The Kinston Music Park: A celebration of African American Musical Heritage, is located at Spring Hill and South Queen streets in the Sugar Hill district that once was the vibrant hub of African American music venues where musicians including Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong played. The Kinston Music Park serves as a regional gathering place to celebrate the rich African American music of Eastern North Carolina.
Address: Spring Hill and South Queen Streets
Contact: Community Council for the Arts, 252-527-2517
Park Hours: From dawn to dusk daily
Features: A 12 foot high, 23 foot wide sculpture, benches and walkway with quotes from area musicians; seasonal outdoor concerts.
The signature element of the park is a 12-foot high, 23-foot wide sculpture with images of famous jazz, rhythm and blues, soul and gospel musicians from Kinston and surrounding communities. Created by the sculpting team of David Wilson and Brandon Yow, Intersections are glass panels that feature historic photographs, vintage maps and original artwork that all pay tribute to Kinston’s African American musical community.
A large ring of benches surrounds the artwork — a perfect place to view the sculpture, and read excerpts from the African American Music Trails guidebook. Visitors will find quotes from area musicians along with lyrics and song titles etched in concrete throughout the park.
I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown, recorded by James Brown and the Famous Flames (band members were from Kinston)
I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas, first recorded by Billy Taylor in 1963 (from Greenville)
The Loco-Motion by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, recorded by Eva Narcissus Boyd, known as Little Eva (from Kinston and Belhaven)
“We couldn’t compete with the big towns that much, but we could always beat them in baseball and music.” — Wilbert Croom, Lenoir County
“It’s just something about Kinston that’s musical.” — Dick Knight, Lenoir County
“All the cats came in and brought their horns.” — Maceo Parker, Lenoir County
The park also displays large colorful tile mosaics honoring the artistic tradition of North Carolina painter Romare Bearden, created by Kinston students in a youth project. The mosaic project was spearheaded by artists September Krueger and Anne Brennan through an after school project of the Community Council for the Arts. Trail-blazing local musicians featured include Nathaniel “Nat” Jones, the acclaimed musical director for James Brown’s band during the 1960s. Next to Nat Jones Kinston musician and James Brown band member Dick Knight appears with his group, The Bossatettes. Another mosaic tile refers to the Uptighters, a 1970s band led by Tyrone Greene of Lenoir County whose father Zack influenced many Kinston players. Ira Wiggins of Kinston made his debut with this band.
Women in jazz are featured on another mosaic, showcasing the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a multi-racial, all-female jazz band of the 1940s to 1950s. Geneva Perry retired from the Sweethearts and then taught music and directed the band at Adkin High School in Kinston. Her students included Sonny Bannerman, Nat Jones, Thornton Canady, and other well-known Kinston musicians.