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The early inspiration of listening to my mother's singing and watching Phil Walden launch a musical genre are why I am in this business.
REMEMBERING PHIL WALDEN
CIMS' Don van Cleave Reminisces About the Founder of Capricorn Records
by Don van Cleave

In early 1970, I lived in a small Tennessee town named Huntingdon. My mother sang solos in church. I grew up getting serenaded by a very talented performer. When Robbie Nell Shanklin was 17 years old in 1949, she was singing gospel music on WENK out of Union City, TN, every Sunday.  For 18 months, she toured as an opener for the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen. When we were little, I can remember that revival time meant Robbie Nell was gonna solo.

From the ages of 9 to 12, the world changed. King, Kennedy, moon, Nixon, riots and music. Being a tight-knit family, we often got together at grandparents' homes on both sides of the family along with every aunt, uncle and cousin. At the time, I was a Beatle fan. I had and knew every song out on 45. The family always watched the Martha White Flower Hour, Ed Sullivan, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Porter and Dolly, Dick Cavett. I remember my mother watching Janis Joplin with me and commenting, "That is someone's
daughter... Just pitiful."  To my mother, she did not look "right." She also told me that the Beatles could not read. My older cousins would play me records that blew my mind. Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Taj Mahal, Zoot Sims. Really amazing stuff.

In 1970, at the age of 12, my dad was transferred to Macon, GA, to run a large factory for Career Club Shirts. Days after we moved to town, he took us out to the second Atlanta Pop Festival in Byron, GA, to gawk. It was an amazing rush. We just creeped down the street staring at the hippies. Obviously, the occasional naked breast thrilled me to no end. I was still too young to go out there to the concerts, but  four of my cousins rolled into town and crashed at our house. At night, my cousin Richard would tell me what he saw that day. He played me the whole Woodstock album, which had just been released. He would turn it down during "GIMME AN F..." I remember my dad, commenting about that black guy playing the "Star Spangled Banner" on an upside-down guitar.

By age 13, I was fully aware that Macon, GA, was the hometown of Capricorn Records. The buzz in the air was huge even down at my age level. The Allman Brothers Band were really starting to take off.  I had two "ne'er do wells" move in next door. They were a year and two years older than me. They had long hair. On October 29, 1971, we were all at a school Halloween carnival when we heard that a few miles away Duane Allman had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Some girl near us freaked out because she thought it was Donnie Osmond. I wanted to punch her out.

Over the next few years, the boys next door and I became really consumed with listening to music. And smoking pot. We all ran out to get Eat a Peach on street date. We went to the Macon Auditorium show where the Allmans debuted songs from the album. I still have photos from that show.

During all of this musical awakening for me, I became aware of Phil Walden. He was the dude in Macon, GA. After managing Otis Redding and Sam and Dave from this little southern town, he started Capricorn Records and managed the Allman Brothers Band.  Because of him, people like Andy Warhol and other celebs were showing up in town.

Throughout high school, I had a pretty good seat to watch what went on in the Macon music industry. I rode past the "Big House" where the Allmans lived on my way to school every day. My dad employed women who were married to Capricorn band roadies. I worked with them during the summers.  Elaine and I got really involved with the Wet Willie team. As 16- and 17-year-olds, we would watch Happy Days weekly at the road manager's house with a bunch of people. I also interviewed Capricorn's head of marketing for the Central
High paper.

All that time, I never met Phil Walden.  But, I knew he had the coolest job ever. Little did I know that there was chaos behind the scenes caused by bad drugs and bad decisions. In my eyes, this guy was a legend. I read every word I could get on him. I thought it was so cool that he got involved with Jimmy Carter's campaign.  That election was my first as a voter.

I went off to college and Macon's music scene flamed out. Walden declared bankruptcy and disco took over. Over the next 10 years, I went to college, moved to Dallas to be an engineer for the Haggar Company. I was following my dad's footsteps into the apparel industry. I was still a music fan. Elaine and I camped out for tickets to every show. But, something was really missing.

When CDs came out, I was driving to Waterloo down in Austin buying imports. A company in Dallas called "Compact Disc Centers of Dallas" opened up and I loved it. They had everything. I went to Elaine and told her I was sick of engineering. I wanted to get into the music business. She immediately said, "Hell, yeah." It was always there in my soul, I just did not have the courage to act on it. I hated my job so much that I got brave and opened my own CD store.

During the past 15 years, I was able to sit with Phil Walden several times. Sometimes it was a Cake or 311 meeting. One time it was in the study of his Buckhead home just shooting the bull. I remember having to pitch myself. I remember writing him a letter on behalf of Widespread Panic urging him to release a live album. I reminded him that he was involved in the best live record ever. Now I had the coolest job in the world!

Phil Walden died on Sunday at a very young 66. He had a long running battle with cancer. The early inspiration of listening to my mother's singing and watching Phil Walden launch a musical genre are why I am in this business. When I talked to Robbie Nell early this morning and told her Phil had died, she said, "Well, bless his heart."  May he rest in peace.

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