SYLACAUGA -- B.B. Comer Library kicks off the SouthFirst Bank brown bag adult lecture series for winter 2018 on Wednesday, Jan. 17, with “Our Stories in Music and Song.”

The series titled “These are Our Stories” will be held each Wednesday from Jan. 17 to March 7 starting at noon in the Harry Brown Jr. Auditorium. Refreshments are served beginning at 11 a.m.

On Wednesday, Buddy Simpkins will bring a “who’s who” of musicians to join him in playing for Comer Library’s brown bag lecture audience.

Joining Simpkins on drums will be renowned jazz double bassist, Cleve Eaton, who spent 17 years with the Count Basie Orchestra. Eaton is in the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame as well as the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

On trumpet will be Bo Berry who played with such greats as Wynton Marsalis and Count Basie. He was inducted in 1993 to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

On keys will be Choko Aiken. Born and raised in Japan, the talented musician began studying classical piano at the age of 3 — later adding jazz, salsa, gospel and pop to her incredible repertoire of beautiful music.  

Performing vocals will be Tena Wilson, a noted singer and vocal instructor. Wilson has performed on stage and at concerts throughout the United States using her incredible voice to “make people happy” at venues ranging from the Alabama Symphony Orchestra to Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf.   

Simpkins directed the Sylacauga High School Band from 1967 to 1994. He also directed the choirs at the First United Methodist Church for 38 years, carrying the youth choir on many trips throughout the United States and Europe. Over the years, he has continued to play with other musicians and has kept in touch with some of the best in their fields.

“We are happy to bring Buddy and his musician friends back for a performance,” said Library Director Tracey Thomas. “He has been so gracious about playing with and lining up these gifted musicians who are still so active in the music world.  

“The ‘Our Stories in Music and Song’ will draw on songs from musical history, with the group playing their favorite repertoire of tunes — jazz, rhythm and blues, pop and swing or whatever strikes their fancy. This program will tell stories in music and song with a journey to a fabulous era in musical history.”

Other programs in the winter SouthFirst Lecture Series — “These Are Our Stories” — include the following:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 24 — John Sledge, “These Rugged Days: Alabama in the Civil War”
  • Wednesday, Jan. 31— John M. Williams, “Village Life:  A Memoir of People and Places”
  • Wednesday, Feb. 7 — Rheta Grimsley Johnson, “The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge:  Metaphors for Love, Loss and Life”
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Dr. William S. Mitchell and the Talladega College Choir
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21— Terry Robbins, “George Jones:  The Crown Prince of Country Music”
  • Wednesday, Feb. 28 — Ruth Cook, “Camp Aliceville: German Prisoner of War Camp — 1942-1945”
  • Wednesday, March 7 — Dolores Hydock, “It Could Happen! Stories of Hope and Possibility”

The “These Are Our Stories” adult lecture series is sponsored by the SouthFirst Bank.  The Hightower Refreshment Room opens at 11 a.m. Participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts provided by the library.

Working adults are invited to come by on their lunch break to enjoy the adult programs, which will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium.

Groups should contact Thomas at 256-249-0961 or email her at to inquire about availability of seating for groups.