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Interview with Velena Vego, May 19, 2019

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:16 - Coming to Athens/ The 40 Watt and Fan Clubs

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Partial Transcript: Valena, talk a little bit about, uh, how you grew up...

Segment Synopsis: Velena Vego, from Atlanta, Georgia, discusses moving to Athens to pursue the success of an all girl band, Mystery Date, with her sister. They were together for six years before breaking up in 1987. She began working for R.E.M. on their Green Tour by answering phone calls for the fan club, as well as Drivin N Cryin opening fan mail. Vego pursued a job at The 40 Watt Club in 1991 after they moved to a larger location, where she's continued to work over the years.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Barrie Buck; Jared Bailey; John Keane; Memphis, Tennesee; Neil Percival Young; Peter Buck; Robin Edwards; Rocky's Pizzeria; Samuel Cornelius Phillips; University of West Georgia; WHER

00:07:01 - Booking Shows

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Partial Transcript: My claim to fame, I guess, was, you know, I was the one that brought Nirvana here...

Segment Synopsis: Upon successfully booking Nirvana at The 40 Watt, Vego describes the friendship she's deveoped with Dave Grohl. Vego also discusses working on the business side of the music industry rather than performing. She mentions that she feels more comfortable and is better at booking shows because she is able to empathize with people who want to perform. She has currently worked at The 40 Watt for 28 years, as well as the Buckhead Theatre for 9 years.

Subjects: David Eric Grohl; Foo Fighters; Peter Buck; The 40 Watt Club; talent buying

00:09:23 - Up-sizing The 40 Watt

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Partial Transcript: How did the change...?

Segment Synopsis: Vego describes the relocation of The 40 Watt Club as relayed to her by Barrie Buck, the owner of the club. She says Barrie told her the longest standing and current location was chosen because they needed a bigger space to allow for the booking of national acts, rather than limiting to local acts. Vego mentions business being especially busy for the first few years, and that in the 28 years she's worked there she has booked a wide range of artists and bands.

Keywords: Apollo; Athens, Ga; Broad St; Caledonia Lounge; Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (Snoop Dogg); Georgia Theatre; Jared Bailey; Kenneth (Kenny) Arnold Chesney; Kyle Pilgrim; Uptown Lounge; country music; heavy metal; hip hop; rock music

00:13:25 - Building Relationships with the Bands

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Partial Transcript: Do you get most of...?

Segment Synopsis: Vego explains the typical booking process and how it has evolved over the years, from her pursuing bands to agents reaching out to her. She talks about the band-friendly reputation The 40 Watt has built by allowing the bands to keep most of the money rather than focusing on their own profit.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Barrie Buck; David Yow; James Newell Osterberg Jr. (Iggy Pop); Jared Bailey; Los Angeles, CA; Mystery Date; New York; Pavement; The 40 Watt Club; The Jesus Lizard; The Strokes

00:16:21 - Contributions and Changes in Athens

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Partial Transcript: ...but I will always be forever grateful...

Segment Synopsis: Vego explains how she feels Buck and Bailey have made an important impact on Athens. She also discusses how her lack of formal education and reliance on intuition, as well as the changes in Athens, have made it unbelievable that she and Buck are able to effectively run The 40 Watt together. Vego discusses how some of the bands she has booked have come back to play at The 40 Watt because they appreciate the club's kindness and faith in them to become successful.

Keywords: Barrie Buck; Doug Hoechst; Jared Bailey; John Clayton Mayer; Neutral Milk Hotel; Nirvana; The C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business; University of Georgia

00:22:10 - Branching Out in the Music Business

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Partial Transcript: Like I said, I felt very comfortable...

Segment Synopsis: After working at The 40 Watt for five years, Vego considered moving to L.A. or New York to pursue Artists and Repertoire. However, David Lowery contacted her after getting a record deal to ask her to run his record label for him. She stayed in Athens and continued to go to The 40 Watt as needed. She feels that people know who she is because of her work at The 40 Watt. She has since worked as a General Manager for a record label, managed bands, and worked for Buckhead Theatre after moving to Atlanta.

Keywords: A & R; Athens, Ga; Atlanta, Ga; Barrie Buck; Camper Van Beethoven; Cracker; Virgin records

00:25:02 - Changes in the Music Industry

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Partial Transcript: Have things changed significantly...?

