Rob Gibson

Alumni share music memories from their time in Athens

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“During my senior year in Athens I had the privilege of serving as program director of WUOG, a 12-month experience far more concentrated on music than academics. It was a pre-digital era where music seemed to be oozing from every nook and cranny, making Athens a feast for music lovers. Eight-track tapes were fading out, but LPs ruled the day and were sold in droves at the Wuxtry downtown by Pete Buck, who strummed his guitar behind the counter when not engaged in conversation with a walking musical encyclopedia named 'Ort' (William Orten Carlton). The seventh floor of the Main Library was heaven for those of us interested in the field recordings of Art Rosenbaum and other special collections. At the student-run station, we filled the airwaves with weekly broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Camerata, along with Bob Marley, Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Clash, David Grisman, Miles Davis, Talking Heads, Willie Nelson, Public Image Ltd., Thelonious Monk, Elvis Costello, Dexter Gordon, Pygmies of the Ituri Forest, John Lee Hooker, The Dead Kennedys and any other new wave/punk sounds that our amazing music director Kurt Wood could dig up. The local rock music scene was brewing—the B-52’s had just signed with Warner Brothers, Pylon put out a 45rpm and was playing a loft with a single 40-watt bulb, while a young group called R.E.M. was starting to draw crowds. Memorable concerts around town in that span included The Police, John Cale, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Georgia Theatre); Muddy Waters (Legion Field); Tom Waits, The Seldom Scene, Freddie Hubbard, Newgrass Revival (Last Resort); Sea Level (Memorial Hall); Sam Rivers/Dave Holland (Tyrones); to name just a few. And when Ort dug deep into his collection to produce two 120-minute, live-on-air specials called 'Jawja music,' featuring the first 60 years of outstanding recorded artistry from our amazing state, it was evident that the Athens music scene was cooking on all cylinders.”

     —Rob Gibson (AB ’81), executive director, Savannah Music Festival