Born in Birmingham and raised in Mobile, Ala., Jimmy Hall moved to Macon at the age of 20 with his band, Wet Willie.
There, Hall and his band helped to create a new genre in music: Southern rock. More than 40 years later, Hall continues to perform and will appear Sept. 27 at Mars Theatre in Springfield.
Wet Willie scored a major radio hit with "Keep on Smiling." Hall since has recorded many albums, both with Wet Willie and as a solo artist, working with such legends as Dickey Betts, Chuck Leavell and Butch Trucks. In 1986, Hall was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocalist for his work on Jeff Beck's "Flash."
In recent years, Hall has toured with Jeff Beck and ZZ Top. He has traveled around the world to perform, and he is still recording.
"I was born in a musical family with music coming from both sides, but mostly my mom's side," Hall says. "Mom was involved in chorus work and vocal work in school, and she and my grandparents were involved in church music a long time.
"My dad was more a music buff, as far as listening and collecting music," he says. "He came up with a great collection of vinyl."
Hall's talent was obvious from the start.
"This talent started coming out even as early as the fourth or fifth grade," he says. "The public school I went to wanted to put on productions, have little talent shows and operettas. I got the lead in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta called 'The HMS Pinafore.'
"It involved all this dancing and singing and it really felt natural, something I really wanted to do," Hall says. "It was the first epiphany I had about doing this more than just for fun."
With his brother, Jack, Hall joined the school band and played saxophone.
"We had a great band director who was one of my mentors," he says. "He pushed us hard but inspired us and we had a great marching band."
Hall and his brother wanted to play rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues.
"When he was about 15, Jack put a band together," Hall says. "I would hang around rehearsals and take notes and sing when they'd let me.
"I formed my own band at 15. It evolved into the typical local music scene.
"There were not a lot of places for young people to play," Hall says. "We found private parties and went to Johnson's Lake and honed our craft."
Even from the start, the Hall brothers worked with the best players they could find.
"We hand-picked everybody," Hall says. "We formed what would become Wet Willie in 1969."
Wet Willie was a pioneering band in the Southern rock genre, although Hall says its members had no idea of that at the time.
"We're from the South, and Wet Willie is as far South as you can be without being in the ocean," he says. "There was music within a few hundred miles.
"New Orleans was two and a half hours away. Muscle Shoals, Memphis and Atlanta were within two or three states.
"There were so many of the musical epicenters in the whole musical world," Hall says. "They happened to be in the South.
"The Allman Brothers really broke the ground as far as creating something unique and making it their own. As their first album came out, we were just making the decision to move to Macon. That was icing on cake."
They were in the right place at the right time with the right sound.
"This is the kind of music we feel a natural affinity for," Hall says. "The Capricorn label looked friendly to what we wanted to do.
"We arranged our way into getting an audition with Capricorn and they wanted to see us live. It just started happening really fast after that.
"Now I look back and say we got to witness and be around Duane Allman," Hall says, "As far as Southern rock, we weren't creating a whole new genre, we were just trying to be true to what we felt was our direction."
At the time the band moved to Macon, the country was in upheaval with the Vietnam War.
"The draft was breathing down our necks," Hall says. "But we had the vision and made this happen.
"Moving to Macon and getting signed was big. Our first tours were with the Allman Brothers, and about then we got to open up for the Allman Brothers in Carnegie Hall.
"For a band that's been out there a couple years, that was quite a feat," he says. "Our parents sent flowers to put in the lobby. That was a real high point."
In 1973, Wet Willie recorded a live album that became a hit.
"We did a couple of nights of recording and it turned out to be a real iconic record and high point of our career," Hall says.
In 1974, Wet Willie recorded with producer Tom Dowd, who produced several Allman albums, as well as albums by Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton.
"He worked with us and had the vision to know that we were onto something and 'Keep on Smiling' was going to be a hit," Hall says. "We felt good about it, but didn't know it was going to be that successful.
"To have it go to the top of the charts on Billboard and the Top 10 pushed us into another whole realm of popularity," he says. "We were touring with Grand Funk Railroad all year in 1974."
Gregg Allman is one of Hall's best friends.
"We don't get to see each other that often, but we have a great camaraderie," Hall says. "Back in January, I got to take part in an event called 'All My Friends,' a tribute to Gregg Allman at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
"He was so glad I was part in it. So many people were paying homage to Gregg.
"In the late '90s, I toured with his band, Gregg Allman and Friends," Hall says. "We've had a bond ever since."
Hall's solo career is going extremely well.
"Two years ago, when the Olympics were in London, I was invited to a special show that highlighted Gulf Coast music," he says. "It was played at America House, where the U.S. athletes were housed. I was proud to be part of the Olympics.
"Wet Willie will be inducted into the Georgia (Music) Hall of Fame on Oct. 11," Hall says. "We've been a real part of Georgia's music, even though we started in Alabama."
Hall is looking forward to his upcoming appearance in Springfield.
"I've heard great things about the Mars Theatre and the surrounding area," he says. "It's going to be a real crown jewel.
"I'm going to be there with a group of guys I've put together in the past couple of years from the Atlanta area. It's a great lineup of guys.
"I'll be reaching into the catalogue of Wet Willie's and all my solo career," Hall says. "We always try to mix it up."
Hall is proud of the fact that he can still hit the same notes he did at 20.
"I just think God had a plan for me," he says. "I think He blessed me with the gift of this voice. As long as I can keep doing this, I will and will do it the same way."