With the letters “H & H Restaurant” hand-painted below the silhouette of a mushroom, you can still see the original Coca-Cola sign whitewashed beneath the letters. A well-worn pickup truck is parked along the curb while a burgundy and white newspaper rack guards the front door.
“Y’all just take a seat,” said a lady from behind the counter. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”
As the door closes behind me I realize I’ve just stepped back into time – and a very special place in the history of Southern Rock music.
Although the “H & H” began serving soul food in 1959, a good number of people recognize it for its ties to the birthing of several groundbreaking bands of the early 1970s – the Allman Brothers Band in particular.
Story goes that when the legendary band was just getting its commercial legs – the recording company Capricorn records was located just a block down the street – the musicians would find themselves down at the “H & H” looking for a good meal. While money was tight – and many times non-existent — Mama Louise Hudson always made sure the scruffy, long-haired boys could find a decent meal of “meat and three” inside her restaurant.
On this particular day, nearly 40 years later, I’m standing in the doorway of the very same place the band wandered in and out of the oppressive central Georgia heat between sessions of discovering their sound.
My wife and I take a seat at a nondescript table along the wall. Our chairs do not match, nor do most in the restaurant. The walls and ceiling tiles are painted canary yellow. But it is what you find adorning those brightly covered walls which announces you’ve found yourself in a very special place: personal items celebrating the special relationship between Mama Louise and the “long-haired, scruffy” boys she so generously looked after decades before.
My wife and I order our meat and three and I excuse myself to walk around the modest dining hall. I immediately notice a framed platinum record of the Allman Brothers “Live at Fillmore East” inscribed and dedicated to Mama Louise. The album, recorded in the spring of 1971, is considered by many music critics to be among the very best live albums ever recorded.
Nearby the walls are filled with original photos throughout different periods of time, some of Mama Louise and the band together. But one in particular strikes me as touching — the band’s lead singer Greg Allman is captured singing to Mama Louise. With his head cocked in his soulful style, you can see Mama Louise sitting in a chair next to him while he sings to her. What gains the attention of my heart is that the photo is current. While the band members are now approaching the end of their fourth decade on the road, the very special connection between her and the many-times penniless boys still remains.
We’re told to take care of each other in life. Some, however, understand the concept better than others. Fortunately for the scruffy, long-haired boys, they found Mama Louise – and they’ve never forgotten their debt to her.
(Woolsey is the publisher of the Times-Georgian. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)