music walk (pylon)

The first plaque installed for the Athens Music Walk of Fame commemorates Pylon, an Athens rock band formed in 1978, on West Washington Street. (Culture Editor/Anna Thomas)

After a year of planning and some installation delays due to COVID-19, the Athens Music Walk of Fame will see the completion of its first installment on Sept. 2.

The first installment features 10 plaques surrounding the block home to the 40 Watt, Georgia Theatre and Morton Theatre that commemorate multiple performers and one collective that made great contributions to the Athens music scene.

It comes as no surprise the B-52s, R.E.M., Widespread Panic and Pylon made the cut for the first installment of the project. The Pylon plaque was the first to be installed on West Washington Street.

Didi Dunphy, program supervisor at the Lyndon House Arts Center, said when the Music Walk committee chose the groups for the first round of plaques, they considered the contribution those groups made to the identity of Athens. The committee also took into account the full musical heritage and history of the town.

The plaques for the project were designed by local artist Allen Sutton. Sutton was chosen to design the plaques by the Music Walk committee through an open call for artists in the summer of 2019. Dunphy said Sutton drew inspiration for his design from pins on a map and guitar picks. Sutton provided the Music Walk committee with a template and font choices for future installations.

“I love the design,” Dunphy said. “It isn’t just the usual little rectangle or star, like a Hollywood star. I think this really speaks to the town. And that it was designed by a local creative, it’s just terrific.”

Originally, the first round of plaques were supposed to be installed in so they would be around the Walk for AthFest Music and Arts Festival. However, after the festival was canceled in March due to the pandemic, the Music Walk of Fame was pushed back as well, Dunphy said. Even with the delays, the project is only eight weeks behind its original schedule and Dunphy said the committee will meet in January 2021 to discuss nominations for the next round of plaques.

Since the project can’t have a ribbon-cutting ceremony because of the coronavirus, Mayor Kelly Girtz talked to Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. via video conference about their time in Athens, music careers and how the town has developed since their time here. The full video is available on the Athens-Clarke County YouTube channel.

“I almost teared up when I heard about [the Music Walk],” Hood said in the video. “I can’t even begin to say how honored I feel about that.”