Late Atlanta Promoter Known As the Unofficial Mayor of Atlanta Music Honored By the City
Legendary Atlanta concert promoter Alex Cooley was honored by the city with its highest honor, the Phoenix Award, after his death last month at the age of 75.
The Atlanta music scene lost a legend last month as longtime concert promoter and venue owner Alex Cooley — known in the city as the Unofficial Mayor of Atlanta Music — died on Dec. 1 in Florida at the age of 75. Yesterday (Jan. 4), Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council alongside some of Cooley’s former colleagues, friends and admirers declared Jan. 4 as Alex Cooley Day in the city, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle‘s Phil W. Hudson, awarding him the city’s highest honor with the Phoenix Award at a ceremony at City Hall.
Cooley got his start by raising $170,000 from friends to plan and host the first Atlanta International Pop Festival in 1969, with names like Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin topping the bill, then followed it up the next year with Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and the Allman Brothers Band on the lineup. Over the next decade-plus, Cooley would found Concerts/Southern Promotions alongside current Live Nation Atlanta President Peter Conlon, book shows for the Fox Theater and The Omni and own venues such as The Roxy, The Cotton Club, Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom and more. After his induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1987, he and Conlon teamed up again to found the Music Midtown festival in 1994, which has operated in the city on and off ever since.
In the ceremony, Mayor Reed said Cooley’s “influence in Atlanta will live on for generations,” while both Conlon and Atlanta City Council President Caesar C. Mitchell emphasized his role in easing race relations in an American South slow to warm to desegregation. “Alex knew music was color blind and loved by all,” Mitchell said.
“You have to understand the struggle with Lester Maddox as governor, Richard Nixon as president and you decide to put on a festival with a black headliner in south Georgia,” Conlon added. “It was a lot of work and it put us on the map.”