Philip Walden, the son of Capricorn Records co-founder Phil Walden, died in a freak automobile accident in an Atlanta parking garage on June 7th, 2011at the age of 48. His death came as a sad and unexpected shock to many. None more so, perhaps, than his best friend since childhood, Robin Duner-Fenter, son of Capricorn co-founder Frank Fenter. What follows is Robin's own tribute to his dear friend. - Buffalo
A Tribute to Philip Walden on his Birthday—November 15, 2011
Childhood memories with my oldest and best friend growing up
By Rob Duner-Fenter
Remembering my oldest and best friend growing up brings back a flood of childhood memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Philip and I were inseparable as kids, having gone through most of our childhood rights of passages together: from learning how to ride a two wheeler bike, going to summer camp for the first time ( and being away from our parents), discovering when we liked girls and, I might add, were very focused on meeting them; the double-dating that came afterwards; getting to check out our favorite bands and having the opportunity to meet them backstage after a concert; learning how to drive while also getting into some mischief along the way.
I first met Philip when I was six years old. I just arrived into Macon, Georgia, from London in 1969. I had a proper British accent, so I was either laughed at by other kids while I tried to decipher their southern drawl. Philip and I were four months apart in age and, through our shared and unique circumstances, we were expected to be good friends just as our fathers were best friends and business partners in the founding of Capricorn Records.
Initially, we viewed each other with great suspicion; our respective accents and cultural differences puzzled and annoyed each other. However, over the years, we developed a deep bond and saw each other as brothers, further reinforced by the fact we were, at the time, only children. And just like brothers, we did everything together.
On most Fridays, after school, Philip would often be at his father’s house, which was no more than half a mile from our house on Jackson Spring Road. We would agree to leave at the same time from our houses and meet half way between his road and mine on Nottingham Drive, in the Shirley Hills area of Macon—for our young age, we were very democratic and fair to one another. One weekend, I did a sleep-over at Philip’s house and the next night he stayed at my house. If at his parent’s house, we did what most young boys did back then: camp out in the woods by the creek and listen to old science fiction radio shows and during the day follow the creek out to the Okmulgee River that ran through Macon, through the Shirley Hills Park.
Philip always maintained his love for nature. I visited his house in Atlanta, just a few years ago and noticed he had setup a camp-fire in his backyard for his kids and himself, saying he would share scary stories with his children, much like we used to do as kids in our backyard or at camp. During those hot summer days in Macon, Philip and I would walk barefoot all over town, particularly to McDonalds, the first one in Macon, located at Baconfields Park, were we would always have two Big Macs and a milkshake each until “The Triple” and “Frosty” arrived into town from the new chain, Wendy’s.
During those long early 70’s summers, we would also make the long trek to the 7/11 for the baseball and football cards that you could only get if you bought the bubble gum, which contributed to many cavities, along with the collector cups that came with a slurpy. Philip kept his collection until just a few years ago when, I believe, he told me the collection was sold on ebay for a tidy sum.
I also learned that he kept, over the years, his part of our collection of G.I. Joe and Big Jim characters, which were popular toys for kids in the 1970’s.
The music Philip and I loved was the soundtrack to our lives, we used to lip-sinc in my room, blaring out on my Panasonic Thruster speakers, Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies” or “School’s Out” or Elton John’s “Rocket Man” or the Allman Brothers' “Ramblin Man.” At about 10, we were allowed to go to rock concerts, although our parents were pretty protective, all too aware what illicit and recreational activities went on backstage at rock n roll concerts!
I remember when my father had arranged for us to see our very favorite artist—Alice Cooper, who we also got to meet backstage before his show! Philip and I were driven up to Atlanta by Dee Wilson, one of the nicest guys that worked at Capricorn, who took us in the old Capricorn Mercedes six door limousine which was equipped with TV, Bar (which was off-limits to us, but we didn’t have any interest in it anyway, just yet), along with one of the first mobile cell phones. We felt pretty special. We entered the backstage of the Omni, in Atlanta, and walked through what felt like endless corridors and hallways until we finally reached a room with bright ceiling lights, a sofa against a white wall with a man looking either very tired or dead with his head hanging down. Once we got a closer inspection, he sprung up with arms outstretched and a loud scream, and blood streaming from his vampire teeth. Philip and I must have jumped ten feet back as we both realized it was Alice Cooper. After we recovered from the shock, we laughed and then headed back in the front row to enjoy the show that neither us ever forgot.
We also got to see the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Wet Willie and other Capricorn acts together and often explored all the rooms backstage, thinking we were all alone. Reflecting back, I am quite certain we were supervised, or rather, followed by an adult, but just never knew it. After the concerts, Philip and I would rush into the backstage room where the bands would retire and, like other normal kids, have our pen and paper ready for the band members to sign our concert program. I can remember Jaimoe, the drummer of the Allman Brothers, always having time for us and asking questions about our favorite band, girls or what mischief we had gotten into while Philip and I competed with each other on who would get the most autographs at a concert.
Because our fathers were in the music business, it was not exactly a “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best” sit-com upbringing--we had a pretty different reference point to what a so-called “normal” upbringing was all about, but it bonded us together even more so. Our parents, however, were protective of us and tried to keep our daily lives as normal as possible with chores, sports, homework, and summer jobs. As one can only image, our parents entertained quite a bit and we were often relegated to bed before a band might audition, unless our fathers were out scouting talent at Grant’s Lounge, Ad Lib Club or Uncle Sam’s --in that case, we had a sitter, who more often than not worked at Capricorn, such as the photographer, Sidney Smith, or the head of publicity, Mike Hyland; and, I am sure, we successfully kept them crazed until our parents got home.
