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I’d like to start this with my recall of the opening night of the 40 Watt on Clayton Street, April 3 1981. I had been working with Paul Scales, the man who started the 40 Watt Club) providing PA for the Athens bands he was booking at a place in Augusta called “New York, New York”. They had a “New Wave” night on Thursdays and that’s where I first worked with Pylon, REM and most of the other Athens bands who were active at that time.
Paul approached me about providing PA for the opening night at the Watt and I readily agreed, the band was to be Pylon. When I arrived with the PA Paul asked me where I wanted to set up and, after a quick handclap to test the echo from that concrete shoebox I decided to put both of our LaScala speakers on top of each other in the protected corner of the room next to the stage, with the horns adjacent to each other. This arrangement mitigated the phasing that usually takes place when sound waves are bounced off really hard surfaces out of time with each other. Although there were some skeptics when I began setting up the show was a success in my humble opinion, and the 40 Watt went on to bigger and better things in the future.
Hindu Love Gods...Bill, Peter, Mike, Bryan Cook, and sometimes Warren Zevon. Two shows at the Watt, and one at Bourbon Street. I think Gevin quit r.e.m. after the Bourbon Street show when he found out the dust raining down from the ceiling all night was asbestos. The perils of playing rock and roll in a strip club. I might have worked the door. I know I loaded out, because that is when Gevin lost it and left. I think I even got paid ten bucks or so.
I guess I should jump ahead to the night that Jason and the Nashville Scorchers first came to town. I don't remember the date but I remember I was supposed to work that show and I couldn't because Tyrone's burned down and I didn't have any equipment to work it. Paul called in Plan B, Woody, and he was there that night. Paul was gracious enough to give me a comp pass to enter, and I climbed up on the "ladder" that Paul had constructed to access the "sound booth", which in those days was situated in the tiny space above the bathrooms, which are still there to this day. It was a terrible place to put the sound booth because that tiny space constituted an air trap, and it was impossible to hear anything at all that was going on in the room and the only way to mix a band under those circumstances required you to climb down out of the booth, listen to what was going on, then climb back into the "booth" and, essentially, shoot in the dark what you hoped to accomplish, climb down on the floor, listen, and climb back into the "booth" and start over again. Kinda like the setup at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village actually.
Jason had a 100' mic cable he carried with him so he could go out off the stage and into the crowd (this was way before when wireless became commonplace), and he ventured into the room as the band performed, stopping to "experience" the crowd as he did so. He finally made it back to the corner of the room where the bathrooms were, and climbed atop an old refrigerator someone donated to Paul to use as an auxiliary beer cooler. This refrigerator was in the corner of the bathroom offset, which placed it right in front of the "soundbooth", and this placed Jason nose to nose with yours truly, who was hanging on to the ladder that led up to the booth. Jason looked at Woody, then at me, and I don't know why but I yelled out to him, "JUMP"!! He looked at the people below, and then he did a grotesque half gainer into what he no doubt believed would be the waiting arms of his adoring audience, only to discover that everyone did a deft matador dodge and he wound up on the concrete floor of the 40 Watt, where he lay for quite some time.
I remember looking at Woody and him looking at me with an expression on his face as if to say, "you killed him dude", and then finally Jason got up off the floor, then began staggering around trying to figure out how to get back to the stage, and I saw a lump on the side of his head that reminded me of a grapefruit. He finally figured out that the stage was in the opposite direction, turned and made his way back to the stage, and completed what I felt and still feel was a remarkable piece of rock n roll.. go Jason!
Reminds me of when I lived across the street and over some from the 40 watt on Clayton St. up until late summer of 82. I was living in the house on the corner of Clayton and Hull streets on the side facing the bus station. Sometimes I could hear the music in my living room! I felt like I was living in the center of the good part of the universe! Life was very good then.
A mention of when I was involved with Paul Scales in helping him to open the 40 Watt and get it established deserves a little background information: the PA I was using was co-owned by myself and the band I worked with at the time, originally Turtlebay Band and later, Men in Trees. We had a practice space down behind the building where Love Tractor had their practice space, which was an old grocery supply warehouse that fronted on Foundry Street and the side fronted on E. Broad. In the basement underneath the building, in the back adjacent to the old Georgia Railroad tracks, was the entrance to our practice space. I had no transportation at that time other than an old bicycle that Nathan Mende lent to me, so Jeff Parker was kind enough to offer his baby blue Dodge pickup truck to help me move the PA to the Watt on Clayton, which was 5 city blocks, if I remember correctly. That effort required two trips, and Jeff was truly a good Samaritan to help me out, which you will understand more completely shortly.
When the show was finished I packed up the gear, and proceeded to drag the entire PA from the Watt on Clayton to the practice space on Foundry Street on a hand truck, which I was able to consolidate into 5 trips if I remember correctly, usually finishing up about dawn. My legs were never in better shape, even when I played tennis in college..
