MEET OUR GUESTSAnthony McDaniel and Rebekah Beumel, who have been dating for more than two years, are first-time visitors from Orlando, Florida. Angela Mosely is a native Savannahian and substitute teacher. She has a 16-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. Alex Holloway, and his girlfriend, Christine Bishop, are both Savannah natives. Alex belongs to the punk rock band Ramba Ral and tends a parking booth on River Street. Christine is an artist. James Pringle came to Savannah by way of Virginia “many years ago.” He’s a regular in Wright Square, where he sells his palm roses. Thomas Sullivan has been a Savannahian all his life. The former furniture store owner operates Sullivan Rental Properties. He’s married and has two daughters. Unsure of how this whole experiment will go down, we choose our first victims carefully. Anthony McDaniel and Rebekah Beumel are snuggled up on a nearby bench, with the look of open curiosity that only tourists have.
Savannah Magazine: What are your first impressions of our city?Anthony: I do like that you can drink down here. That’s a really cool feature of the city. SM: We get that a lot. But you get used to it, then go to another city and forget. That’s not so good. What do you do back home? Anthony: I’m a deputy sheriff. SM: Uh-oh (laughter). Rebekah: It’s okay, he’s really cool. SM: What have y’all been up to today? Any strange encounters? Rebekah: Everyone has been really nice. But compared to Florida, pretty much everyone is nice. We aren’t known for friendliness. SM: Well, we have our issues. Crime is something we’ve been talking a lot about lately. Rebekah: Is it bad here? Anthony: To be honest with you, we saw a kid breaking into a car our first night here. He looked in the car and put a dud key into the door, and when he saw me, he took off. But there were police everywhere, so we just walked to the next block, told a cop, and he radioed it in. Rebekah: He’s always aware, and I’m just oblivious. SM: So you’re always safe, and he’s always in danger? (Laughter) Anthony: Exactly! But I have to say that it feels like a safe city to me. One thing you all do have a good control over is panhandling. Rebekah: In Orlando, people get in your face. You can’t go anywhere. Anthony: We’re almost expected to give money, but here we haven’t been asked for money once. We think this might be our chance to ask for money, but we don’t want to tarnish their impression of Savannah. About two minutes and one brisk rejection later, we catch the attention of Angela Mosley, who’s on her way to pick up her parents from a restaurant, but—true to her Savannah roots—doesn’t mind a polite stop to chat with complete strangers.
Savannah Magazine: As you’re a teacher here in Savannah, what are your thoughts about our schools?Angela: The curriculum is awesome. The students? I’ll say … challenging. They’re sociable. But they’re a good group of children. I enjoy working with them. SM: Growing up, what schools did you attend? Angela: I went to Gadsden Elementary first, Juliette Low, Myers, Johnson for two years, and I graduated from Windsor Forest. SM: How do the schools compare today? Angela: The teachers have a lot to deal with now because it takes a long time to get the children settled. When we were going to school, we didn’t have all that. Whatever the teachers said, that’s what we did. The teachers need to communicate with the parents, and the parents need to become more involved. I love it, though. SM: What do you love about it? Angela: I love working with the small ones. The middle school ones are trying to find themselves and the high school ones already know everything. SM: What keeps you in this area? Angela: This is a nice area to raise children. You have crime, but every place you go, you’re gonna have crime. Atlanta is too fast, too wild for me. But you can’t find a real nice job that pays something here. I have a master’s degree in criminal justice. But the school system offers me flexibility, whereas a job in criminal justice wouldn’t give me the time to go to my son or daughter’s school and do the extracurricular activities. SM: Why did you move to Pooler? Angela: They say it’s cooler in Pooler! (Laughs.) SM: But is it? Angela: Yeah. They got a lot. They have the Tanger Outlets and all sorts of businesses out there. I love it out there. SM: What do you see as some of Savannah’s biggest challenges? Angela: I hope they come up with a solution for the crime rate. I just pray that they take control of that. SM: Lots of people are talking about it, but in your experience, is crime worse now? Angela: It’s kind of off and on. You know, it starts up, then dies down, then it’ll start up again. I don’t know what’s going on. It hasn’t affected me, thank God for that. SM: Do you think the police force is doing what it can? Angela: I believe they’re doing a good job, but the community needs to learn to trust them again. We need collaboration between the officers and the people of the community. A young man with a tennis-ball-green shock of hair catches our eye. We hazard a guess that he’s a SCAD student, but we’re surprised to find that both Alex Holloway and his girlfriend, Christine Bishop, are native Savannahians—and easily swayed to stop and sit awhile.
Savannah Magazine: You’re a musician? Tell us about Savannah’s music scene.Alex: It’s getting bigger. It used to be very small. There’s more of a metal scene. There are a lot more producers and shows. It’s still mostly just people in houses starting their own labels. SM: Where’s your favorite place to perform? Alex: The Jinx. But there are a lot of house shows. SCAD students rent these huge houses we can play in. If you’re underage, you can’t be in a bar and listen to music anymore. When I was growing up, there were tons of venues you could be in when you were 18; you just wouldn’t drink. They’d put an “X” on your hand. But now, I think that the old money in Savannah is worried about lawsuits. SM: What are some of your favorite local bands? Alex: There’s this new band—I think they’re a couple of SCAD kids—called the Anxiety Junkies. There’s Crazy Bag Lady, and they’ve got one of their production companies, Dad Joke. Those are the people I’ve been trying to talk to, but mingling has never really been my thing. I guess I’m more outspoken than the rest of my band members, unless they’re drinking. Then they’re an open book. SM: (To Christine) And you’re an artist? Do you show your artwork in Savannah? Christine: I have a piece in Los Angeles right now. I don’t really sell my stuff too often. I do some painting at The Crab Shack—some of their props. SM: Alex, you must see a lot of things tending a parking booth on River Street. Alex: A lot of people falling down. (Laughter.) I work during the day, but ever since they made it so you can buy alcohol on Sundays, I see people falling down all over the place. Mostly, I just spend my time reading and waiting for people to ask me the same question over and over. SM: Which is? Alex: “Is there any parking?” (Laughter.) You also see bodies getting pulled up out of the river. I’ve seen two or three working there. The most recent one I won’t ever forget. When the wind blew toward my face, it was the most putrid smell. You can’t forget that smell. SM: That’s awful. Was it an accident or foul play? Alex: I don’t know. But I will say that Savannah’s greatest challenge right now is crime. One of the guys I work with, his cousin got shot right on River Street. It’s very close. SM: What do you think a solution would be? Alex: That’s a good question. I don’t think cops are helping any. They’re going after small-time criminals instead of going after the bigger stuff. But it’s a difficult question. Maybe more cameras on the streets—with facial recognition, or where you can read someone’s body language to see if they’re up to no good. But then you might end up with something like Minority Report. SM: So, you have a green Mohawk, or what would be a Mohawk with the right hair product. Do you feel like Savannah is a place where you can express yourself freely? Alex: Oh, yeah. At work, I always get the question, “So, what’s up with your hair? Can’t you pick a color?” At my job, it doesn’t matter what I look like. There are a lot of other workplaces where that’s clearly not acceptable. But that’s not to say that people don’t judge me. At that moment, James Pringle parks himself on a neighboring bench and begins to fold a palmetto frond.
