The photos included display an image of musician Charles Wadsworth, and historic maps of Wadsworth Alley that date to 1885. How did this alley gain its name? What a great question! The story below is shared as reported in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Charles Wadsworth, perhaps the second-most famous musician to come out of Newnan, has two bits of hometown real estate that carry his name, one to give him honor and the other to give him a laugh.
Though Wadsworth’s illustrious career has seen him create chamber music programs in Spoleto, Italy, at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, in Cartagena, Colombia, and Charleston, S.C., he has returned yearly to play for a Newnan audience. Those concerts raised money to help refurbish a Newnan city auditorium that had lost much of its art deco charm since it was constructed in 1939.
Like his hall, Wadsworth has come a long way. His beginnings were humble. His father was a grocery store clerk. His mother sold ready-to-wear clothes and fitted the women of Newnan with corsets and foundation garments. Young Charles showed aptitude for music early on, but still had the responsibility for fetching chickens from the coop in the alley behind his father’s grocery store when a customer wanted a fresh fryer for supper.
Somehow his parents scraped up enough money to buy him an upright piano and, later, a small grand, as his skills improved.
After earning a degree from Julliard, Wadsworth was tapped by Italian musical giant Gian Carlo Menotti to create a chamber music program for his Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto. The American became a hit with Italian audiences, not just because of his programming, but because of his amusing and garrulous introductions, delivered in fractured Italian.
His fame and influence spread, and he founded similar programs in the U.S., including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2010, nine years after that other Newnan musician, Alan Jackson, was similarly honored.
But Jackson, the country singer and songwriter, had the additional distinction of his own five-mile stretch of I-85 being renamed the Alan Jackson Highway. Wadsworth pretended to pout. Newnan’s city fathers and mothers decided Wadsworth needed a similar landmark and renamed the alley behind his father’s grocery store the Charles Wadsworth Alley.
“It’s not a superhighway, says Wadsworth, but it’s not bad.”
Though a Manhattan resident since 1952, Wadsworth expresses deep appreciation for the little town that set him on his way and says that performing for the last time, while he still has command of his abilities, is a bittersweet experience.
“I treasure all the things that life in a small Georgia town offered and all the amazing people who were friends of the family who became close to me and wanted to help in any way they could, taking me to concerts in Atlanta or having parties where they would pay me to play pop tunes,” he said. “These things remain with me.”