Widespread Panic Honored - GA Hall of Fame

Photo by Kelly Lambert.
See more photos at athensonline.com

By BETH JONES - beth.jones@onlineathens.com for Athens Online

ATLANTA - Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools looked a little ill at ease as he posed for photographs before the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards.

The band has played more than 2,000 shows in front of thousands of screaming fans, but Schools admitted this was the first time he'd walked the red carpet.

"I'm not nervous," he said. "I just don't want to scuff up the red carpet."

Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the awards show, which was held at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Joining Widespread Panic as inductees into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame were Keith Sweat, R&B singer from the new jack swing era and host of a syndicated radio show; DJ Hamp Swain; Fred and Dinah Gretsch of Gretsch guitars; the late Christian singer and songwriter Dottie Rambo; and rapper and actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.

When Widespread Panic prepared to take the stage to perform, the night's co-host Monica Pearson said of the crowd, "I think they're ready."

And they were.

They may have sat at tables covered in linen tablecloths and paid $75 for their tickets, but this was not the type of audience to clap politely or clink on a wine glass.

When Widespread Panic took the stage at the end of the show, music fans in their suits and cocktail dresses rushed to the pit below the stage to hear the band play "Up All Night."

They danced and hollered through the band's second song, "Ain't Life Grand."

Chuck Leavell, known for playing the keyboard with bands like The Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers Band, presented the award to Widespread Panic.

"I love these guys," Leavell said. "Even though they've never been embraced by mainstream radio, they've sold over 3 million records. . . Widespread Panic has proved you can be successful by doing things your own way."

The members of Widespread Panic, all dressed in suits, filed onto stage behind guitarist/vocalist John Bell, who took the mic to give the band's thanks.

He talked about the early days of the Athens band, which formed in 1986. He talked about weekly gigs at Athens' old Uptown Lounge and going to Waffle House afterward.

"We were not looking to this day 20 years in the future," Bell said.


JB's acceptance speech

Over the years, Widespread Panic has toured relentlessly, landing in Pollstar's Top 50 Tours every year for the past decade, and played more than 2,000 shows over their career.

The band's popularity reaches far outside the South. This year, the mayor of Denver named June 27 Widespread Panic Day to honor the band's 32nd sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre - more than any band in the venue's history.

John Keane, an Athens producer who has a long history of working with the band, made the drive to Atlanta to see Widespread Panic's induction.

"I know they're glad to have stayed together this long and stuck with it," he said.

Check out>> the video:
Members of Widespread Panic talk about the honor of being inducted before the Georgia Music Hall of Fame ceremony