Recognizing Influential Black Musicians from Newton County
June is African American Music Appreciation Month, formerly called National Black Music Month. It’s a time to celebrate the contributions and influences of black musicians. With the south being historically rooted in rich African American traditions, their music has inspired generations. Some of the music genres include Sacred music, folk music, the Blues, jazz, R&B, rock ‘n roll, hip hop and rap.
When you think of black musicians, there are probably some famous ones that come to mind. We have quite a few local black musicians from Covington that have made names for themselves. Here are some of the more well-known ones:
Born in Covington in 1906, Curley Weaver was known much of his life as Georgia’s Guitar Wizard. His mother, Savannah Shepard, who was also a well-known guitarist in gospel, taught him guitar but he learned slide guitar from the legendary bluesman Nehemia Smith and Blind Buddy Keith. When he was 19 years old, he teamed up with Harmonica player Eddie Mapp. Then when he was 28 years old, he hooked up with Barbecue Bob and Buddy Moss, who was one of the most admired blues musicians along the East Coast.
Curley Weaver recorded with Barbecue Bob, but he became more well-known after he laid down two tracks in 1928 called “Sweet Petunia” and “No No Blues”. He would go on to do duets with Blind Willie McTell, who wrote the song “Statesboro Blues” covered by The Allman Brothers Band in the early 1970s.
The best way to appreciate the African American musical contributions of Curley Weaver is to listen to his music. Two suggested blues selections are No No Blues and She Don't Treat Me Good No More.
George Rufus Adams
George Rufus Adams was a band leader and jazz musician with a passion for tenor saxophone and flute. He was also known for his unique use of idoiosyncratic singing. Born in Covington in 1942, he started playing piano at age 11 and turned to tenor saxophone in high school. When studying at Clark College, he took flute lessons from Wayman Carver.
Georgia Rufus Adams earned his initial fame through his association with Charles Mingus in the 1970s. He also worked with Gil Evans, Roy Haynes and in the quartet he co-led with pianist Don Pullen, featuring bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Dannie Richmond.
In appreciation of his African American music contributions, we suggest listening to a favorite such as Blues for Monet and the amazing cover of What a Wonderful World.
Cora Mae Bryant
An Oxford native, Cora Mae Bryant was the daughter of famed bluesman Curly Weaver, who we mentioned above. When the weekend came, her dad would take her with him as he casually performed. They would often meet up with his friends Blind Willie McTell and Buddy Moss. Thought of as a blues scholar, Cora Mae Bryant would sing along as the bluesmen created music and learned from them. She became highly regarded as a blues musician on her own and played with Blind Willie McTell. She recorded two albums, including her soulful release, Born in Newton County. Listen to her intimate baritone sound in Live So God Can Use You and Born to Die.
While the current pandemic cancelled the annual Sweet Petunia Blues Festival in Porterdale this year, look for this festival that honors Cora Rae Bryant and her father Curley Weaver next year. This southern blues soul event is held at the Porter Memorial Gym and has live band performances throughout the day.
T.K. Adams and Tim Adams
The presence and African American music influence of T.K. Adams has been felt in Newton County for a long time. A retired educator and band director for 36 years at Cousins Middle School, he was a four-time Teacher of the Year and one of the first inductees, along with his wife Louise, in Newton County School System’s Educator Hall of Fame. He earned recognition in the summer of 1966 when 10 of his students went on a tour of Europe with the school band and chorus of America. In 1993, he established the Newton County Community Band. His last recital with the band was on July 4, 2014, but his influence continues through the band’s existence. Playing jazz, sacred music, marches and other genres, the Newton County Community Band plays at various events in Newton County throughout the year.
T.K. Adams’ influence and musical talent carried on to his son, Timothy K. Adams Jr. (Tim Adams), who is a classical musician. Tim’s career includes 15 years as the principal timpanist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as well as playing with the Florida Philharmonic and the Indianapolis Symphony. He was also a well-regarded instructor at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh before being appointed chair of the percussion department at the University of Georgia's School of Music.