Family Forestry in Twiggs County, Georgia / Live in Macon at the Douglass Theatre

Dry Branch, Georgia
Published February 6, 2006
County Map of Georgia highlighting Bibb and Twiggs Counties.

This essay examines two spaces dear to musician and conservationist Chuck Leavell. In Part One, Leavell discusses forest management on a small portion of his property in Twiggs County, Georgia. In Part Two, he performs solo piano pieces at the historic Douglass Theater in downtown Macon, Georgia.

Family Forestry

Live in Macon

On December 3, 2004 Chuck Leavell performed a solo piano concert at the historic Douglass Theatre in downtown Macon, Georgia. Included here are three songs, a standard blues and two instrumentals composed by Leavell.

About Chuck Leavell

In 1967, when he was fifteen, Alabama-native Chuck Leavell made his way to Muscle Shoals, Alabama's legendary studios where he played on several records, including Freddy North's soul classic "Don't Take Her, She's All I've Got." In 1969 Chuck moved to Macon, Georgia, where southern music impresario Phil Walden had recently opened Capricorn Records and studio. There he joined Alex Taylor's (brother of James Taylor) band Friends and Neighbor for a year and a half and appears on his Capricorn album, Dinnertime. Next, Leavell spent six months on the road with Dr. John (Mac Rebennack). He refers to his time with Dr. John as his "college education," watching and listening to a master at work.

In 1972, after the death of Duane Allman and prior to the death of Berry Oakley, Leavell, barely twenty, was asked to join the Allman Brothers Band on piano and electric piano. The first album he recorded with the band was Brothers and Sisters, which hit number one on Billboard's Pop charts and included "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." Leavell recorded two more albums before the Allmans disbanded. Emerging from the break-up with his rock/jazz/blues fusion group Sea Level, the band toured heavily during the late 1970s and released five albums.

Catching the ears of and becoming friends with the late rock 'n' roll impresario Bill Graham and keyboardist Ian Stewart, the original "sixth" Rolling Stone, in 1982 Leavell was invited to assume a significant keyboardist/vocalist role for the Stones. "Chuck is our direct link to Stu," says guitarist Keith Richards. "Without that continuity, the Stones would not be the Stones." Leavell describes his role with the Stones as a "musical navigator" who keeps track of arrangements and keeps things balanced in addition to spicing up the music with his keyboards.

In addition to solo projects and working with Stones members and their various projects, Leavell is an in-demand session player and producer. His credits include recordings by Gregg Allman, Chuck Berry, the Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Larry Carlton, Eric Clapton (notably, the Grammy-winning Unplugged album), Aretha Franklin, George Harrison, Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule, John Hiatt, the Indigo Girls, Train, Dave Edmunds, Dion and other artists.

His musical portrait, Southscape, was released in August of 2005. The nine tracks include eight new songs written or co-written by Leavell and a re-visitation of "Jessica". In addition to musical recording and touring, Leavell manages his pine forested Charlane Plantation located in Twiggs County, Georgia. To help shape policy and to promote sound forestry management practices in the United States, Leavell published Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest (2001). He also speaks to a variety of groups and meets with environmental officials in Washington. He and his wife Rose Lane were named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1999.

From The Tree Farmer, illustration by Rebecca Bleau

About the Compilers

This essay represents the efforts of several people who worked individually and collectively over many months to bring this piece together. Steve Bransford filmed and edited the three forestry pieces featuring Chuck Leavell over the course of four years; filmed and edited Peacock's Portable Saw Mill; edited the 1960s era footage; and, along with Sarah Toton, made the forestry maps using USGS data and ESRI shapefiles.

About the Douglass Theatre

Macon native Charles Henry Douglass, an African American entrepreneur, opened the Douglass Theatre in Macon in 1912 to serve Macon's African American community. The original theater was located at 363 Broadway until 1921 when it moved into a larger space next door at 355 Broadway. The new facility accommodated seven-hundred fifty to eight hundred patrons and quickly became the hub of African American entertainment in Macon. As the premiere African American performance venue in segregated Macon, the Douglass Theater operated as a movie house and a center for live entertainment, including vaudeville and eclectic musical acts. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Little Richard, James Brown and Otis Redding all graced the stage of the Douglass. Upon the death of Charles Henry Douglass' son Peter in 1973, the theater closed. The building was eventually purchased by the city of Macon in 1978 and after an extensive renovation, the Douglass Theater on January 11, 1997 and continues to show films and host live entertainment.


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