George Fontaine

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George Fontaine (BBA ’76) helped to re-launch the Georgia Theatre as a music venue in the late ’70s.

Photo by Rick O’Quinn

“I was trying to graduate, working on getting married, investigating the viability of college kids opening the Georgia Theater as a music venue, and selling stereos at HiFi Buys on Broad Street. All of this was far more responsibility than I was remotely qualified for. In fact, more than a few lunch breaks were taken down the street at Bubber’s Bait Shop. I never saw any bait sold at Bubber’s.

One summer afternoon I was working at HiFi Buys, and in walked two gentlemen and a woman. I quickly noticed that one of the men was blind. I walked up to the people and asked if I could be of assistance (in those days HiFi Buys in Athens also had a record store inside of the stereo store. I knew a lot more about records than I did about electronics, but I bluffed my way through as best I could).

The blind gentleman told me he was interested in purchasing a receiver, so I took them into the room where all the receivers were located, and he proceeded to have me play each one at a very low volume level. He would then turn to me and inform me which receivers had the best bass, midrange, and treble responses. I knew there was no bluffing or sales pitch that would work on this man. He was in control, and I was along for the ride.

Eventually, he settled for a Sony receiver. As we were completing the sale, I asked the man if he was a musician. He said, ‘Yes, I am a guitar picker from North Carolina, and my name is Doc Watson. This is my wife and my son Merle. Merle and I are playing here tonight.’

Merle passed away some years ago, but Doc is still out there pickin’ somewhere, and there isn’t a Doc Watson vinyl record that I don’t own.”

—George Fontaine (BBA ’76), co-owner New West Records