Savannah Magazine: How long have you been selling palm roses down here?James: I’ve been doing this for quite a while here. Going on 25 years. I teach on Wednesdays and Mondays. I don’t want to just leave and let this knowledge go. I pass it on like it’s been passed onto me. See, my grandmother showed me how to do this many years ago. The palm will last for a long time. A rose will last for three or four days and you have to throw it away. But the palm will last forever. SM: Do you always sell your roses in Wright Square? James: This is the only square I come to. I don’t come to no other square and I don’t go down to that river. I’ve been coming to this square come 10 years. I’m retired and I have a pension. I just do this for gas money. I see a lot of things in this square. This used to be the hanging square. Yeah, they used to hang ’em left and right. They hanged a lady over there and she was seven months pregnant. And her son is looking for her right now. And they’d bring slaves from the river through here. See, I can see spirits, too. SM: Do you come here every afternoon? James: I come late today because I had to sing at a funeral. See, I sing, too. Yeah, I sing. (Demonstrates:) “Oh, Savannah, the little city by the sea.” (To passersby:) “Hello, ladies! Come on over and look at James’s work.” (Sings, ad-libbing:) “Oh, trees and flowers, growing everywhere. Why, you come here March 17, Lord everything green. Oh, St. Patrick, doing his thing.” (Stops singing.) Yep, my name is James Pringle, like the potato chip. But I don’t own the potato chip; that’s my daddy’s name, and I got to live with it. SM: How much do you sell the palm roses for? James: Just a little donation. That’s the way I sleep—I just try to do the right thing. My grandmother always told me that if I do the right thing, good things will come to me. But see, I ain’t never had no father in my life. See, my father left me, my sister and my mother when we was very young, and went to take care of another family. And many days I cried. (Singing:) “Oh, my flower. Oh, my flower.” SM: How late do you stay here? James: Some days I’m maybe here until 8 or 9. I might stay longer and rap with people for a while if they want to rap with me. Thomas Sullivan approaches us with his Welsh corgi, Schroeder. They’re killing time while Thomas waits to pick up his wife from Levy Jewelers, where she works. He seems happy to chat while Schroeder barks maniacally at the carriage horses passing by.
Savannah Magazine: What neighborhood did you grow up in?Thomas: Ardsley Park area. My wife and I live in Wilmington Park. We moved there about 12 years ago. It’s nice and quiet out there. SM: You never left Savannah? Thomas: No. I started to move to Winston-Salem, but I just couldn’t find the palm trees. (Laughter.) SM: From your perspective, how has Savannah changed for the better over the years? Thomas: We have a lot of nice restaurants downtown, which is great. The downtown has changed the most. It used to be boarded up—River Street used to be boarded up, too. The Telfair Museums have done a lot and the Savannah Philharmonic as well; I go to a lot of their events. SM: What still needs improvement? Thomas: They’re closing a lot of the neighborhoods downtown, and they’re moving them to the Southside. That’s where the crime starts. They tore down Fred Wessels, and they’re putting Section 8 housing on the Southside. But they have to find a place for people to live. SM: What is Savannah’s biggest challenge right now? Thomas: The government. It’s got to change. All they want to do is kiss babies and give out liquor licenses. They’re not doing anything about the communities where the crime is. They’re just talking about it. SM: Will you stay in Savannah? Thomas: Yes, I have a lot of roots here. (Turns to James) What is your name? James: My name is James Pringle. Thomas: You were married to a Watts. James: That’s right! Emma Watts. Thomas: She’s from Savannah. I used to be the furniture man. James: Yeah, I remember you! You owned that furniture store. My lady tell me about you. Thomas: I knew the whole Watts family. James: She had a stroke. She’s at St. Joseph. I didn’t know a stroke could mess your body up so bad. Thomas: I still see a lot of her family. James: And you speak at a lot of funerals, don’t you? Thomas: Yes, and I spoke at Elizabeth’s—your mother-in-law’s. I spoke at her funeral over there off Waters Avenue. James: That’s right! I remember you. Thomas: Savannah is small. You lived on 37th and Reynolds. James: You got that right. That was many years ago. Yes, sir. Thomas: Yes, sir. James: You holler at me when you see me again, and come hang out with me and drink a little tea, and I’ll sing you a song. Thomas: Alright, I will. That sounds good. Seeing this small-town connection unfold, we realize that the next time we find ourselves asking, “Where’s the humanity?” we need to look around. We need to invite humanity in and listen to its story. We may not always find the answers we seek, but we’re likely to find something unexpected, and—if the square is sunny and the bench is warm—those unexpected findings might include redemption and delight.
Play That Swampy MusicWhen each of these parts—36 local musicians representing at least 14 different bands of varying genres—is taken as a whole, the totality of a Savannah sound begins to emerge. Just as West Memphis married funk and blues, Muscle Shoals sifted soul with Southern rock, and Athens pushed the boundaries of alternative forms, a narrative thread runs through Savannah’s tapestry of punk and metal, hip hop, bluegrass and rockabilly, folk and Americana, jazz and indie rock. But it’s hard to pick out that single thread without pulling the thing apart. That sound is a brackish undercurrent—“swampy,” as guitarist Jon Waits muses—that mirrors the convergence of black rivers with salty tidal marshes and the wide, open ocean. It takes something from everything it touches. Rich in tannins, it’s where so much life and goodness spawn, where so many ancient relics lie buried, where secrets get carried away. Savannah’s music is as much a liquid crossroads as is her geography.
Papa Was a Stepping StoneFor decades, Savannah’s music scene seemed defined by the Great American Songbook, as constructed by native son Johnny Mercer—“Moon River,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Fools Rush In.” It reflected the city’s surface conservatism, even as artists like Elvis Presley passed through town and shook, rattled and rolled their way to superstardom. Then, DJs Barr Nobles and Skip Jennings began spinning the Beatles, the Byrds and outlaw country on local airwaves. Homegrown bands like the Rogues, the Trebles, Kind Dog and Topaz started playing rock covers and original tunes in school gyms and neighborhood bars. Some even toured with bigger names—a history only recently chronicled through Savannah Rocks, which continues today as a Facebook page managed by music veteran Roy Swindelle. But Savannah’s star didn’t rise on the Southern rock horizon just yet. Not the way Jacksonville or Macon’s did, with their respective breakouts, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band. In the 1980s, two things occurred that put a pushpin on our little dot on the musical map. Late bassist Ben Tucker taught a jazz appreciation course at Savannah State University that inspired the creation of the Coastal Jazz Society and the Savannah Jazz Festival. A few years later, the Savannah Music Festival—now one of Songline magazine’s Top 25 international festivals—was born. Both of these initiatives brought national and international touring artists to a town they once bypassed by on their way to Atlanta or Miami. They also gave working musicians who made their home here the rare opportunity to open for and play with bigger acts.
