In continuing recognition of the artists and supporters who have helped make Athens a destination for music fans, the Athens Music Walk of Fame Committee announces the five inductees for 2023: Monroe Bowers “Pink” Morton, Normaltown Flyers, Jackie Payne, Calvin Orlando Smith, and WUOG.
Monroe Bowers “Pink” Morton – (July 31, 1856 – February 12, 1919) was a prominent building owner, publisher, building contractor, developer, and postmaster in late 19th-century Georgia. An African American, he lived most of his life in Athens, Georgia, where he published a newspaper and built the Morton Building. The building included the Morton Theatre on its upper floors, a vaudeville venue, and offices for African-American professionals including doctors and pharmacists on its ground floor. His theater, sometimes referred to as Morton’s Opera House, hosted many prominent African American performers including from New York City’s Cotton Club. Performers at the theater included Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway.
Normaltown Flyers – The Normaltown Flyers have been playing their good time/up tempo music since 1979. Band members are Brian Burke (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars), Tom Ryan (bass, vocals, and saxophone), Davis Causey (electric guitar and vocals), along with newer additions Deane Quinter (on drums and percussion) and Tim White (keyboards). Through the years John Keane (of John Keane studios) has been very instrumental in helping the band with recordings and occasionally joins them on stage. The Flyers gained popularity with their regular performances at Allen’s in Athens, Georgia and in other regional venues. In 1989 they attracted the attention of legendary Nashville producer Harold Shedd. Harold signed the band to Mercury/Nashville in 1990. They produced two CDs and two videos for “Rockin’ the Love Boat” and “Country Boy’s Dream.”
Jackie Payne – (b. 1945) is an American blues singer. Payne was born in Athens, Georgia. He trained as a singer in his father’s gospel choir and learned the blues from his uncle, Neal Pattman, who played harmonica. By the age of 13, he was singing professionally with the Allen Swing Band in Atlanta. He later joined an R&B group called The Serenaders. He moved to Houston, Texas in 1963, at the age of 17, and recorded his first regional hit, “Go Go Train” on the Jetstream label in 1965. He was nominated in both 2007 and 2008 for the Blues Music Award for Best Male Soul Blues Artist; an album he recorded with Johnny Otis was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1993.
Calvin Orlando Smith – a graduate of Cedar Shoals High School and the University of Georgia, Calvin Orlando Smith went on to be the first African-American accepted into Cambridge University’s prestigious Department of History of Art and Architecture and receive a degree. As a performer, he has performed in three Broadway productions and appeared in seven national, international and or limited tours. Mr. Smith has worked regionally for 40 years as a member of the Actor’s Equity Association and shared the stage with Morgan Fairchild, Cathy Rigby, Florence Henderson, Ben Vereen, JK Simmons, Isaac Hayes, the New Kids on the Block and most recently, Garth Brooks. In June 2022, he made his Carnegie Hall debut in Brahms’ “Requiem”.
WUOG – WUOG 90.5 FM is the University of Georgia’s alternative college radio station. It is an all-student, all-volunteer, non-commercial station, first broadcast on October 16, 1972, now celebrating over 50 years of operations. On February 21, 2009, the lobby of the WUOG station inside of the Tate Center was named in honor of Wilbur Herrington for his service as station engineer since the station’s first broadcast in 1972. It was on WUOG that R.E.M. were first broadcast; a live recording of “Hippy, Hippy Shake” was played in the summer of 1980. Drummer Bill Berry was also in a short-lived combo of radio personalities from the station, known as the WUOGerz. WUOG offers regular rotation programming as well as specialty shows. The program “Live in the Lobby,” broadcast on Tuesday and Thursday each week, features live on air in-studio sessions from local Georgia musical artists.
The annual nominations of inductees are selected by a local resident committee appointed by Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz. This year’s committee members are David Barbe, Alyssa DeHayes, Hope Iglehart, Montu Miller, Nathaniel Mitchell, Mark Mobley and Velena Vego. 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 by the committee in the coming years.
The walk, created in 2020, passes several renowned music venues in western downtown, including the Morton Theatre, the 40 Watt Club, and the Georgia Theatre. Bronze plaques, designed by local artist Allen Sutton, installed in the sidewalk this coming summer will honor these artists and community members who have contributed to Athens’ musical legacy. 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, the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Arts Division and the Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works Streets & Drainage Division.