Segment Synopsis: With the major technological changes over the years, Vego considers herself lucky to be in the live music business, although she has still had to change with it. She mentions music streaming making records outdated and cellphones and the Internet eliminating the personal touch of manager to band relationships. Even still, she says The 40 Watt has managed a great world wide reputation.

Keywords: David Van Cortlandt Crosby; Pandora; Spotify; Stephen Arthur Stills

00:28:56 - Strategies for Booking The 40 Watt

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Partial Transcript: What's your strategy for...?

Segment Synopsis: Vego explains her strategies for booking bands, explaining that she has to be conscientious about ticket prices in order to pay the band and production of the show, but also to make sure they are reasonable enough for people to buy. She mentions how it's become easier with the ability to look up a performer's show statistics. Vego and Curtiss Pernice discuss the shift in clientele, specifically surrounding showtimes becoming earlier with a more competitive student body at the University of Georgia. Vego has interns she uses to keep up with the latest trends and preferences of incoming students.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Atlanta, Ga; Buckhead Theatre; Flagpole Athens Music Awards; HOPE Scholarship; The 40 Watt Club; UGA

00:35:19 - Creating the Band

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Partial Transcript: When you moved to, uh, Athens...?

Segment Synopsis: Vego recalls how the band Mystery Date was started in Atlanta as her younger sister Vanessa Vego's dream. They later met Robin Edwards, a student at Georgia State University, who joined them in Athens after graduating. The band mostly played at Uptown Lounge and The 40 Watt Club. Velena Vego mentions how she disliked Athens when she first arrived because of the hippie vibe and wanted to go back home.

Keywords: 688 Club; Athens, Ga; Atlanta, Ga; Butthole Surfers; Last Resort; Limbo District; New wave; The Go-Go's; The Gun Club; The Liars

00:40:33 - Experience in an All Girl Band

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Partial Transcript: The only thing that was kind of weird...

Segment Synopsis: Vego describes the challenge of being in an all girl band, involving the audience trying to decide which member was most attractive rather than focusing on the lyrics of the songs or their talent. She says she didn't like dealing with people after the show and took the music very seriously. Briefly, she mentions her upbringing and her parents treatment of her and her sister as independent women.

Keywords: The Runaways ; Athens, Ga; Elvis Aaron Presley; Jerry Lee Lewis; Joan Jett; John Michael Stipe; Roy Kelton Orbison; Samuel Cornelius Phillips

00:44:39 - Records and Touring

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Partial Transcript: You had a record on...

Segment Synopsis: Vego mentions that Mystery Date released a single and was on a British Compilation during the six years they were together. While they never left the south, they toured in Tennessee and North Carolina. Vego explains that it was hard to get booked at some places because the band members were so young, but they had help from other people in the music scene, such as the members of Pylon and Love Tractor.

Keywords: Chapel Hill, NC; Cynthia (Cindy) Leigh Wilson; David Lindsey; Frederick (Fred) William Schneider III; Nashville, Tennessee; Peter Buck; The B-52s; The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; U2; Vanessa Briscoe Hay

00:50:12 - Athens Development and Band Culture

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Partial Transcript: But that's why I was saying for Vanessa...

Segment Synopsis: Vego feels lucky to have lived in Athens, spent time getting to know her idols, and experiencing the support from various bands in the music scene. She explains that the city wasn't only great in her youth, but that that there is always something new to look forward to. Vego also discusses how she feels the Greene family is important to Athens, Ga, each with their own contributions to development, bringing up places such as The 40 Watt Club, the renovated Morton Theatre, and Ted's.

Keywords: Barrie Buck; Barrie Greene; Jessica Greene; Minutemen; Ted's Most Best; The Grit; Vic Chesnutt

00:56:00 - R.E.M. and Other Athens Bands

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Partial Transcript: I always loved the way that...

Segment Synopsis: Vego and Pernice discuss the importance of R.E.M.'s attention to little details, specifically how they hand picked who toured with them by vote. Vego notes that she feels that The 40 Watt Club and The Georgia Theatre were home to different bands and split the indie rock bands and the hippie jam bands, allowing so many different sounds to come from Athens. Vego and Pernice also mention how the complications with pricing and transportation in Athens will affect music in the future.

Keywords: 10,000 Maniacs; Camper Van Beethoven; Dave Matthews Band (DMB); David Charles Lowery; Dreams So Real; Hootie & the Blowfish; Michael Stipe; Pylon; The B-52s; The Dream Syndicate; Widespread Panic