Photo – Toby Keith being interviewed on the Red Carpet event with legendary producer Harold Shedd in the background
By Tim Collins – Publisher Chapel Hill News & Views & Villa Rica News & Views
Thursday, August 23 will go down in history as the day the stars came to Bremen. Beginning with the renaming of a section of Hwy. 27 to Harold Shedd Highway and ending with a performance by country megastar Toby Keith, the day and evening was full of surprise appearances by countless celebrities who came to honor one of the most famous music producers in country music history.
Harold Shedd, a native of Bremen, discovered and/or produced such household names as the band Alabama, Toby Keith, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Billy Ray Cyrus and more. As countless musicians and individuals told their story of how Shedd had impacted their career and their life, it became more and more apparent just how special this man is.
Most of the day’s events were held at the new Mill Town Music Hall (1031 Alabama Avenue, Bremen, GA 30110), a venue that hosts quality, wholesome entertainment in West Georgia. Proceeds from the Harold Shedd Tribute concert supported a Music Business student scholarship at Kennesaw State University and the Tanner Medical Foundation’s Music Therapy Program. Tickets were very hard to come by because so many of them went to those whose lives Shedd had impacted as well as family and friends.
However, those who did not have a ticket were able to see the red carpet event (see Photo Gallery), which included appearances by numerous celebrities including Toby Keith, Mel Tillis, members of the band Alabama, Oklahoma University and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer, Doug Stone, John Berry and many others.
The concert featured performances by many artists including Mel Tillis, members of Alabama (who played their hit “Mountain Music”), Doug Stone, the Disfunctional Four, a lively statement by coach Barry Switzer, Harold McWhorter, and finally a four song set by Toby Keith. Legendary disc jockey Rhubarb Jones hosted the event.
Although the entire show was an event to remember, the highlight of the night was Toby Keith who made the statement that he would have walked to Bremen and played in a phone booth to honor Shedd. He normally packs large arenas, so to have him play in a small 1,000 seat venue is very unusual. As he took the stage, he began to talk about how he came to meet Shedd, who discovered him. Of the approximately 30 minutes that he was on stage, he spent about half the time sharing with the audience his experiences breaking into the music industry with the help of Shedd.
He recounted that a couple of years prior to meeting the producer, he had traveled to Nashville to meet with another label, but the label basically told him he wasn’t ready for the big-time yet, so a discouraged Keith went back to Oklahoma. About a year and a half later Harold Shedd was on an airplane and a stewardess recognized him and told him that he should check out this band in Oklahoma. Shedd asked her for a tape, which she just happened to have. When Shedd arrived at his destination, he listened to it while driving after the flight.
Keith said that at that point in his career, in 1991, he was playing in small venues in Oklahoma and earning $280 a week. He remembered one morning when he had just kissed his wife goodbye as she left for work and he got a call from Harold Shedd who asked him if he was the one singing on the tape, to which he answered yes. He also asked who had written the songs, and Keith said he did. Shedd then said he’d like to come listen to him play. The next morning he met with Shedd who offered him a contract. At this point in the show, Keith played his first hit “Should Have Been a Cowboy”, which was one of the songs that had attracted Shedd to him.
After the first song, another in-depth story followed about Keith’s early career and how it tied in to Harold Shedd. He talked about the difficulties in getting airplay in the early years. He also reminisced about how shortly after he was signed, Shedd signed Shania Twain, and another executive signed a third artist to the label. The company had only budgeted to send two artists on tour, and Shedd had to really fight for Keith to be one of those stars. Ultimately they sent all 3 out with Keith as the opening act. After 3 shows, the order changed and Keith closed out the shows.
He also talked about a song called “Does the Blue Moon Ever Shine on You”, which some of the creative people at the label thought would never work, and they refused to put it on an album. Keith, being somewhat of a rebel by nature decided to play it at the concerts and it drew rave reviews from audiences, so he was delighted to tell the creative “experts”, when asked, that the song they had dismissed as not worthy of putting on an album was one of the more popular songs at the concerts. He then said, I hope I can remember it because we never play it, but we are going to do this song now. The song performance was flawless.
He closed out the concert with his new hit “Red Solo Cup”, and as he did the stage filled with those who had performed earlier, all holding red solo cups.
During the concert, Bremen Mayor Sharon Sewell came to the stage with an assistant carrying what looked to be a large picture, covered by a cloth. It turned out to be a new road sign as the street adjacent to Mill Town Music Hall became renamed Music Mill Drive, named after Shedd’s recording studio in Nashville, The Music Mill.
The other big announcement of the evening was the unveiling of plans for the Harold Shedd Music Mill Gallery, which will be right next door to the Mill Town Music Hall. Not only will the museum hold memorabilia from Shedd’s 50 years in the music business, but many of the stars he has produced and discovered are also donating items for the museum. This should be a very popular tourist attraction, and a huge asset to the community.
Born in Buchanan and raised in Bremen, GA, Shedd played in a local band and served as a disc jockey for 14 years prior to moving to Nashville. In 1979, he was instrumental in signing Alabama for RCA and then produced 21 consecutive number one hits for the band. He also produced albums for Mel Tillis, Louise Mandrell, Glen Campbell and Reba McEntire. In 1988, Shedd joined Mercury Polygram Records Nashville, where during the next six years he oversaw the signing of Kentucky Headhunters, Shania Twain, Billy Ray Cyrus, Toby Keith and Kathy Mattea. Shedd was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1989.
In less than a year, Mill Town Music Hall has already become the premier venue for live music between Birmingham and Atlanta. In addition to this event, they recently featured a sold out performance by the Oak Ridge Boys, and Christian music superstar Steven Curtis Chapman.
Publisher’s note: The facility’s owner Randall Redding, a man of deep faith, felt like God wanted him to build a concert hall that would offer family friendly entertainment and be a blessing to the community. Each concert begins by him leading a prayer asking God to bless the evening and thanking him for those who are in attendance and the performers, and asking that the night would bring him glory. So many people have told me, without me asking, that he is one of the kindest and most sincere people that they know, and that what you see on stage leading a prayer is how he is in real life. I have had a chance to meet him briefly at both concerts, and I have been so impressed with him. He is very humble and truly grateful for those in attendance and how God has blessed his business.