E X C E R P T

Earl “Good Rockin” Brown:

“The sad part...one of the most frightening incidents that took place in my life, when I was nineteen years old, right outside of Macon, Georgia. That’s when we came face to face with the Ku-Klux-Klan.” Brown: “The sad part...one of the most frightening incidents that took place in my life. 

Earl Brown

When I was nineteen years old, right out of Macon, Georgia. That’s when we came face to face with the Ku-Klux-Klan. In a lot of the southern towns they had places to set up eight or nine or ten miles from town where bands would play. And so this particular place was about ten or twelve miles on the outskirts of Macon, Georgia. And we had finished playing an engagement, and loaded up on the bus, and our manager was a Third Degree Mason. I didn’t know what Masons was, I knew little of the organization, what it represented. But he would tell us little bits and pieces on the tour. And so he was the manager of the group, and he took care of business, And so, on the way back headed towards Macon, after finishing that engagement, must have been round about two o’clock in the morning. And we wasn’t going fast. All of a sudden, I had just kicked back ready to doze off, getting ready for the next town, you know what I mean? And so I could feel the bus swaying, you know? That got our attention. On the side of the bus was a white couple, young, in a convertible, holding up a fifth of liquor. You could tell he was drunk, the guy was drunk. And he want to have some fun, and he was trying to run into the side of the bus. And that’s why the bus was swaying, trying to slow down. And he got in front of the bus and wouldn’t let us pass. And by this time everybody on the bus was awake, wide awake now. “Well what’s going on?” And so, we’re looking out the window and this guy, our manager, got fed up with this. And so he wait till the guy got on the side of the bus where the driver was. And so he opened up his briefcase and he pulled out his pistol and stuck it out the window. And the guy saw this in the convertible and he took off. He took off. And so we thought that this was the end of it, OK? Man, surely about fifteen minutes after that we was coming into Macon. Off in the way distance we could see the lights flashing and the torches...fire, you know. And so as we get closer we can see exactly that they had the road blocked off. So we said to ourselves, you know what I mean. I was scared to death, I’m nineteen, I ain’t never had...I had heard about these kind of things but the older ones, the other members of the band, they say, “Well, we’re not gonna let nobody beat on us. We ain’t did nothing wrong and if we’re gonna have to die we’re going down fighting.” We geared up for, you know, hey. We ain’t going to let nobody beat on us. And so we had to stop, they had it blocked off. So as soon as we stopped and the bus drive opened the door, and the manager said, “Let me try to talk to ‘em.” So a few of the Ku-Klux-Klan people came on the bus hollering obscene names to us, rustling us and the police mixed in with them, rustling us off the bus. And had us stand outside the bus with our hands...

Mathews: So the cops were there too.

Brown: Yeah. The cops, yeah, they was there too. And some of the local people that wanted to see what was happening. So everybody was whooping and hollering, saying hey, this was going to be a thrashing. And so Ray Charles was standing on the other side of me. We all had our hands up against the bus. And so by that time, all the shouting and stuff, I could see from the side, I saw our manager go to the head police guy that seemed to be in charge, and he shook that man’s hand. And I never will forget this. He shook this man’s hand...that guy, he just froze. The policeman froze, he was just shocked. It just happened for a few seconds. And I saw that and in my mind I said, “What is going on?” As soon as he shook that policeman’s hand, that policeman holler out to everybody, “Hey, hey! I want everybody to be quiet. Stop! I don’t want nobody to say nothing!” And he said, “These people haven’t did anything. There’s a big misunderstanding here. I want everybody to go home and we’re gonna see that these people get back on the bus and we’re going to escort them on their way.” 

Mathews: Guys in the white sheets and the whole thing?

Brown: Yeah, yeah. Our manager, he was a Third Degree Mason. He shook this man’s hand, and after he shook his hand, then he embraced his other hand and then he whispered something into his ear. And after that, this man, he say, “Hey. Everybody...we got the wrong information here. These people haven’t did anything, and we want everybody to just go on home. Go about your business, because these people here haven’t done anything wrong and we’re going to escort them on through the town.” Ku-Klux-Klan and all the other folks were whooping and hollering, they turned around, they put out their torches and they turned off the lights and all this stuff and we got back on the bus and our manager stood there talking with he police for about three or four minutes, as people start to fan out. Because the Ku-Klux-Klan, see, I know now after years of experience, the Ku-Klux-Klan was the top local officials type people, probably some of them was the policemen themselves. See what I mean? So, but anyway, the guy that was in charge, they respected him to obey his words. And we got back on the bus and we was escorted through Macon, Georgia and on our way.

Mathews: Have you any idea what it was that the manager was able to say to this guy? 

Brown: I learned that the Mason organization is powerful. See, that’s an organization where, I don’t care what color your skin is...

Mathews: Did he have the ring? 

Brown: Yeah, he had a ring. And I know that if you’re a Mason, I don’t care no matter where you are at...if you are in trouble, if you’re standing on the side of the highway and if you know how to give the signs...if another Mason see you, that Mason gonna stop, and help you. No matter...I don’t care how he personally feel or whatever. But if he’s a Mason, he gonna stop and help you. 

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L  I S T E N   T O   T H E   M U S I C :

California Rhythm and Blues Music: 1945-1955

1. Everyday I Have the Blues: Earl Good Rockin’ Brown with Lowell Fulson’s band (1949)

Everyday I Have the Blues

2. Double Crossing Blues: Johnny Otis with Little Esther Phillips (1949)

Double Crossing Blues

 

3. Honkey Tonk: Bill Doggett (1956)

 

Honkey Tonk