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GEORGIA GROWN PROFILE: The Pig'n Whistle spices up the arts

By Amy Carter
amy.carter@agr.georgia.gov
Editor

You know that old saying about the right place and the right time?

Once could argue that the Pig'n Whistle in Macon was that place, and the middle of the 20th century was the time for connoisseurs of smoky barbecue, moody rhythm and blues, and steamy Southern literature.

"We fed everyone from Elvis to Cher to Jerry Reed, he was a regular," said Mark Hooten, whose father, Billy, went to work at the Macon Pig'n Whistle when he was 13 and owned the Macon site until it closed in the 1970s. Hooten has revived the Pig'n Whistle brand with online sales of branded barbecue, steak and hot sauces and meat rubs.

The Pig'n Whistle is an old name in the food industry, according to Hooten. In Georgia, it was known for barbecue, burgers, fries and milkshakes. Macon residents in particular recall hanging out at the Pig as teenagers in the 1950s and '60s. Former WMAZ newscaster Del Ward - famous as the first female disc jockey in the U.S. to play all night - recalled going on dates at the Pig'n Whistle as a teenager in Macon.

"I remember hearing music from the car radios - not like today, not blaring. It was Sentimental Journey, or you'd hear Kiss Me Once, Kiss Me Twice, it's been a long, long time. It was just the in place," Ward said in a video interview recorded for a documentary Hooten is producing. There were other locations in Atlanta and Augusta (site of an in-house radio station with the call sign WBBQ). The chain was known for its singing carhops - who served their customers curbside with a tray that attached to the car window - but not as widely recognized for its influence on Southern arts. In 1971, the Allman Brothers Band put the song Statesboro Blues back on the charts, not long after signing their first major recording contract with Capricorn Records (also based in Macon) in the parking lot of the Pig'n Whistle, according to Hooten.

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