Christopher Walken once said, “I’ve got a fever and the only cure is more cowbell” while playing a music producer in a famous Saturday Night Live sketch.
Well, in a way, Jonesboro needs more cowbell.
It needs to do more to embrace music — and its ties to music history — but fortunately this is one area where the groundwork has already been laid out for growth.
The city spent the last two summers having to make do without its annual summer concert series. Some of that void was filled last year with the first annual Jonesboro Jazz Under the Stars concert and a performance by a Beatles cover band.
This year, the jazz concert will return and there will be a small-scale revival of the concert series. That’s good for the city. In this regard, Jonesboro is embracing the performing arts.
With preparation for the concert series revival still somewhat in the early stages, might I offer a suggestion: Infuse the city’s summer concert series with some indie and small-label musicians from various genres.
These folks are constantly on the road and looking for a venue to perform so they can build an audience.
Of course, a key to marketing this would be to try and take the social media world by storm. Get on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram and do as much marketing as possible. It’s a cheap but effective way to promote such an event.
And the city needs to play up the fact that it has a place in rock history.
It’s something old-time Jonesboro residents might remember, but younger and newer residents may not know: The city’s downtown area is forever tied to the early days of a famous southern rock band.
The cover art for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album (it was titled “pronounced 'leh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd”) was a photograph of the band standing on South Main Street. Right over the band members’ left shoulders is the West Mill Street intersection and the historic train depot.
If the album name doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps some of the song titles will.
You may have heard of “Free Bird” or “Simple Man.” There was some other song on there called “Gimme Three Steps.”
Do any of those names ring a bell?
Perhaps the final installment in each year’s concert series could be an all-day weekend “Free Bird” music festival with stages set up in various areas around the city.
There could be one at the top of the Historic Courthouse lawn. If this doesn’t work, just put it at Battleground Park and try to set up a way to run a shuttle service to the downtown area.
Another one could be set up at Lee Street Park.
A stage could be put in the park behind City Hall.
The fourth and possibly fifth stages could be put on Main Street. One could be set up on the block of South Main Street located between West Mill Street and Church Street. The potential fourth stage could be located just south of Smith Street on North Main Street, although this could be put off by a couple of years to give the festival time to grow.
Perhaps one of the big churches in downtown could participate and let its sanctuary be used as a stage for Christian rock and gospel musicians.
If the city doesn’t do an all-day festival at first, it could at least try a half-day festival with musicians from a variety of genres, including classic rock, alternative, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, hip hop and various forms of religious music.
This would be a great way to bring new tourists into the city and it could help Jonesboro establish itself as a haven for artists of all types.
Curt Yeomans is the Senior Reporter for the Clayton News Daily and an avid traveler. He can be reached by phone at 770-478-5753, ext. 247, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CYeomansCND.