Happy Birthday, James Brown: 7+ Ways to Celebrate the King of Soul

Happy Birthday, James Brown!

The legend himself, James Brown would have turned 88 this year. Despite his passing, the musical pioneer lives on through those who came after him in the music industry and in the community in which he left his permanent footprint — Augusta, GA.  

Happy Birthday, James Brown: 7+ Ways to Celebrate the King of Soul
Courtesy: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

James Brown grew up in Augusta during the Great Depression and World War II. He overcame poverty and segregation to become an international music icon. Throughout his life, he made many civic, educational, and philanthropic contributions that provided hope and opportunity to those in need.  

Here are 7+ great ways you can celebrate the King of Soul during your next visit to Augusta!

NEW FOR 2021: Soul Starts Here – The James Brown Journey

Augusta is proud to have played such an important role in the life of a world-renowned musical artist and is grateful Mr. Brown called Augusta home. This walking tour — Soul Starts Here: The James Brown Journey — will take you on a journey through their funky sidewalks, and you will walk where Mr. Brown walked and stand where he stood.

On this interactive point-of-interest tour, you will visit the following historic locations from the life of the Godfather of Soul: the Bell Auditorium, the James Brown Arena, the Imperial Theatre, the site of JamesBrown’s childhood home, site of the Lenox Theatre, site of The Boss radio station, the Augusta Museum of History, the James Brown statueMother Trinity CME Church, and the iconic Soul Bar.  

At this link, you will find the walking map and points of interest to take you on the James Brown Journey. Click the album images included on the webpage to access historic information and the audio tour segment for each stop. You can pick up a supplemental brochure to compliment the tour at the first point on the walking tour map, our experience center, Augusta & Co.  

NEW FOR 2021: The Golden Blocks Tour 

Golden Blocks Project is a project spearheaded by the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and the Greater Augusta Arts Council. Named the Golden Blocks Project, in reference to the historic nickname of the corridor of business and industry located on or near Campbell and Gwinnett Streets, this endeavor will create new public art that references the historical and cultural significance of these areas. Today, Campbell and Gwinnett Streets are James Brown and Laney-Walker Boulevards. 

During the time of segregation, the area nicknamed the Golden Blocks was the heart of Augusta’s black business community. Federal “Red Line” policies prevented citizens from receiving bank mortgages within certain areas that were predominantly non-white populations, and businesses elsewhere in the city were allowed to discriminate against black patrons due to Jim Crow era laws. In the Laney Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods, black-owned banks, insurance companies, theaters and other businesses worked to offset this discrimination and thrived, creating a strong sense of community. 

James Brown Exhibit at The Augusta Museum of History 

The museum houses the first and most comprehensive major exhibition dedicated to The Godfather of Soul. The museum director Nancy Glaser and Mr. Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas, worked together to tell the story of The Man, The Music and The Legacy of Mr. James Brown through an interactive, visual and musically driven Exhibit.  

Highlights include: 

  • An array of costumes and personal artifacts worn by Brown from the 1960s and on 
  • A King of Soul crown worn by Brown in the 1950s 
  • Family photos with candid images of Brown and his children, on tour, at home, and during philanthropic activities 
  • Programs from the three James Brown Memorial Services held in New York, Augusta, and South Carolina 
  • Audio-visual stations featuring concert performance footage, highlighted tracks and studio recordings 
  • Excerpts of interviews with individuals who owe influence to Brown.  

James Brown Statue downtown Augusta 

Located on Broad Street, between James Brown Blvd and 8th Street Augusta, GA 30901 

The life-size bronze statue of Mr. Brown in downtown Augusta contains the world’s only James Brown CAM which will take your photo and send it to your cell phone within minutes. 

The Soul Bar 

This downtown nightspot celebrates the rhythm and soul of the larger than life singer and other musical inspirations. Not only do they feature artists consistently who cover Brown’s songs, and tributes to the late and great artist, but the walls are filled with décor celebrating the Godfather of Soul.  

Imperial Theatre and Bell Auditorium  

Before leaving on world tours, Mr. Brown and his band, the Sound Generals, would rehearse at the Imperial Theatre. It’s also where he held his toy giveaways to needy children at Christmas, a tradition which continues in his honor today. 

James Brown recorded his live album, Sex Machine, at the Bell AuditoriumThe James Brown Arena is a popular concert venue named in Mr. Brown’s honor. More than 8,500 fans attended a public funeral at the James Brown Area following the star’s death in 2006. 

Street and Local Art 

Visitors to the city will notice murals and photos spread amongst the streets, restaurants and local businesses honoring the life of the artist. One local art program, “art the box” was launched to add beauty to the eye sore electricity boxes throughout downtown and many locals took the opportunity to paint visuals of the artist for onlookers to enjoy. 

Local Food and Drinks 

Get on the Good Foot and stop in to one of these restaurants or breweries that feature dishes to Mr. Brown. 

  • Riverwatch Brewery – releasing a habanero milk stout named after legendary musician James Brown, called “God Father of Stout” in December/January. 
  • Savannah River Brewing offers a beer named after James Brown called, “Dynamite.” 
  • Nacho Mama’s – burrito called “the godfather” 
  • T-Bonz Restaurant was James Brown favorite restaurant – visitors can make a special request to try one of his favorite dishes and to sit in the booth he sat in when visiting the restaurant.