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Hidden History: Disco fever sweeps Macon at Flaming Sally's

The club, which used to be on Emery Highway in Macon, had a massive light-up dancefloor and once hosted celebrities like Billy Idol and Lisa Lisa

MACON, Ga. — Do you remember dancing the night away at a disco? 

Macon was swept up in a haze of disco fever during the 1970s until its "end" in the early 1980s. The music combined the popularity of funk and R&B from the previous decade into something new that made even the most amateur dancer get into the groove.

Popular acts like Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, Kool & the Gang, and many others dominated the iconic sound. There were many nightclubs in the area where you could dance into the early morning hours with whomever you chose.

One such club was Flaming Sally’s.

The club was owned by Carlton Barker. It was open from 1977 until 1992 and it featured a 12,000-watt multicolored dancefloor, according to an article in the Macon Telegraph dated March 1978.

Carlton's brother, Jerry, said he named the club Flaming Sally's because he wanted a name that was different from anything else. 

"One day [he showed me] a design that he had come up with -- a girl and her hair that was red and it was kind of draping on both sides of her picture and he said, 'This is Flaming Sally and I'm going to call it Flaming Sally's Saloon,'" recalled Jerry.

The club was popular among many Maconites at the time.  

Jimmy Barnett started going to Flaming Sally’s when he was 18-years-old.

"They had these big platforms that you could dance on to get up above the dancefloor. There were people everywhere," said Barnett.

Rick Benge was a bouncer at Flaming Sally’s when he wasn’t driving a beer truck full-time in his early 20s. He worked there on-an-off for three years.

He says every time he hears Donna Summer he remembers working at the club. 

"Every time I hear that song 'On the Radio' now, I think about going in there. The flashing lights, the light-up dancefloor. I think about that quite often," said Benge.

Barnett said that he saw many celebrities at Flaming Sally’s like Billy Idol, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Mother’s Finest, and even Mick Fleetwood's Zoo -- yes, the leader of Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood!

He said that one of his favorite things about disco was the beat that made you forget everything else going on outside.

"You could just dance. You couldn't walk into a disco and be in a bad mood. You forgot your cares. You forgot the politics of the day, the tragedies of the moment. You just went and had fun. We could use a little bit of that now," said Barnett.

Disco as a music movement ended in the early to mid 80s with fever pitch moments like Disco Demolition Night that resented disco culture and its ties to its Black and Latin creators and the LGBTQ+ community. 

As “Disco Sucks” became the rallying cry of the nation, the disco fever finally subsided as glam metal took its place.

But disco lives on in other ways and its influence can still be heard in house music, EDM, and other genres that formed after it.

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