North Augusta Attracts National Press Naming Sharon Jones Amphitheater

Who would dream in a million years that a meeting of the North Augusta City Council would be covered in such national magazines as Rolling Stone and Variety the day of the U.S. presidential election when the media was overloaded with last minute political bickering?

But that’s what happened when the six council members and Mayor Robert Pettit voted on Monday night, Nov. 2, to name the city’s new amphitheater ─ built on the banks of the Savannah River on the southwest corner of SRP Park baseball stadium ─ after the “late, great” rhythm and blues superstar and North Augusta resident Sharon Jones.

Variety magazine, long a staple of show business, posted on its web site, “In a nice bit of news on an anxiety-ridden [pre] Election Day, the city council of North Augusta, South Carolina, voted unanimously to name a new outdoor amphitheater in the town after Sharon Jones, the powerhouse soul singer who fronted the Dap-Kings and passed away in 2016 from cancer.”

New York City records producer Gabe Roth told Rolling Stone senior writer David Browne after the unanimous vote.   “This is so cool.  No one was able to lift the room like she could. It’s great to have a place where people will hit the stage and think of her. She would have been thrilled.”

It was Roth, co-founder of Daptone in 2002 in Brooklyn with Neal Sugarman, who teamed former wedding singer Jones with the Dap-Kings band for his Daptone records label.

That resulted in the first album, “Dap Dippin With Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings” in 2002 followed by the albums “Naturally,” 2005; “100 Days, 100 Nights,” 2007; “I Learned the Hard Way,” 2010; the Grammy Award nominated “Give The People What They Want,” 2014; “It’s A Holiday Soul Party,” 2015; the posthumously-released “Soul of a Woman,” 2017; and the just-released album “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Rendition Was In.”

The latter album contains five new released recordings and others including two songs recorded for “The Wolf of Wall Street” movie soundtrack.

Jones’s surviving sister, Willia Stringer, and her husband, Sam, who live off Bradleyville Road in North Augusta, were in the council chambers for the adoption of the resolution naming the amphitheater for Jones who died at a medical center in Cooperstown, N.Y., on November 18, 2016, at age 60 from pancreatic cancer.

“She would be flabbergasted right now,” said Stringer, who was 3 when Jones was born in the old University Hospital in Augusta and when the family was living off Jackson Street in North Augusta.  “We didn’t live far from there. My father used to walk down with us down to the river. Back then, there was nothing there but trees and the river.”

Council member David McGhee remarked just before the vote, “I’m just so excited about this opportunity to recognize Ms. Jones in this manner and I think that the city is honored to be able to do this and hopefully the family members will appreciate it.  The African American community is now going to be recognized in a manner unlike any other in the city of North Augusta. This is going to be worldwide recognition so I believe that this is an important thing for the whole community in general.”

Jones in early 2011 would move her other sister, Dora, and her mother, Ella, from a high rise housing project in the Queens borough of New York City to a ranch-style, brick house that she bought on Jackson Avenue just down from the North Augusta Baptist Church where she had made her public debut as a child singing in a Christmas pageant.

Speaking in support of the resolution were North Augusta residents Ryan Abel, a gospel and soul music singer whom Jones respected; Milledge Murray, Sun Trust retired bank president and past president of the Heritage Council of North Augusta; and Don Rhodes, music columnist, books author and historian who became Jones’ fishing buddy.

Much talk is now circulating for a possible Sharon Jones R&B Music Festival at the Sharon Jones Amphitheater for May of 2021 honoring her May 4th birthday.


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