December is always a hectic time. Family is flying in from god knows where, people are stressed out as they finish important task like finals or quarterly reports or Crossy Road. between all that plus the seemingly endless parade of holiday parties, it's easy to get lost in hustle and bustle that is December.
That is until something forces you to stop and usually it's something tragic and this last month, it was. Before I had a chance to start drowning in holiday spirit, I (along with the world) lost a great friend. His name was Alex Cooley. I'm going to assume most of you have no clue who that is so I'll tell you...
Alex Cooley was (and will remain) a music legend in the Southeast. Back in the late 60's early 70's big music acts didn't want to come to the south because they believed it was nothing but a bunch of bluegrass loving rednecks. That's when Cooley stepped in. in 1969 Alex and two partners created the Atlanta International Pop Festival. Imagine all those videos you see of Woodstock from that era, except in Georgia. As a matter of fact, the Atlanta Festival was actually more than a month before Woodstock even happened. Alex convinced acts like Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Led Zeppelin (who Woodstock couldn't get), Jimi Hendrix (giving Hendrix the biggest audience he would have in his lifetime), B.B. King, and the Allman Brothers to come to a sleepy Georgia town and play a festival. He brought rock to the south.
In that same year he was 1/2 of the team that created the Texas International Pop Festival in Dallas and later brought his festival to Puerto Rico.
That's how he made is name and from there, he kept building. He stepped away from festivals to focus on creating venues. Atlanta natives may have heard of a few: the Electric Ballroom, the Capri Ballroom, The Roxy, The Cotton Club, and The Tabernacle. He booked shows at The Omni, the Great Southeast Music Hall, and the Fox (even helping to save the it when it was going to be demolished in the mid-70s)!
Probably the biggest impact he's had on Georgians is the creation of Music Midtown. Aside from bring us awful traffic for a couple days it is THE quintessential Atlanta music festival. Without Alex's contributions to music in Georgia, we wouldn't have festivals like Counterpoint or Tomorrowworld.
Eventually, Alex sold his empire to a little company that was trying to grow its presence in the south called Live Nation. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, then somewhere along the line he bought a small music venue in Atlanta called Eddie's Attic. There he hired a young man to be a doorman who he fired 6 months later. Then he asked him to come back and wait tables. Then he took him aside and told him he had potential and could do great things. Then he promoted that man and made him the Production Manager of that venue, adding his name to the list of people who became something in those walls (John Mayer, India Arie, Sugerland, the Indigo Girls). Then a week before Alex passed he took, that man aside and said, "I'm proud of the man you are and the man you're becoming. You've grown since I first brought you on and I appreciate all the work you put in.You will be great."
I hope I can keep making him proud.