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Saturday Covington will celebrate one of its natives with the inaugural Isaac Hayes Day.

It was an idea born on Facebook, said organizer John Edwards, a Covington alderman.


“A guy was talking about how Isaac Hayes was the coolest guy to come through Memphis. I told him that he was probably the most famous person to come out of Covington. He replied, ‘Probably?'”

It all came together quickly, he said.

“That was June the 29th. I figured if he was the coolest guy to come out of Covington, we should be doing more to recognize him. I checked his birth date to figure if we could do something for his birthday; I saw that it was seven weeks away and I then asked Mr. (Joe) Mack if the date was open for the park. At that time, I was thinking starting with a small function get things going for the first year.”

From there, the festival grew larger and larger.

“After I got the OK from Mr. Mack, I contacted the STAX museum. The museum gave me some good information and I then contacted Ms. Veronica Hayes. Once again, she gave more cooperation than I could ask for things took off from there because everyone that I asked had love and respect for Mr. Hayes and they did everything needed to make it happen.”

Hayes, who died on Aug. 10, 2008 in Memphis, was born in the Rialto community on Aug. 20, 1942 to Isaac Lee Hayes Sr. and Eula B. Wade Young.

His mother died in 1944 and he was raised by his grandparents, Willie James Wade Sr. and Rushia Addie Mae Taylor. The family attended Rialto Baptist Church, but moved to Memphis as Isaac began school.

He began performing as a young boy and his legacy as a performer lives on, which is the reason city leaders have chosen to honor him with the inaugural Isaac Hayes Day Saturday.

Hayes recorded two very successful albums, “Hot Buttered Soul” and “Black Moses.”

In 1972, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the theme from “Shaft” and the Golden Globe and the Grammy for Best Original Score for the movie of the same name.

He was only the third African-American to win the Academy Award at the time.

Hayes appeared in the the movies “Truck Turner” and “I’m Going to Get You Sucka” as well as television shows like “The Rockford Files” and “The A-Team” and voiced the character Chef from the animated series “South Park” on Comedy Central.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2005.

Daughters Nikki Hayes McGee, Melanie Hayes and Veronica Hayes were in Covington Aug. 8 to accept a proclamation on their father’s behalf and tour the community where he got his start.

As event organizers work diligently to prepare for the event, they look forward to attending.

To kick off the celebration, the Tipton County Museum has acquired more than a dozen pieces of Isaac Hayes memorabilia from the Stax Museum and will open an exhibit in his memory at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19.

At 10 a.m., the celebration continues in Frazier Park with a waterslide, vendors, food trucks, music and more. Covington High School band director Kreston Smith will play saxophone and Edwards, known as DJ Jumpin’ John, will DJ for awhile.

The Covington High School Class of 1977 is planning a music revue in the evening featuring several of Hayes’s hits as well as soul classics.

“It’s hard to say what part of the day that I’m looking forward to because the morning will be more like a picnic with all of the different foods and Mr. Smith plays a MEAN saxophone,” Edwards said. “There will also be gospel singing in the morning and that always does the soul good. The evening will be geared more toward entertaining the family while the day will be more like a meet-and-greet.”

Admission to both the museum and to the festival is free, but the music revue will be $10.

“The evening event will be the class of ’77 and it will also be the Smooth Jazz Progressions band. Johnnie Johnson has lived here all of his life and has been playing in a band for years. Even though he lives here, as far as I know, this is his first time playing in the band in Covington in the last 10 years or so, so it’s a homecoming for him as well as the Hayes Family. All of the profit will go the the Boys and Girls Club and the African American Museum.”

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.