Welcome to the Garden“You can’t really get into Florida without passing Savannah, and you can’t get out of Florida without going by here, too, so we’re a good place to take a day during the week,” says Gil Cruz, who books talent for the Jinx, Susanne Warnekros’ Congress Street temple to Savannah’s musical acolytes. Seated on the patio at Foxy Loxy Café sporting a Black Tusk T-shirt and tatted arms, Gil recounts how, growing up in San Francisco’s Bay Area, he got swept up in ’80s skateboard culture and hardcore punk from the likes of D.C.’s Minor Threat. When he moved here in the early 2000s, it was natural for him to drift toward the Jinx, then the center of the local punk and rock universe, but he credits the underground scene as much as the club scene for nurturing the local heavy metal community. Back then, he recalls, “There were always these kids in Savannah, throwing shows. Pat Mathis [who now runs Hyperrealist Records] had a lot of house shows. Big Gas Cycles. O’Connell’s [before it moved down Congress] … bands that are huge now started there.” And the momentum continues. “Right now is really awesome,” he says, “because you have three huge metal bands based out of Savannah—well, Baroness is now out of Philly, but they started here. Kylesa, huge. Black Tusk, they’re still doing it. They’re bringing in bands that they’ve worked with. They’ve turned the spotlight on Savannah. It just makes sense that it’s growing. For a small city, it’s big.”
Straight Outta ChathamIndeed, being small may play largely in Savannah’s favor over the long haul. Over a round of drinks, Steven Baumgardner, Jared Hall, Kayne Lanahan, Jon Waits and I consider whether Savannah is about to hit the tipping point. Kayne, the director of MusicFile Productions and the founder of both the Savannah Stopover Music Festival and Revival Fest, believes that some of the landmark music events elsewhere have grown beyond their purpose. “They’re ginormous—hundreds of thousands of people, and ticket prices are really high.” “We were just talking about that very thing with [New Orleans’] Jazz Fest,” chimes in Jared, keyboardist for the vivacious gypsy-swing band Velvet Caravan and music director for the historic Trinity United Methodist Church. “If you go to these bigger festivals,” Kayne says, “you could close your eyes and be anywhere. I think when that happens, when the trend gets pushed so far, there’s a natural bounce where people are searching for things that are smaller and more authentic, and more person-to-person. If you go to something in Savannah, you know you’re in Savannah.” Jon, a Georgia-born singer-songwriter and photographer, laments growth for growth’s sake. “It becomes more about the fact that you were there than experiencing the music.”
You Can Flow Your Own WaySteven, who performs as Basik Lee, laughs about the time he and his Dope Sandwich crew went to a festival in Atlanta, where they attended forums to see what kind of advice could help them evolve. “They kept telling us to attach ourselves to what bigger cities were doing.” He shakes his head. “Instead of latching on to something, try to find your own sound.” “The whole original idea behind Stopover was to get a ton of bands in town all at once, bands that had never played here, to give them a different perspective of the city and give locals an opportunity to play with touring bands,” Kayne says. “All of the agents thought of Savannah as a C or D market; we were not on their radar. So, we felt like getting the bands to fall in love with the city—we knew they would—and letting them become the marketers for the city. You never have a band come through that has a bad time.” That’s because of the local music community, says Steven, who also hosts a hip-hop night every Tuesday at the Jinx. “Literally, everybody just helps each other out.” Club owners, fellow troubadours and fans welcome artists into their homes, letting them crash on couches, loaning sound or light equipment when something’s busted or left behind, or throwing backyard barbecues so that they can take a break from the road. “I’ve had friends and artists who have left here,” Steven says. “‘I’m going to Nashville; I’m going to Atlanta; I’m going to New York’—not realizing that everybody and their mother is going there. A lot of the acts I’ve had come here say, ‘It’s not like this where we come from.’” The rub: Savannah’s musicians know one another well—across forms, across venues—but they’re so busy gigging, they rarely get to see one another’s shows.
Savannahian RhapsodyJust after Isaac Smith delivers a soulful solo, Crazy Man Crazy’s four-man dance-hall rockabilly set steams up the Service Brewing stage. Lead singer Sean “The Con Man” Conradson growls “Blue Suede Shoes” as guitarist Jeff “Lone Wolf” Neugebauer, the sound engineer for the Wormhole nightclub and bar in the Starland District, shreds his axe with the enthusiasm of Marty McFly in Back to the Future. “Mr. Palmer on Bass” is hardly in the doghouse. It’s a rousing segue into the final act of the night. Kurtis Schumm takes the stage—just a man and his guitar. It’s a rare treat to see Kurtis play. He traded Nashville in for Savannah and chords for culinary cred 11 years ago. Locals know him best as the co-owner of Tybee Island Social Club, Fish Camp and Bó Biên Hut. “I do cook-y things now,” he says, before sliding into an original composition, “How Much.” “It’s more of a statement than a question,” he grins, just before launching into a pure-voiced and clear-noted song that surprises and uplifts the crowd.
More Than a FeelingThe year 2016 may prove a big one for local music. The state’s Department of Economic Development has made music tourism the cornerstone of its annual marketing plan, based upon the healthy direct and indirect contributions of the music industry to the state’s economy. Music accounted for nearly $4 billion in revenues in 2011, the most recent report year. Savannah Morning News columnist and blogger Bill Dawers will pen a piece about the city’s aforementioned swamp metal scene in the upcoming “Georgia Music” issue of Oxford American magazine. Yet, even with all the progress that has been made, it still may be too early to call Savannah a “music city.” All Along the Watchtower Back in 2012, MusicFile Productions’ Kayne Lanahan contributed a post to The Creative Coast’s blog that outlined the 10 characteristics of a vibrant music scene:
- Supportive community of musicians
- Highly regarded independent radio station
- Respected independent record labels
- A DIY underground scene
- A broad and affordable infrastructure for teaching, practicing and recording
- At least one great music blog
- At least one prominent music festival
- A mid-sized venue for 400 to 500 seats to draw notable touring acts and fans
- A supportive municipal government
- Access to capital to fund musical endeavors
Lawyers, Fans and MoneyOf the final three items, the most critical and immediate to address is city government. “Rational public policy” regarding alcohol and sound would “help a lot,” says Dawers, who has followed the city’s progress on both issues closely. “Little things like that would tell the creative community, especially musicians, that we are not prejudiced against them.” Competing cities, like Charleston, Athens and Jacksonville—all with strong music scenes—allow at least 18-year-olds entry into venues that serve alcohol. Some even allow all-ages shows. “Bands are coming through and looking at how many people they can put in a club,” Dawers explains. “You don’t create this artificial division between people over and under 21.” As more hotels are built and condo conversions occur within the downtown and near-downtown districts, more bars and nightclubs will also have to contend with noise volume complaints, which has quashed musical offerings at places like Moon River Brewing Co., Hang Fire and the Wormhole. “[City spokesperson] Brett Bell pledged at the Emergent Savannah meeting that [the city] was going to initiate a process for revising the city’s sound ordinance,” says Dawers. “But the city has been working on a revision to the ‘chicken and beekeeping’ ordinance for four years and still hasn’t passed it. They’ve been working on a revision to the alcohol ordinance since January 2013 and still haven’t passed it. I would be shocked if we saw a draft of a sound ordinance before 2017.” Dawers’ observation is a common complaint in all sectors of Savannah’s musical community. And the belief is that until those two items can be addressed, access to capital and a mid-size venue will remain out of reach.
