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Capricorn Records Founder Phil Walden Dies

Phil Walden, the Capricorn Records founder who launched the careers of Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band, has died after a long battle with cancer, a family friend said Monday. He was 66.

Walden died at his home Sunday, said Leon Jones, law partner of Walden's son, Philip Walden Jr.

The Macon, Ga.-based record label was influential in creating the Southern rock sound of the 1970s.

"Phil was a visionary," said Chuck Leavell, who joined the Allman Brothers on keyboards in 1972 and now plays with the Rolling Stones. "He just had a great vision and a true, deep passion for the music."

Over a long career, Walden also promoted groups including the Charlie Daniels Band and Wet Willie.

Walden's two most famous artists, Redding and guitarist Duane Allman, both died tragically, Redding in a plane crash in 1967 at 26 and Allman in a motorcycle accident in 1971 at age 24.

The Allman Brothers Band, the quintessential Southern rock band which the guitarist founded with brother Gregg and others, continued after Duane Allman's death.

"They weren't trendy," Walden said in a 1996 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"You had all these British groups dressed up in Edwardian finery," Walden continued. "But there was never any attempt by the Allmans to be a show band. They played music. On occasions, when they were allowed to, for hours."

Earlier, Walden met Redding in Macon in the 1950s, when both were teenagers. Redding became a top rhythm and blues star in the 1960s and was on the brink of wider acclaim when he died.

He had recorded his "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" just days earlier. It became a smash hit in 1968.

"His legend is really sans-hype," Walden said in a 1997 Associated Press interview. "It has made it to this point purely on the magnificence of his music."

During the 1970s, Walden was an early backer of then-Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter. He helped Carter's upstart bid for the presidency financially, as did the Allmans and other Capricorn groups, who played benefit shows.

Carter said Monday in a statement that he and wife Rosalynn were sad to hear of Walden's death. "Phil was one of the pre-eminent producers of great music in America," Carter said. "His many performing partners, including Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers, helped to put Macon and Georgia on the musical map of the world."

Redding and Walden's close friendship made them outcasts in the segregated South, Redding's widow, Zelma Redding, recalled in 1997. She said Walden's passion for black music made him "the little white boy who everybody was wanting to beat up on."