Calhoun Magazine

January - February 2017

Dalton Daily CItizen, Calhoun Magazine

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F rom humble beginnings as the son of a former slave in Curryville, Georgia, to performing on some of the world's most famous stages as the ¿UVWLQWHUQDWLRQDOO\UHQRZQHG$IULFDQ$PHULFDQ concert singer, Roland Hayes never stopping persevering. The lyric tenor rose to fame early in the 20th century and eventually became the highest paid singer in the world in the 1920's. Hayes has been memorialized in many ways, including by being inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1991. The Roland Hayes Museum at the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun also stands as a tribute to his life. Despite all his success, he never forgot his roots in Gordon County. And though many who live here now may not know of him or his accomplishments, to those that do, he is a marvel. "I think Roland Hayes is such treasure for Calhoun and Gordon County," Harris Arts Center executive director Toni Molleson said. "His life is so inspirational. I think so many people do not know who he is and you probably wouldn't if you don't have a music or a historical background. He had such humble beginnings and he persevered his whole life to follow his dreams." Those that do know Hayes' story likely remember him because of his skills as a performer. Others simply remember him as a loving uncle who would come visit every summer. "He was a great person to know," his nephew, Robert +D\HVVDLG³(DFK\HDUKHZRXOGFRPHGRZQZKHQKHKDG his summer place (in Curryville). We would see this big black car coming up the driveway and knew it was him. We would all go running out to see him. But whatever we were doing around the farm, he would jump right in and start helping us. "We sure did look forward to him coming. He would always bring us something nice when he came down from Boston. He brought me a little caterpillar tractor one time. That was probably my favorite toy I ever had." A Family Skill Hayes was born in Curryville in 1887 to Fanny and William Hayes and lived there on the plantation where is mother had once been a slave. Roland's father was a music teacher who was an accomplished hunter and had a propensity for mimicking sounds that animals would make. Molleson believes that talent was passed down to Hayes and was something that helped him learn to sing in seven different languages later in his career. "That's my personal favorite story about Roland," Molleson said. "I think that must have helped him have his wonderful ear for languages. It's a small thing but I like that fact." While he said he didn't know anything about his uncle or grandfather being able to mimic animal sounds, Robert Hayes, 83, lit up when asked if he too could sing. "Yes I can, every one of us can sing," he said proudly. "My father (Roland's brother), taught music in Boston and California. And my oldest sister has taught music for many years. I think every single person in the family can sing." 5REHUWUHPHPEHUVIRQGO\WKH¿UVWWLPHKHKHDUGKLVXQFOH perform. ³7KH¿UVWWLPH,KHDUGKLPVLQJZDVDW&DOKRXQ+LJK School," he said. "I was six-years-old and he sang in the auditorium there. I thought it was so wonderful. I thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever heard." The Extra Mile Hayes father passed away when he was eleven and his mother moved the family to Chattanooga. He began receiving singing lessons and would go on to study music at Fisk University in Nashville, despite the fact he only had sixth grade education. Hayes then pursued a career in Boston where he received further instruction and eventually February is Black History Month, a moment to pause and learn more about African-American culture and history. To celebrate Black History Month, we remember local treasure Roland Hayes—his gift, his life, his sacrifices, and his legacy. Article by CHRIS HILLYARD 6SHFLDOWKDQNVWRWKH+$55,6$576&(17(5 Calhoun Magazine | January/February 2017 | 29

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