast iron skillet and a local joint where she could sing. Within the week, friends had taken the featured vocalist in Lyle Lovett's Large Band to Fuzzy's Place to hear the house band, Java Monkey. Within minutes of meeting her, the band's drummer, veteran Atlanta musician and record producer Bryan Cole made her this promise: "I'm going to get you a record deal."