The 40 Watt Club is a world-famous nightclub located at 285 W. Washington Street in Athens, Georgia.
Considered one of the most famous music clubs in Georgia, if not the United States, the 40 Watt Club received its reputation mainly based on its long-running association with the local legends of the Athens music scene. Many Athens bands, including R.E.M., the B-52's, Widespread Panic, Love Tractor, Pylon, the Method Actors, Vic Chesnutt, and the Squalls, got their start at the 40 Watt. The first unofficial incarnation of the 40 Watt was in the College Street apartment of Pylon band member Curtis Crowe; the club's name referred to the power of the only light source in the apartment. The first show, held on Halloween in 1978, featured Crowe's band Strictly American.
Club History Edit
On Halloween 1978 beneath a single 40 watt light bulb in a loft in downtown Athens, Georgia a small crowd watched the band Strictly American play. This was the first band to play and the first night in the long and continuing history of the 40 Watt Club. Curtis Crowe, member of Strictly American (and future drummer for Pylon), had been living/squatting in the third floor space of the 19th Century building over the Schlotzskys on College Avenue. (currently The Grill restaurant) He had, ostensibly, been renting it as an art studio and band practice space. Because "none of the clubs wanted us to play" Crowe started the impromptu club/event. It was a homemade "club," or really a series of parties, created by and for Athens' new music community which was used to pretty much just playing friend's houses.
Moving Across the StreetEdit
After a year and a half of infrequent and spontaneous operation Crowe and Scales moved the club across the street to the corner of College Avenue and East Broad Street above the sandwich shop (now, of course, a Starbucks) in what had briefly been a place called The Crow's Nest. The first work was to expand the small stage and make it "Vanessa proof," meaning that the floor had to be especially strong for Pylon's singer to dance safely on. Before the doors finally opened there was some difficulty coming up with a name because, actually, they didn't want to call it "The 40 Watt Club" because that was the name of Curtis' space above Schlotzskys. Finally, the decision was made to call it The 40 Watt Club East.
40 Watt EastEdit
About the time Pylon (thus Curtis) left to tour Europe and the floor was literally about to fall in on the sandwich shop, Paul Scales and new partner Steve Allen needed to move the club. Coincidentally, a few blocks west, a hole occupied by Rick the Printer's Coffee Club or "11:11" (because the doors opened at 11:11pm) had been having trouble - no one seems to be sure why - with the cops. Finally, after having been shut down by the police (during R.E.M.'s second ever public appearance) Rick and Dennis Greenia decided to vacate the premises and turned the space over to Scales and Allen. Amenities such as a stage and hot water were added as was a second bathroom. True to the 40 Watt method, it was assembled with found materials (including toilet and sink) and volunteer labor.
Now local entrepreneur and health food proprietor Doug Hoescht bought into the club and, as Scales phased out, moved it again. This time to 382 E. Broad Street in downtown Athens to become the more upscale and bar-like "40 Watt Club Uptown." Kurt Wood remembers "the club uptown was.. a little less homemade." Booking now tended toward more polished, established efforts - usually - and with it a more mainstream audience. At the old club, Curtis Crowe said, "we had a punk rock image that was real scary. It delighted us to have people afraid of us." In the heyday of MTV no one was afraid anymore.