People have asked me many times since why I worked so hard for so little compensation and the answer has always been the same: if I hadn't done it no one else would have, and the Watt would have "died a borning.." Oh, my compensation was the deal I worked out with Paul, to help make the 40 Watt Club a viable entity: we were paid $40 a night, which I split with Men in Trees for their share of ownership in the PA. My take for packing the PA into Jeff's truck, unloading it into the Watt (with Jeff's unrequited help, thank you my friend), setting it up and running sound for the show, then packing it up and singlehandedly dragging it up the hill on Clayton Street, thence to Foundry and making a right, then a left onto E. Broad and down to the railroad tracks, right for about 50 yards and then up a steep grade to the practice space, unload the hand truck, and then back the 5 blocks to 256 W. Clayton Street to begin the process anew, was $20 a night. If anyone involved with Athens music today would have been willing to work for that price, including my share of that PA, modest as it was, as an investment in the future of a club that I believed would amount to something, in time, I invite him/her to email me at and I will provide that individual with a forum to either contradict or refute my memoir, without prejudice.
I remember when Terrakotta Swayed had our VERY FIRST gig at The 40 Watt and how annoying we were asking WAY too many questions and bugging the TOTAL PISS out of Pat The Wiz and him saying "JUST CHILL OUT ... I will make you guyz sound your very best" and he did ... Drinking his imports and smoking his camels and puttin gup with us and all of the other bands madness and producing some AWESOME SOUND :) Thanks Pat ... YOU ROCK!!!
Here are a few thoughts surrounding times at The 40 Watt. What is immediately apparent to me is that it was not my job on these evenings to remember. There is a wealth of vibration, musical notes and encounters that will require serendipitous memory to articulate.
Over the 1981 holiday season, I was meeting with a group at the Watt to see The Bongos. Among the group was Cindy Wilson (who went to high school with a mutual friend) and her boyfriend Keith. Cindy had just bought a new car with a sun roof and had parked in front of the club. After The Bongos' great set we overflowed out front. I believe I remarked, 'Not bad for a band from New Jersey.' (joking, of course). After we decided on a new destination, Keith got in the car to drive as Cindy popped up through the sun roof.
Among the memories of The 40 Watt Club are also the shows I didn't see. My friend J Greg came by the house one afternoon to tell me I should go to The 40 Watt that night. His 'sources on the street' had informed him that R.E.M. would be performing with Warren Zevon, using an assumed name. Having to work the next morning, I passed on the unusual tip. 'Sources on the street' indeed. Well, I regretted my decision.
It's difficult to believe that it's over twenty years since the 1989 new year's eve reunion of Pylon at The 40 Watt. What a wonderful show and renewal of love for such a great band. It was the first show my wife would accompany me to after the horrible crowd crush of the Roger McGuinn show at The Uptown several years before. There were only good vibrations and the metal trinket given to attendees.
The 40 Watt inadvertently became the showcase venue for The Dashboard Saviors when Pete Buck brought his friend Peter Jesperson (former Replacements manager) to the club to see the band. Jesperson signed The Dashboard Saviors to his new 'Medium Cool' record label. This led to three great Americana albums and a tour of Europe.
Diane Loring Aiken
I remember so many of those shows. So many great memories of dancing my ass off in a sweltering 40 Watt. The Hindu Love Gods!!! I would love to have that. One of my favorite stories of Athens' lore was the party at The Zoo. It was after the HLG show. I was sitting on an ottoman upstairs in a room full of people. The door behind me flew open with a very drunk Warren Zevon stumbling in swinging a gallon bottle of vodka. The bottle just barely grazed the top of my head. I lived to tell and like to say I was almost done in by a Hindu Love God.
The old 40 Watt on Clayton was a musical laboratory, sometimes housing incredibly successful experiments, sometimes not. But it was that spirit of freedom and adventure, with the possibility of failure, that made it so vital.
I lived at the far end of Pulaski Street, so it was a pleasant walk to the 40 Watt. Sometimes I would see bands from elsewhere, likeThe Bad Brains or Mission of Burma. But mostly there was local talent: Nothing could compare to seeing a band for the first time that you’d been hearing good things about. The energy of Pylon was amazing, and I’d seen Michael Stipe around the art building for months, never realizing he was in a band until seeing R.E.M. perform. That immediacy, that DIY creative spirit, was very inspiring. Sometimes there were bands that sounded like no other, like Limbo District, or Matching Fibers. And of course there were poseurs, those who tried to put on the “punk” identity and sell themselves as authentic. But what really sold was honesty, like the Side Effects knowing only a handful of songs, apologizing for knowing only those few tunes, and then playing them all again. Another time a friend, Gary Evans, had written a song about the Irish Republican Army (big in the news back then), and sang it onstage with the Squalls. (He’d been a charter member, and had come up with the name when they were still a living-room jam band, before they merged with the Quarks.)
There was nothing like the sweaty energy of the 40 Watt.