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Hell be Walking to New Orleans
Song inspires Oakwood mans plan
Paul Leslie of Oakwood will soon be making his way to New Orleans by foot to raise money for the Make it Right foundation. The foundation is working to raise money to help rebuild New Orleans Lower 9th Ward.
Walking to New Orleans

Those interested in pledging money for Paul Leslie’s 300-mile walk to New Orleans can e-mail him at Leslie vows to donate the money to the Make It Right foundation, which benefits the continued post-Katrina recovery efforts in the New Orleans area.
Paul Leslie may have come up with the ultimate tribute to a rock ’n’ roll pioneer.

The 28-year-old Oakwood man plans to walk 300 miles to New Orleans on the 50th anniversary of Fats Domino’s hit “Walking to New Orleans.”

He’ll need at least two pairs of shoes.

Leslie has mapped out a route along scenic highways from Panama City Beach to the Crescent City that he says he’ll undertake beginning in early February. He’ll be accompanied on the journey by friend Wesley Cook of Smyrna. The two hope to get people to pledge per-mile contributions for their walk to benefit continued post-Katrina recovery efforts in the region.

The idea first took hold after Leslie, a West Hall High School and Gainesville State College graduate, got a chance to interview the 81-year-old Domino for his Internet radio show.

“I’ve wanted to do a very long walk for some time,” Leslie said. “A friend of mine said, ‘as big a Fats Domino fan as you are, you should walk to New Orleans.’”

Leslie, whose genre-blending, topic-based radio programs showcase everything from rock ’n’ roll to blues, jazz and calipso, had a willing partner in Cook, also 28.

“We’re both all about thinking big and making it happen,” said Cook, a singer-songwriter who hopes to wrap up his latest album prior to the big walk. “We’ve had our share of adventures before, and this will be one for the books. It should be a cool, soul-searching adventure.”

Leslie said he’s trained for the journey, working his stamina up to a six and half hour walk around South Hall. He has mapped out his daily destinations — they’ll be staying in motels along the way, and hope to visit with local music legends in Alabama and Louisiana.

Leslie will bring a tape recorder and camera to document the journey and hopes to end up with enough material for a few radio shows.

Leslie said the response he’s gotten from the nonprofit group his walk will benefit — actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation — has been lukewarm at best. Perhaps wary of liability issues, the group has not endorsed the walk, though they did give Leslie an address where he could send the check.

“The hope is to raise what money we can and inspire other people to give, and just let people know it’s still not back to where it needs to be (in New Orleans),” said Leslie, who professes a strong love for the city and its music, food and people.

Leslie and Cook aren’t expecting Fats Domino to roll out the red carpet if and when they hoof it into the Big Easy. But Leslie was thrilled to hear that the song’s co-writer, 71-year-old Bobby Charles, heard about his plans and approved.

“This will be a success, and this will be fun,” Leslie said.