Fight for Your RightTo Kayne’s list, we would add No. 11: a community that values its local musicians by filling seats, paying cover charges, and following them on social media. “The best way to support live music is to show up,” says Tom Cooler of the Savannah Songwriters Series, a monthly showcase of local and regional talent. “The tourism market is great,” says musician Jon Waits, “but it’s not a long-term picture for local musicians” because it has led to a unique dynamic where few establishments charge cover charges as patrons walk from place to place with go cups. “What you’re basically saying,” Kayne observes, “is, ‘The music doesn’t matter; it’s a giveaway.’” Musician and restaurateur Kurtis Schumm agrees. “Cover charges would up the ante for Savannah,” he predicts. “There’s are a lot of great musicians here … and they’re relegated to background music. If the city were to move to a cover charge, I think the music scene could grow that much more. It’s a shared responsibility.” [gallery columns="4" ids="15852,15853,15854,15855,15856,15857,15858,15859,15860,15861,15862,15863,15864,15865,15850,15849,15848,15847,15846,15845,15844,15843,15842,15841"]
In the Air TonightFor now, at our Service Brewing Co. jam session, local talents of all types gather around the stage, bobbing their heads in time with a newly discovered harmony. A few are snapping selfies together and trading business cards—fresh collaborations in the offing. It’s hard to pinpoint whether Savannah is at the beginning—or in the middle of its beginning—as an emerging music city. But, in this moment, it feels as if we’ve gotten the sound just right.
OUR MUSIC TEACHERS[caption id="attachment_15830" align="aligncenter" width="384"] Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
Steven BaumgardnerSteven, who performs as Basik Lee, just celebrated the tenth anniversary of Dope Sandwich Records and Tapes, the hometown label he founded with fellow hip-hop artists he met at SCAD. His latest LP is Crazy Shit. [caption id="attachment_15827" align="aligncenter" width="384"] Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
Jared HallVeteran session musician, Jared is the keyboardist for the vivacious gypsy swing band Velvet Caravan and music director for the historic Trinity United Methodist Church, whose Thursday Night Opry is making sound waves city wide. [caption id="attachment_15828" align="aligncenter" width="384"] Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
Kayne LanahanKayne is the director of MusicFile Productions and the founder of both the Savannah Stopover Music Festival and Revival Fest, which have put our city on the music map. She relocated to Savannah five years ago after more than 25 years in media, advertising and marketing for the music and entertainment industries. [caption id="attachment_15829" align="aligncenter" width="585"] Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
Jon WaitsJon is an award-winning singer-songwriter and professional photographer from Atlanta, who found his literal and musical home in Savannah four years ago. A professional musician for more than 25 years, he now fronts the alt-country trio Waits and Co. with Markus Kuhlmann and John Pizzichemi.
Encore!Nearly every day of the week, established, up-and-coming and visiting artists perform live shows in Savannah and Tybee Island’s restaurants, bars and clubs. Check out the events calendars at dosavannah.com and connectsavannah.com for weekly listings. Consult hissinglawns.com for in-depth coverage of local bands. Preview some of Savannah’s best music makers at artlabsavannah.com. And don’t forget to support local and live music by attending shows. Here are just a few happenings where you are welcome to listen in:
Serial ChillersSavannah Songwriters Series 6-7:30 p.m., first Sunday of the month Johnny Harris Restaurant, 1651 E. Victory Drive The Tongue: Open Mouth and Music Show 7-10 p.m., first and third Tuesday of the month Savannah Coffee Roasters, 215 W. Liberty St. On Facebook Singer/Songwriter in Concert Series 6-8 p.m., first Saturday of the month (beginning in January) Wicked Cakes, 38 Whitaker St. On Facebook Trinity Concert Sanctuary Series Historic Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.
The Festival CircuitSavannah Stopover Music Festival March 10-12, 2016 Savannah Music Festival March 24-April 9, 2016 Revival Fest September 17, 2016 Savannah Jazz Fest Late September/Early October
A Standing OvationMany thanks to Service Brewing Co. for the space to create a magical evening and Screamin’ Mimi’s Pizza for feeding our bodies and souls. Applause to all of the artists who shared the stage and came out to support one another: Alexis Ambrose, Black Water Choir Steven Baumgardner aka Basik Lee, Dope Sandwich Records Payne Bridges Sean Conradson, Crazy Man Crazy Tom Cooler, Savannah Songwriters Series Eric Dunn, Velvet Caravan Nicole Edge, Wave Slaves Patrick Ellington, Lyn Avenue Jared Hall, Velvet Caravan Jeremy Hammons, Train Wrecks Austin Harris, Crazy Man Crazy Andrew Hartzell, Sweet Thunder Strolling Band Larry Jones, Lyn Avenue Kristin King, New Arts Ensembles and Uncommon Collective Marcus Kuhlman, Waits and Co., Clouds and Satellites Ray Lundy, Bottle ‘n’ Cans Ira David Miller Ford Natirboff, Hypnotics Jeff Neugebauer, Crazy Man Crazy Thomas Oliver, Savannah Songwriter Series Stephen Palmer, Crazy Man Crazy John Pizzichemi, Waits and Co. Nikko Raptoulis Greg Rettig, Wave Slaves Jason Salzer Kurtis Schumm Rachael Shaner Isaac Smith Jeremiah Stuard, Co-Eds Ryan Sylvester, Hypnotics Ty Thompson, Hypnotics Jon Waits, Waits and Co. Willy Ware Tim Warren, Clouds and Satellites Cc Witt, Lyn Avenue Lu Zang
MUSTANG SALLYI admit I’m nervous when I meet up with the first handler of the day, Michael Shortt, to test-drive a Mustang at J.C. Lewis Ford. When he sticks a radar detector to the windshield and fishtails out of the lot, it doesn’t do much for my confidence. In between astronomical accelerations through corners to demonstrate how the Mustang stays flat on turns, Shortt reminisces about the first Mustang he bought—a vintage Pantera when he was 45. “Instead of tearing centerfolds out of Playboy, I’d tear out the car ads,” he laughs, all the while keeping a sharp eye on the road. (You see, the new Mustang is tighter, safer and more easily recoverable for inexperienced drivers—but, Shortt explains, it often gives drivers a sense of confidence they don’t deserve.) Fortunately, we don’t die as he turns the car—and my heart—180 degrees. As it turns out, Shortt is a stunt driver and two-time SEC Champion—information I’d like to have known before I soiled a perfectly good dress. Occupation: Producer/director/writer/stunt driver Neighborhood: Southbridge In his stable: Mercedes E350, 450SL, Dodge Magnum Hemi R/T, DeTomaso Pantera, Ford Excursion V-10, Honda Pilot, 1970 Mustang Mach One (unrestored), plus several motorcycles Favorite Savannah road: Highway 80 Test-driving: 2015 GT Mustang Coupe Engine: 5.0L TI-VCT V-8 Transmission: 6-speed select shift automatic Horsepower: 435 hp Torque: 400 lbs./ft.
