Rose Lane and Chuck Leavell
Traveling The World, But Always Coming Back To "A Home Place."
The Diverse Lifestyle of Rose Lane and Chuck Leavell
Chuck Leavell (on the left) with Rose Lane
The meandering rural road from Macon, Georgia leads to the community of Dry Branch, in Twiggs County. It is here that the 2,700-acre Charlane Plantation, heavily forested with Southern Yellow Pine, is located. Lovingly referred to as "A Home Place," by Rose Lane and Chuck Leavell, Charlane Plantation was so-named by combining their first names. Chuck is one of the most renowned and respected piano/keyboard artists in the world and long-time touring member of the Rolling Stones. Rose Lane is a highly respected watercolorist and preservationist. In addition, they are avid conservationists.
Chuck was born in Birmingham, Alabama. His first introduction to music came at a young age, when his mother encouraged him to play the piano. When he was 13 years old he attended a Ray Charles concert and his life was changed. He knew what he wanted to do. In 1969 Chuck moved to Macon, Georgia from his previous residence in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and visited Phil Walden, who had recently opened Capricorn Records Studio. It is here that Chuck met Rose Lane. She had moved from her home in Bullard to Macon and was working at Capricorn. "The first thing he saw when he opened the door was me, and that changed his life again," Rose Lane noted.
Their first journey together as a married couple was exclusively in the high-profile world of Rock and Roll. Chuck was a member of the Allman Brothers Band during the height of their popularity in the 1970s and fronted, for five years, his own jazz-rock-funk band, Sea Level, before that. He was also touring with Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, George Harrison, Aretha Franklin, and many others. They had one daughter...another on the way...when they got news that would re-define their future.
The Leavells began this new journey in 1981, when Rose Lane inherited 1,200 acres of land from her grandmother, Miss Julia. At the time, the parcel had more farmland than timber on it. Rose Lane was familiar with country living and found the transition to this kind of life easier than Chuck--his interest was acquired. Chuck knew nothing about trees at the time. Initially he considered growing row crops, but the work schedule for such an endeavor would have conflicted with his other passion as a traveling keyboard artist. Raising trees seemed much more conducive to the Leavell's lifestyle. After getting some tips from his brother-in-law, who inherited a nearby tree farm, he took a correspondence course in forestry while on tour with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, studying between shows in the back of the bus. Since that time, Chuck and Rose Lane have over doubled the size of their original land acquisition.
The property includes the historic Federal-style Bullard House, a farmhouse built in 1835 which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a lodge that was almost entirely built with timber from their own forest ( inside and out), a plantation house surrounded by gardens, a "Pondominium" on the "Clapton Pond", an art studio/horse stable, gift shop, and spring house...even a dog kennel and chicken coop. Wetlands and meadows surround the trees and there are nature trails cut through the forest where schoolchildren are invited to walk.
Today Charlane Plantation is an award-winning tree farm and hunting preserve and a national model of integrated forest management. The area is the habitat for quail, doves, turkeys, deer, and other wildlife. Chuck and Rose Lane have been offering commercial Southern Quail hunts to guests since 1993. The Leavells are staunch supporters of sustainable forestry, habitat management, conservation, and environmental protection. They also host occasional retreats for those wanting to do some plein aire painting, photography, bird-watching, or relaxing.
The Leavells are hands-on stewards of the land. When Chuck leaves the frenetic schedule of touring the world with the Rolling Stones (which he has been doing since 1982), he returns to the tranquil retreat he and Rose Lane lovingly refer to as "A Home Place." Chuck commented, "I believe there is a deep spiritual nourishment in living somewhere where every tree is taller than every building, rather than the other way around." It's not unusual to see him up at 5 AM sitting on his tractor, helping to plant or prune trees, or you may catch him escorting dedicated hunters through the forest. But his music is ever-present as he creates in his studios on the property and sometimes, after dining on Southern cooking served family-style in the Bullard House...perhaps even quail, he adjourns to the lodge where he entertains his guests by playing his piano and singing a medley of songs--frequently "Georgia on my Mind." It seems to be a most appropriate selection, perhaps a way to thank Ray Charles for inspiring him to be a musician.
While Chuck works on his projects, Rose Lane tends to her vegetable, herb, and flower gardens at the plantation house, She gathers eggs from the chicken coop and sometimes joins kitchen staff, Evelyn and Lois, to do some cooking.. "I'm a real Proverbs 31 Woman that way," she quips. She shares, on her Web site, treasured family recipes in addition to some she had acquired from her international travels..
Chuck's and Rose Lane's lives are an intricate web of contrasts and interests. Like the stands of magnificent Southern Pines, reaching for the sky, are in harmony with their lifeblood, embedded in the red earth at their roots, Rose Lane's roots are being sustained by what she and Chuck are doing to preserve the tradition of past generations and protecting it for future ones.
Rose Lane Leavell accurately stated, "Chuck and I are the luckiest people alive because we struck like lightning. We're blessed. None of us in our family can forget that life is a gift. We've all gotten paper cuts along the way, but the Leavell family motto is true, life is good." This feeling of gratitude and desire to give back has enabled them to do remarkable things during their forty-year marriage. Individually, Chuck and Rose Lane are amazing because of their abundance of talent and perseverance. Together, like the lightning strike Rose Lane refers to in the above quotation, they are riveting, and their combined energy allows them to do many illuminating things globally. They are fine role models to their children, Amy and her husband, Steve Bransford, Ashley and her fiancé, Peter Tziros, and two grandsons, Rocco and Miles, on how to live life with tradition, passion, balance, and purpose.
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