Those who knew Philip will attest that he loved practical jokes and took great pleasure putting his friends off guard and off balance in unsuspecting circumstances. One evening when Philips father was having a party, we decided to hide everyone’s shoes from those who got comfortable and had taken them off. To our dismay, we had to go to bed before the party ended, and never learned what happened when guests decided to leave and could not find their shoes.
In 1973 Philip and I went to Sweden to visit my mothers family and, during a large and formal dinner party, Philip and I had the idea of going under the long dinning room table and untie every gentleman’s shoes and then tie the lace to the other shoe before dinner was finished and before everyone left the table. Once the mission was accomplished, we went back to our table and waited to see everyone stand up and try to proceed to the sitting room for coffee and cognac. I can tell you there were a lot of surprised faces when our victims stood up.
Philip and I started to like the opposite sex at about the same age and our first crushes and girlfriends were twins at my school in Macon—Sharon and Susan Smith were their respective names and it was almost impossible to tell the difference between them. I went out with the older sister of two minutes, though, from time-to-time, we did mistakenly court the wrong girl as they looked exactly like. We both were smitten, and we each made the bold move together of holding our girlfriends hands in Macon’s Central Park or on the front lawn of the Macon Academy School. At around the age of 13, with our newly elevated testosterone levels, though not quite at the age to be able to do anything about it, our innocent exploits in pursuing the opposite sex generally consisted of “stalking females.” We were often pursuing older women of two or three years our senior. We were sure one of the girls would be flattered that we were following them and that they would reciprocate the interest; that was not the case—from their prospective, we were a couple of cocky little 13- year olds. I remember one of the most embarrassing moments that bruised our egos when we were staying on Hilton Head Island at the Capricorn house. Some young woman told us that they had a couple of younger brothers we should play with. We were humiliated, but it did not stop our determination to meet girls.
Our summers seemed to be endless—riding matching Honda 50 mini bikes or jet skiing in Lake Sinclair, getting to go to the annual Capricorn Summer Picnics and working at an ice cream shop for Philip’s aunt, Susan Kennedy, in Valdosta, GA, and, not to forget, our times experimenting with alcohol by sneaking drinks out of my parents French restaurant, Le Bistro, into The Alley; these are just some of the many memories I will always carry with me.
Philip was with me when I enrolled into Paideia School, a progressive private school in Atlanta, were I went at the age of 12. I remember how much Philip loved the school that he wanted to enroll with me. While he never went to Paideia, he made sure all his children did. I feel a wonderful sense of continuity knowing that Philip’s children had some of the same teachers I had thirty-plus years earlier when we went there together that day in the summer of 1975. Not only are his children Paideia students or graduates, but also, Philip’s wife, Melissa, works in the school’s alumni department. Last winter, Philip helped arrange and teach a music history course with my very favorite former high school teacher and adviser, Tom Pearce, who will continue the Southern music course next spring.
As many know, Philip has always had his priorities in the right order with family ranking as the most important; he always reminded me of how important family life meant to him, and I admired him for his devotion. I believe his love for his close- knit family was something he appreciated because of our own childhood experiences, that, while magical, did not exactly exemplify stability, given the spirit of the times and our bigger-than-life fathers who were shaking up the status quo while they made music history.
Philip and I grew apart as adults and did not see each other as often as either liked, but we always kept in touch. Philip was always a good friend to me (other than some good humored practical jokes directed towards me) and his consistent thoughtfulness will never be forgotten-- mailing me a book on gypsies as an adult because he remembered that I took a class on the subject at Paideia as a 15 year old; bringing to my attention that another company was using my companies name and then introducing me to his colleague and friend from his old law firm, King and Spalding. The colleague represented me, and we won. He gave me the keys to his home in Atlanta when I was doing business there while he and his family were out of town; calling me multiple times after my dear mothers passing and offering me his places in Florida and North Carolina to recuperate; hired my Interactive music marketing company, TouchTunes, on Capricorn projects during the 1990’s; and, most recently, his lent his enthusiastic support and assistance in the campaign to get my late father inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to finally stand side-by-side with his best friend and business partner, Philip’s father, Phil Walden, as two of the three original founders of Capricorn Records and responsible for what the label became.
After going to Philips very touching funeral and reception at the home of Leon Jones, his old law partner and good friend, my fiancé and I stopped at an outside Pizza restaurant that happened to have a beautiful view St. Philips Church where just hours early we were celebrating Philip’s life. It was a gorgeous evening with nearly a full moon that shined brightly just over the cathedral on a clear night. I smiled, looking at the church, knowing Philip was in a good place before getting up from my chair to go to the bathroom. The men’s bathroom was occupied, so I went into the women’s bathroom—something, I can tell you, I rarely do! But I took the chance as the establishment was empty and closing. As I was quickly relieving myself, I heard a noise and looked to the door with a guilty face, as though I had just been found out, certain a woman was about to enter, when a roll of toilet paper suddenly and unexpectedly fell from the back wall-holder directly to my feet. For some reason I began to laugh, knowing Philip’s love of pranks and that he would have certainly appreciated my compromised circumstances. Then I wondered if it was Philip telling me he was OK and that he had not lost his sense of humor.
I loved Philip as the brother I never had and I will always miss him and cherish the childhood memories we shared together.
Happy Birthday, my friend.
Philip and Rob at Lake Sinclair, Circa 1971
Philip joins Rob and his family on skiing trip to North Carolina, circa 1976.
Philip and Rob having a snow fight! Circa 1976.
Support the nomination of Frank Fenter into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Senator Mullis, I grew up with the Fenter family-probably spent more time at their house with Frank's son Rob than I did at my own. As you can see from the out pouring of support, Frank was a special person who played an integral role, not only in making bringing Capricorn and its artists to the world, but in many legendary artists during his tenure at Atlantic. - Philip Walden, Jr •