Acceleration and power > “Using my 1970 Mustang Mach One with the 351 Cleveland as the comparison car to this one, I’d offer that this one feels about 500 lbs. heavier but it has a smaller, slightly more powerful engine that comes on much smoother and revs higher.”
Cornering > “I have little doubt that a modern stock Mustang GT with the proper tires would be able to pace the older race-prepped car around corners, as well as take the drivers to dinner afterwards.”
Ride > “The older version was lighter and had a heavier engine placed in the front, so it rode a bit rougher, while the new version rides a bit softer. I remember long trips in the old Mustang requiring a few roadside stops just to walk around.”
Exterior style > “Ford has done its best after many missteps to pay proper homage to the styling of the 1969-70 Mustangs with the very basic design lines. It’s a far more aero-friendly design with many features that give it instant recognition and reinforce its branding.”
Accouterments > “The new interior is 10 times better in every way—the fit, finish, ergonomics, materials and lighting make it a joy to drive, day or night.”
Demographics > “It’s a perfect car for the driver—man or woman—who appreciates machinery with a purpose. If you’re required to carry a lot of stuff, this isn’t your car. But if you’re the most important thing you have to deliver, then this is your ride.”
Savannah scene > “Taking ‘Mom’ to The Mansion on date night or parked in the car corral at the Hilton Head Concours D’Elegance. Ideally, ‘Dad’ will partake of at least a couple of Hooked on Driving experiences to learn the capabilities of his car at its limits in a safe environment, under expert instruction.”
Vintage matchup > “Its very silhouette is a direct modern recreation of the iconic 1969-70 design—retro styling at its very best.”
Playlist > “‘I Can’t Drive 55’ by Sammy Hagar, ‘Life’s Been Good’ by Joe Walsh, ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, ‘Rumors’ by Fleetwood Mac and ‘Eliminator’ by ZZ Top.”
To me, this Mustang’s design and deep, throaty sound waxes nostalgia at every acceleration. It’s the kind of car that belongs to a bad boy with a hidden heart—the guy who rolls his cigarette pack into the cuff of his white T-shirt, but still kisses his mama on the cheek.
Mercy, MercedesFrom there, I head over to Critz Mercedes to get behind the wheel of a six-figure, hand-built ride with Kevin Iocovozzi—which feels a bit like being the third wheel at prom with a naughty schoolboy and his date (the car, not me). Iocovozzi initially demurs at the idea of test-driving a sedan with only 380 copies made for U.S. distribution, but he quickly becomes accustomed to the disarming 4-door beast he describes as “born angry—and will get pissed off if anyone passes it on the road.” He strums the paddle shifters like a guitar as he takes me on a 90 mph tour through sections of the Savannah Speedway’s historic course, along Ferguson and La Roche avenues to Bluff Drive. Iocovozzi, who spent some time at the former Bethesda Home for Boys before being adopted along with his twin brother, tells me how the Bethesda boys built grandstands, equipped with rocking chairs, along some of the tighter turns of the Savannah Speedway, charging money for people to view the race. A certified racecar driver himself, Iocovozzi knows the stories behind every inch of the raceway where the 1908, 1910 and 1911 American Grand Prize Cup was held. By the time we return to Critz, he also knows every gear of his test car by sound and feel. He’s reluctant to hand over the keys, and I think this might be a match made in horsepower Heaven. Occupation: Aviation Consultant and Gulfstream Specialist Neighborhood: The Islands Current stable of wheels: 1993 Mazda RX7 Twin Turbo, 2000 Mercedes Benz E 55 AMG, and a 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 on order Favorite Savannah road: The route of the 1908 Grand Prize race Test-driving: 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Sedan Engine: 4.0L AMG V-8 biturbo engine with direct injection Transmission: 7-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT with shift paddles Horsepower: 503 hp Torque: 516 lbs./ft.
Acceleration and power > “This is exactly how a 500-horse, German-engineered, custom-built twin turbo V-8 should feel and sound. It’s delivered with brutal, neck-snapping acceleration that’s not for the weak of heart and accompanied by a beautiful, raspy and sexy exhaust note—kind of like being hit with a velvet hammer.”
Cornering > “The front-end grip is confident and strong and the road feedback is excellent. The excessive power is handily managed by AMG’s Dynamic Traction Control. Everything firms up when you put your foot in it, and the rear end squats like a tiger ready to pounce.”
Ride > “Once planted, the car rides on rails and is actually pleasant cruising between 70 and 80 mph. I’d love to take this car to a race track, turn the traction control off, wind it up and scare the crap out of myself.”
Exterior and interior style > “How can you notice such things when you’re dealing the Fear of God?”
Demographics > “I see my dear friend Lori Judge of Judge Realty driving this car. She and I ride motorcycles together. She is an awesome driver and has the courage and skill to drive this thing ‘like a boss.’ She could track the C63 on the weekends, shuttle her clients around during the week and then pick up her son at Blessed Sacrament after school.”
Savannah scene > “Anywhere—especially in my garage—but the frying pan wielded by my wife would prevent that from happening anytime soon.”
Vintage matchup > “From the big, naturally aspirated 6.3-liter (the purest choice) to the twin turbo 4.0, Mercedes has been playing around with the C63’s engine over the years. The sound of the twin turbos spooling up in this V-8 is intoxicating and I’ll miss the rush. My 2000 E 55 has a 5.5-liter naturally aspirated engine and 150 fewer horses. In its day, it ruled the sedan class, but it can’t hold a candle to this bad boy.”
Playlist > “Lana del Rey singing some sultry love song and some chill techno with a nice backbeat.”
