Athens is a community known worldwide for its creative and diverse music scene, with a rich musical heritage dating from the nineteenth century. To recognize the contributions of the artists who have helped make Athens a destination for music fans, the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC) announces the launch of the Athens Music Walk of Fame and its first 10 inductees.
The Athens Music Walk of Fame is a two-square-block area in downtown Athens bounded by Pulaski Street, West Washington Street, North Lumpkin Street, and West Clayton Street. The walk passes several renowned music venues in western downtown, including the Morton Theatre, the 40 Watt Club, and the Georgia Theatre.
“The Athens Music Walk of Fame will enhance the visual and experiential appeal of downtown Athens, helping to foster community pride and a better awareness of our shared musical and cultural legacy for both locals and visitors,” said ACAC Chair Andrew Salinas.
The first 10 inductees for the Athens Music Walk of Fame show that Athens’ musical heritage far predates the alternative music scene that put Athens on the international map. While several of the artists who shaped Athens’ “indie” reputation appear among these initial inductees – including Pylon, R.E.M., and the B-52s – there are a number of figures who demonstrate the depth and breadth of Athens’ musical pedigree.
The first 10 inductees for the Athens Music Walk of Fame are:
- The B-52s
- Danger Mouse (Brian Joseph Burton)
- Drive-By Truckers
- The Elephant 6 Recording Company
- Hall Johnson
- Neal Pattman
- Vic Chesnutt
- Widespread Panic
The first ten inductees were selected by a local resident committee appointed by Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz. During the selection process, committee members considered the contribution to the identity of Athens, established career, diverse representation in cultural and racial identity, distinct musical style, and historical context. Additional artists will be selected for induction into the Athens Music Walk of Fame in the coming years.
While many of the first 10 inductees may be more publicly known, some entrants such as Hall Johnson, who was born in Athens in 1888 and dedicated his career as an African American choral director to ensuring that African American spirituals would become part of the musical canon, are considered unsung heroes of the music scene.
The Athens Downtown Development Authority received a Tourism Product Development Grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development that will fully fund a mobile app to accompany the walk. Visitors and residents will be able to download the app, designed by ThinkProxi, to experience the sights and sounds associated with each honoree’s contributions.
Bronze plaques installed in the sidewalk will honor these performers who have contributed to Athens’ musical legacy. Through a competitive process, a panel of community members selected Allen Sutton, an Athens-based multidisciplinary designer, and his plaque design.
The plaque design is inspired by both a guitar pick and a location pin to illustrate the link between the medium and the place it was created. The Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works Department’s Streets and Drainage Division is planning to install all ten of the plaques by early September.
In honor of the launch of the Athens Music Walk of Fame, Mayor Girtz’s monthly Community Conversation video program for August will feature conversations between Mayor Girtz and inductees Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. The August Community Conversation will air live on Wednesday, August 26 at 6:00 p.m. on YouTube (www.youtube.com/accgov or by searching for ‘accgov’ on the YouTube app on set-top devices such as Roku or Apple TV), Facebook (facebook.com/accgov), ACTV Spectrum Channel 180 / UGA Cablevision Channel 6, and www.accgov.com/actvlive. The video will be available on-demand after the live broadcast.
"For decades, Athens has been a wellspring of musical talent, well represented by the first class of the Walk of Fame,” says Girtz. “The Athens musical scene drew me here and continues to enrich the life of this community year after year. No doubt, today in Athens there is a song being written in a bedroom or a just-formed band rehearsing in a ragged rehearsal space that the future will regard as highly as we hold these artists.”
The Athens Music Walk of Fame is funded by the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission and supported by community partnerships, including the Athens Downtown Development Authority and the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Arts Division.