Georgia’s musical heritage is deep and rich and it’s contribution to American musical history is substantial and extends to influencing the origins of many genres. Rolling Stone magazine ranked four Georgia natives among the top 50 ‘Immortals’: Ray Charles , Otis Reading, James Brown and Little Richard, who continues to entertain audiences today. Other include Gladys Knight, Trishia Yearwood, Travis Tritt, opera star Jessye Norman and of course the band R.E.M.
Other Georgians have also made lasting impressions on the music industry. Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded the first country music record in Georgia in 1923 in Georgia. The sound of big band and swing also got there starts here. Fletcher Henderson founded his orchestra in 1924 and soon after hired Louis Armstrong. ‘Georgia Tom’ Dorsey of Villa Rica is known as the father of Gospel music, while the Lewis Family from Lincolnton is known as the first family of Blue-grass. Georgians made major contributions to blues as well: among them are ‘mother of the blue’ Gerrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, of Columbus, and Blind Willie McTell born in Thomson. The genre of Southern rock (a mix of rock ‘n ‘ roll and blues with a hint of country and folk) reached its apex in the 1970’s. Some of the most famous names associated with the sounds are from Georgia, including the Allman Brothers Band (from Capricorn records which was originally launched in Macon), Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Dixie Dregs. The bands crossed many social and cultural boundaries with their racially diverse members, progressive politics and unique folksy culture.