Don’t let this demure four-door fool you. Yes, it might go under the radar at the grocery, but it’ll rupture the radar on the racetrack. To the chagrin of my husband and the amusement of my paltry bank account, this car must be mine.
THE ’VETTE SETAt 28, Daniel Zeigler is the youngest member of the Oglethorpe Driving Club, which is probably why the salespeople at Vaden Chevrolet seem a little reluctant to hand over the keys to a Corvette that’s upwards of $90K. “I need a haircut,” he laughs, brushing his boyish, overgrown hair to the side. “I look like Justin Bieber.” But before a salesman can instruct him on how to pull out of the lot without scraping the car’s underbelly, Zeigler points to his pristine ’71 Stingray that’s already drawing looks in the parking lot as if to say, “Not my first time, friend.” Zeigler earned the Stingray, which he built with his father, when he promised to go to pharmacy school and take over the family’s business. “And, of course, to help people,” he adds, belying the fact that he knows every bitty bolt that goes into a Corvette and gets visible chills just talking about it. Zeigler’s infinite respect for this machine—and, “of course,” my safety—is what prevents him from showing me its full potential. “I grew up driving on drag strips,” he admits, “but I’m not going to scare you or act like an idiot.” True to his gentlemanly ways, Zeigler keeps the ride pretty G-rated, though he does drive the car in Track Mode, against the warning of the salesman. “It takes off traction control,” Zeigler explains. “But that’s what you say when you let your 18-year-old kid drive the car.” Occupation: Pharmacist, Medicap Pharmacy Neighborhood: Henderson Golf Community Current stable of wheels: 1971 454 Corvette, 2007 MTI tuned Corvette Convertible, 1976 MG Midget Convertible Favorite Savannah road: Bay Street Test-driving: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe Engine: 6.2L supercharged V8 Transmission: 7-speed manual Horsepower: 650 hp Torque: 650 lb./ft.
Acceleration and power > “There’s a 200 horsepower increase in the new ZO6 over the base model, and that’s apparent when force is applied to the gas pedal. This car really puts Corvette back in the realm of supercars for me.”
Cornering > “When we talk about a Corvette’s suspension and cornering abilities, it’s usually accompanied by a light chuckle. GM stopped that chuckle with the new ZO6. This car is the most track-ready Corvette I’ve seen to date. The 335-sized tires grip the road harder than my hand grips the keys. That grip allows the car to pull enough Gs to throw someone’s back out of alignment.”
Ride > “With the ride selection dial, you can go from a somewhat smooth, Sunday-driving-quiet car in ‘economy’ mode to ‘track’ mode, where the exhaust cutouts open and you hear what you’re getting yourself into.”
Exterior style > “This car is gorgeous. Its lines are aggressive, yet still bring the ‘classy’ the Corvette is known for. To stray from the norm, Corvette now uses functional ducts to cool the brakes.”
Accouterments > “Corvette finally stepped up their game and did a complete renovation of the interior. Arguably one of the worst aspects of previous Corvettes, the interior now contains creature comforts such as air-conditioned seats, active onboard navigation far superior to previous generations.”
Demographics > “The sticker price plus tax, tag and title will make this a six-figure car. I’m sure you’ll see a bunch of men in their 50s and up owning them and driving the speed limit, but the true driver will be the adrenaline junkie.”
Savannah scene > “Hutchinson Island racetrack.”
Playlist > “Just listen to the engine notes.”
Zeigler’s passion for the Corvette’s power and precision is contagious and I secretly yearn to see what all the fuss is about from the other seat. But when he asks if I want to take a turn, I politely decline, fully aware that just because you’ve ridden in a jet plane doesn’t mean you can fly one.
Deutsche MarksBack at Critz—but this time in their BMW lot—I meet Bob Coffey, who’s wearing a stark-white collared shirt and leather loafers and looking as if he were born to drive a luxury German automobile. The salesman senses it as well. He practically tosses the keys at Coffey and encourages us to “have fun.” “Wow, you really trust us,” I say. “I trust how my cars perform,” he enthuses. From there he points us to “the ultimate driving machine,” and I’m a little underwhelmed to see a rather plain white coupe. But one look at Coffey’s playful grin as he steps inside the sleek interior, and I realize that I may be in for yet another spree. No sooner are we blazing down Veterans Parkway, when my once bridled chauffeur announces that we’re going to test the brakes. Not by slowing down, but by stopping. On the parkway. We drop from 75 to 0, and I feel the back of my brain hit the back of my eyes. “See how that handles?” Coffey says excitedly. I do, once my vision is restored. Occupation: General manager at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center Neighborhood: Parkside Current stable of wheels: 2002 BMW M5, 1995 BMW 525i Touring, 1985 Euro-spec M6, 1975 International Scout II, and a bunch of motorcycles Favorite Savannah road: Roebling Road, Bloomingdale—it has lots of room for mistakes. Test-driving: 2015 BMW M235i coupe Engine: 3.0L BMW M Performance TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder, 24-valve Transmission: 8-speed sport automatic Horsepower: 320 hp Torque: 330 lb./ft.
Acceleration and power > “Straight-line acceleration seems endless, and the 8-speed auto tranny is well matched to the earlier iterations. There’s plenty of ‘oomph’ flogging out of a turn.”
Cornering > “The M suspension is typical magic with a very comfortable ride, and it sticks like horse glue in the corners. The steering is electrically boosted but light and neutral, and it provides a good road feel. It stops like it was hit with Thor’s hammer—or maybe that’s just how [the writer] would describe our little ‘brake test.’”
Ride > “Very comfortable under normal way. For 30 years, BMW has had a lock on the voodoo of combining a great ride with stellar handling.”
Style > “It’s on the same wheelbase as the 1 Series, but it looks longer, lower and sleeker. It has semi-decent backseat leg and headroom. It gives up two doors to the competing Audi S4 and Mercedes CLS, which may complicate lying my way into an M235i with the wife.”
Accouterments > “The interior—wild Coral Red Dakota contrasting with the Alpine White exterior—is beautifully done, but typically spare.”
Demographics > “The E46 M3 guys would not fall all over themselves for this—though it might run circles around them, and its engine sound is a good match. I could see my geezer self in this car, sucking the doors off WRXs and G37s on my way to pick up a case of Ensure.”
Savannah scene > “It’s a beautiful car, looks assertive but not aggressive. I’d hog [Oglethorpe Driving Club president] Jim Goodlett’s non-parking space outside Collins Quarter with it anytime. But not at Vinnie’s: too many wheels.”
Vintage matchup > “This car is often compared to the earlier 1M, which was mainly a rocket strapped to a skateboard. I still see the E46 M3 in its DNA, but others may differ. To me, the BMW lineage is pretty consistent; I felt very much at home strapping into the M235.”
