Albany, Georgia Rocks a Long Musical History

Posted on 4/17/2015 by Rashelle

Categories: ArtsHistoryTravel

One thing is for sure – Albany, Georgia really knows how to rock! When you come to Albany, you’ll almost certainly stop and see our rotating monument to Ray Charles on Front Street. Plenty of people know that the soul pioneer was an Albany native, born here in 1930, and lots of people also know how proud we are of our most recent hometown musical celebrities, Luke Bryan and Phillip Phillips. Country star Luke Bryan was born in the suburb of Leesburg, and got his start as a songwriter for the likes of Billy Currington and Travis Tritt before recording his own albums and shooting to stardom. And 11th American Idol Phillip Phillips was born right here in Albany and grew up in Bryan’s hometown of Leesburg, winning the 2010 “Albany Star” competition before going on to be the American Idol champion with the best-selling ‘coronation single’ to date.


But Albany’s best-known musical acts aren’t all we have to offer! Still performing every second Saturday at Old Mt. Zion Church at the Albany Civil Rights Institute, the Freedom Singers formed all the way back in 1962 to bolster the integration effort and the push for the extension of civil rights to all people. Using music to both educate and inspire listeners, the Freedom Singers and other musical groups contributed so much to morale, they are widely considered to be the “soul of the movement.” Original Freedom Singer Rutha Mae Harris still performs monthly with the group; check our calendar for details on performances.

Long before the Freedom Singers were organized, Albany native Harry James made a name for himself as a trumpeter, bandleader, and movie star. Born in Albany in 1916, James was the son of a bandleader with music in his blood. He debuted his big band in 1939 in Philadelphia, and was the first “name band” to feature Frank Sinatra’s vocals that same year. James was featured in more than 15 films, had more than 40 hit singles (some of which you’re sure to know), and toured with The Harry James Orchestra through the 1980s; the Orchestra still tours today, although James passed away in 1983.

For more information on the rich musical history resident in Albany, visit our website!

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