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Music event to celebrate mural, area’s musical legacy

New artwork has been added to downtown Rocky Mount, at the corner of SE Main Street and Marigold Street, highlighting our community’s vibrant music history. The new mural depicts seven subjects, all of whom have been inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame.

A special musical event will be held at the mural on Thursday, May 23 from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. to celebrate its completion and to showcase other positive work in downtown Rocky Mount. The event is free and will feature performances by Lightning Wells and the Tar River Swing Band, along with Patsy Gilliland and Luther Barnes, both of whom are featured on the mural.

Lightning Wells will perform a tribute to George Higgs, and the Tar River Swing Band will perform a tribute to Kay Kyser, Milton Bullock, and Dan and Brenda Crocker.

The mural, which was sponsored by Downtown Renaissance, Inc., overlooks the same lot as the Thelonious Monk mural downtown. All seven people depicted in the mural were chosen by DRI for their musical contributions and connections to the area. DRI shared the following about each of the subjects:

  • George Higgs was a blues musician active from the 1940s to 2010s performing everywhere from local fish fries to Lincoln Center in New York and internationally.

  • Kay Kyser, “The Ole Professor,” was a major big band leader and radio star blending music and comedy in the 1930s and 1940s who also starred in several motion pictures.

  • Milton Bullock, “The Golden Platter,” performed for many years with The Platters, who had numerous chart-topping hits in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Dan and Brenda Crocker founded the Tar River Choral and Orchestra Society, which now includes a philharmonic orchestra, swing band, adult and children’s choruses, and youth strings.

  • Patsy Gilliland is former Miss North Carolina and winner of the Miss America talent competition. She performed throughout the country and internationally and is long time director of the Tar River Children’s Chorus.

  • Luther Barnes is a nationally honored gospel music singer, songwriter, producer, Grammy nominee, and 2005 inductee into the International Gospel Hall of Fame. He is Senior Pastor and Founder of Restoration Worship Center in Rocky Mount.

Marion Weathers, an artist in Rocky Mount, created the concept for the mural. Sean Kernick, a muralist who has completed projects throughout the United States, including recent work for Disney, Advance Auto Parts, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, painted the mural.

Also of note, the site of the new mural hosted Motown Star Martha and the Vandellas, known for “Dancing in the Street.”

The mural is another example of the continued effort to bring life to downtown Rocky Mount through art. DRI joins other businesses and organizations in town “to enliven and beautify otherwise underused building facades in downtown Rocky Mount.”

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