Playlist > “Chix, Styx and Stones. But I bring Emmylou and Tom Petty wherever I go.”
Like the stereotype of the sexy librarian, this Beamer is deceptively saucy. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a beautiful car with all the creature comforts and then some, but until you feel what it’s really made of—the “M” being the deciding factor here—it’s hard to imagine that it can compete with the other muscle cars.
Snake Bite FeverIt makes sense for our last stop to be Southern Motors, where we encounter the biggest beast of them all—the Dodge Viper. The car is intimidating just to look at and shares an uncanny likeness with the Batmobile—even more so when I meet my driver, Dow Hoffman, who has a Bruce Wayne quality to him and a history of owning Vipers. Before we get in the car, he assures me that, as a man with a wife and three kids, he has no interest in dying, nor does he have any interest in buying this machine if he hurts it. I didn’t know the “you break it, you buy it” policy existed with cars, but at the end of this rally, it’s clear there’s a lot I didn’t know—like what I would say and do right before I die. Thanks to Hoffman, I now know. As we enter a very tight corner onto Truman Parkway at what feels like 100 mph, all I see before me are a cluster of trees and the white light of Heaven opening its doors. “Eeeeeeeep,” I softly whimper, completely paralyzed. I’d like to think I’d go out with a bang, throwing my arms in the air and emitting a warrior-like battle cry, but it’s probably all for the best. Hoffman doesn’t seem to notice my mousy squeak over the engine’s thunder or the fact that we almost flew off the ramp. “This car is screaming fast,” he says, calm and in control. Occupation: Surgeon, Chatham Orthopaedic Associates Neighborhood: Downtown Historic District Current stable of wheels: 2012 Mercedes Benz s550 Favorite Savannah road: Roebling Road in Bloomingdale Test-driving: 2015 Dodge Viper GTS Engine: 8.4L V-10 Transmission: 6-speed manual Horsepower: 645 HP Torque: 600 lbs./ft.
Acceleration and power > “The car is flat-out fast and it’s still beautiful. It goes zero to 60 in three and a half seconds, throwing your head into the headrest when you accelerate. It has six speeds, but you will never leave fourth gear on Savannah roads. In fact, the car redlines at about 150 mph in fourth gear. With a top speed of more than 200 mph, the 35 mph streets of Savannah seem very slow.”
Cornering > “Steering is very tight—it never loses grip—and you can stomp on the brakes as hard as you want at any speed and the car does not even wiggle. With the traction control, you can’t really spin the wheels like you could before. If you went around a tight curve with the old Viper, you would go in circles. But this is kinder and gentler.”
Ride > “The car is a beast, but a much more refined beast than it used to be. It is faster and lighter—it’s a street-legal racecar.”
Exterior style > “There is no mistaking this car for another make or model when you see it on the street. The wheels and tires are absolutely massive—Pirelli 355s in the rear. Older models were available in a convertible and a coupe. The 2015 coupe looks just as good as the older models, even a little better.”
Accouterments > “The navigation, touch screen, back up camera and leather seats are all new. The older models had a plastic and rubber interior, a radio and little else. It was a Dodge Caravan on the inside. Then an Italian designer took over. The new one is very comfortable, though the fit is tight. I was thumbing through the owner’s manual and read the directions for installing a baby seat. Who are they kidding?”
Demographics > “A bachelor living in a downtown apartment should drive this car. It has one passenger seat and enough luggage room for a gym duffle and a loaf of bread. No room for kids. The car is not cheap, so a wife, kids and a mortgage may cramp your style. Save your money for gas and tires; you’ll need it.”
Savannah scene > “Roebling Road, a road racecourse just outside of Pooler, in Bloomingdale. This is a racecar. The best place to be noticed is at the front of the line at a stoplight. People will want to race you, but they do not stand a chance.”
Vintage matchup > “It still looks great, like Vipers of old. This car now has 645 horsepower, which is much more than previous models. And the old one didn’t include instructions for the baby seat.”
Playlist > “Classic rock or heavy metal only! This is not an easy-listening car. The opening lines of AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ come to mind. The only problem—if it’s a problem—is that you can barely hear the radio over the engine noise.”
The Viper does not want to be driven on the street; it wants to be launched into space. If I ever got the courage to drive this car, it would swiftly eject me from the seat out of distaste for my grocery-fetching, speed-limit-obeying conservatism.
The Incumbent: Mayor Edna JacksonNative daughter Edna Branch Jackson has a long history in public service and a reputation for being approachable. As a young leader in Savannah’s Civil Rights movement and the NAACP Youth Council nationwide, Jackson helped organize wade-ins at Tybee Island, kneel-ins at local churches, and voter registration all over the South. A veteran social worker and counselor, she worked as an administrator at Savannah State University for 30 years. Before she was elected as our first female African-American mayor in 2011, she served three terms in City Council as alderman at large, and two terms as mayor pro tem. And, after nearly four years as the seaport’s supreme figurehead, she’s been campaigning hard for another term under the golden dome. Her motivation? “Unfinished business.” Read On » [caption id="attachment_15463" align="aligncenter" width="585"] Photograph by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
The Challenger: Murray Silver Jr.Savannah’s mayor should be a character—a prerequisite native son Murray Silver has on lockdown. This former rock music writer and photographer got his start promoting soon-to-be iconic bands in Atlanta at the tender age of 16. Think Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead and Paul Simon. His book, nonfiction bestseller Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis, became a major motion picture by the same name. He earned his Juris Doctor at Woodrow Wilson College of Law and has worked as a speechwriter for Coretta Scott King, a special emissary for the Dalai Lama, and a writer and lecturer on the subject of Spirit. But most Savannahians know him for his spirited criticisms of the status quo in local government—often voiced on his Facebook campaign for mayor, Change Savannah. Read On »
The Latest Challenger: Eddie DeloachFormer Chatham County Commissioner Eddie DeLoach had not declared his candidacy for Savannah’s mayor by the time we went to press with the September/October Best of Savannah issue. But, we reached out as soon as we heard the news. Kay Heritage stopped him on the campaign trail to ask a few questions. [caption id="attachment_15462" align="aligncenter" width="238"] Photograph by Kay Heritage [/caption]
Savannah Magazine: Why do you want the thankless job of mayor?Eddie DeLoach: I came from a family that taught me if a job wasn't getting done, I had an obligation to step in and help make things happen. Right now, I don't think the job is getting done in the Savannah city government. Crime is on the rise, our money is being wasted on studies and failed projects, and no one has proposed, much less implemented, a long-term vision for Savannah. I know I'm capable for the job and I know I'll give it the best I've got, but this isn't about me; this race is about helping the people of Savannah, Georgia, get the services, protection, and peace of mind that they deserve.
SM: What are your qualifications to represent this city—both in and out of the box?DeLoach: I grew up in the Savannah area, I've owned and operated a business in Savannah, and I served as a Chatham County Commissioner for eight years. I believe my business background will help me tackle the huge amount of money that the [current] Mayor and Council are wasting, which will free up the funding in the budget to fully staff our police force and help reduce crime. Savannah desperately needs real leadership and I truly believe I'm the person for this job.
SM: What peculiarities do you love about Savannah?DeLoach: I moved to Savannah when my wife and I became empty nesters. I quickly learned to love this city. I've always loved to eat with a group of friends and family and being downtown makes it easy to find a local restaurant that caters to whatever you desire. There's always a crowd to enjoy the atmosphere with you and your friends. When my wife and I moved in, it was obvious to us that everyone in the neighborhood was concerned about each other. People brought cakes, food, and all types of things when we moved into the neighborhood. When our neighbor moved out, we celebrated their time with us and hosted parties to wish them well as they moved to a new Savannah location. If you lose a dog in Savannah, people help you find your dog. They'll take the time to call around to find your dog and they'll keep it safe if they find him. I remember I once kept a lost dog for three days. I didn't know whose dog it was, but I knew the owners would show up and I wanted to make sure that dog was safe and loved. That's Savannah for you.
SM: What, in a nutshell, needs changing?DeLoach: I think most of the change in Savannah needs to happen in three main areas; crime, fiscal matters, and leadership. If we set a long-term vision for this city that incorporates a serious reduction in crime and involves cutting out waste, this city will see tremendous growth. There are many things in Savannah that don't need changing; we have incredible people and incredible character, but we need a leader who is willing to tackle the tough questions so that our citizens get what they deserve.
Savannah is a city of families. Some of us came over on the Anne in 1733. Some arrived on Jet Blue in 2014. And if history is any indicator, many will still be shaping our culture in 2133. In honor of this magazine’s 25th anniversary, we wanted to honor the fiber of our city: the families who helped build it. We set out to profile a few of the multi-generational dynasties that have left a lasting mark on this city. We got a lot more than we bargained for—and we were still interviewing as this magazine went off to press. From roots to leaves, Savannah’s family trees are like our signature live oaks: the roots run deep, the branches spread far and wide—and the leaves are always green.Photography by Cedric Smith [caption id="attachment_14926" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The Ambos Family [/caption]
The Ambos FamilyIf you know where to look on Romerly Marsh, near the north end of wild Wassaw Island, you can still see the ramshackle remains of an oyster outpost. It’s the most remote marker of the Ambos Seafoods empire, a fixture in Savannah since the late 1800s. It began in 1870 with a waterfront restaurant in Thunderbolt and has grown into a full-scale distributor of seafood, chicken and sausage. “The business has changed a lot through the years, but we’ve always focused on the best product and service,” reflects Hal Ambos, who owns and operates this fifth-generation family business with his brother, Drew. “That will never change.” Deep Freeze: In 1948, Henry F. Ambos and his business partner, William Mullis, invented a method to bread and freeze fantail shrimp. They distributed the ready-to-cook product across America, transforming the seafood industry and bringing shrimp into millions of land-locked homes. —Florence M. Slatinsky [caption id="attachment_14927" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The Bond Family [/caption]
The Bond* FamilyPin Point Betterment Association president Hanif Haynes is a direct descendant of a slave and a sharecropper on Ossabaw Island. His great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Bond, came to Pin Point—a tiny African-American hamlet located off Diamond Causeway—in 1897, purchasing the first lot in the tiny waterfront neighborhood. Over the years, the Bond family helped build the community, fishing local waterways, working at the Pin Point Oyster Factory and founding two local houses of worship. “This community comes from a group of people who persevered through slavery and sharecropping and were able to purchase land for themselves and to enjoy their first freedom,” Hanif observes. “With such a legacy, it’s no wonder the spirit of Pin Point perseveres.” My Brother’s Keeper: Almost everyone in Pin Point is related to one another through a common ancestor: David Bond. The Bond family tree dates back several generations and even includes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a Pin Point native. —Allison Hersh *We Stand Corrected: In the March/April 2015 print edition of the magazine, we listed the Bond family as the Barnes family. We deeply regret this error. [caption id="attachment_14928" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The Minis Family [/caption]
The Minis FamilyIt remains a family mystery as to what prompted Abigail and Abraham Minis, Ashkenazi Jews of German origin, to board the William and Sarah in 1733 with two young daughters, leaving London for the wilds of Savannah. They were among the 42 Jews who left without knowing if Gen. James Oglethorpe would receive them into the Colony of Georgia, which he had founded just a few months earlier. They couldn’t know if he would receive them—because they hadn’t asked for permission to come. After consulting with attorneys in Charleston, Oglethorpe decided not only to let the Jews stay but to grant them land. Despite the hardship and the uncertainty of life in a colony with foreign traditions and few other Jews, the Minises thrived—and they’ve lived continuously in Savannah for 282 years. From the moment they landed, and through every successive generation, the Minises have invested in this community and been proud to be part of it. Abraham was a farmer and merchant shipper who supplied Oglethorpe at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. His widow, Abigail, raised eight children, operated a tavern that hosted many local dignitaries, and amassed huge land holdings that she passed on to her children. She supported the American Revolution. So did her son, Philip, who also led a failed raid against the British. Her daughter, Judith, entertained Oglethorpe regularly. Successive ancestors invested in the first steamship, served in the military, in local government and as leaders of their synagogue and churches. They were founding members of Congregation Mickve Israel, the Hibernian Society and the Oglethorpe Club. They were doctors, merchants and seamen—most with an interest in business and an affinity for numbers. Bob Minis started the investment firm Minis and Co. and later owned Carson Products, where his three children—Bobby, Henry and Peggy—were also involved before the company was sold in 1995. Call Declined: After the Civil War, Abraham Minis and his wife, Lavinia, no longer wanted to vacation in the North. Instead, they summered in Nova Scotia, where they met inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Abraham declined to invest in a prototype of the telephone, saying, “I cannot invest in the hope of a solid wire being able to carry a voice.” Law and Order: In 1867, President Andrew Johnson pardoned Dinah Minis, who was accused of treason for actively supporting the Confederacy. Dr. Philip Minis, Dinah’s son, killed a man in a duel for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks. True Romance: Mary Haskell Minis turned down a proposal from her protégé, writer and artist Kahlil Gibran. Though her husband disapproved of the emotional relationship, she edited Gibran’s work and supported him financially. Their letters were published under the title The Beloved Prophet, and her collection of his drawings and paintings now resides at the Telfair Academy. —Florence M. Slatinsky To meet the more Savannah families, pick up the March/April 2015 issue of Savannah magazine today! Better yet, subscribe NOW, right HERE » Our list of families is by no means exhaustive. Share your family's story with us today—in your own words—at email@example.com.
» To reader more about Savannah's running culture, pick up the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of Savannah magazine, on newsstands now.