September 5, 2015

R.I.P. Paul Scales, Athens Musician and 40 Watt Co-Founder


Photo Credit: Photo via Facebook

Athens musician Paul Scales died Friday of a heart attack, according to posts on social media, including a tweet from R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills and tributes on Scales' Facebook page.

Scales is known as the co-founder of the 40 Watt Club, which began its official run in 1978 at the corner of College Avenue and Broad Street, under the direction of Scales and Pylon drummer Curtis Crowe.

More recently, Scales was a fixture on Athens' tight-knit blues scene.

Flagpole's thoughts are with Scales' family and friends. We will update this post as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Over the weekend, Scales' daughter, Mary Candler Scales English, sent us the following remembrance of her father, adding that no further memorial arrangements have yet been made.

Athens lost a wonderful musician on Friday. Co-founder of the 40 Watt Club, father, and Reverend, Paul E. Scales passed away on Friday evening at Athens Regional following a massive heart attack. The harmonica playing, keyboard tickling, glasses-barely-on-his-nose wearing man wore many hats over the years. Today, the day after his passing, I choose to remember him with some of the best memories one can muster at a time like this. 

Few memories are more vivid than the hours spent in a small boat on a mountain lake in North Georgia, trolling for trout and catching large mouth bass. As far back as I can remember fishing was our evening break from his electrical business and my homework. He taught me that wearing darker colors made it less likely our prey would see us from their watery depths, and that baiting a hook with live worms, regardless of how much I hated baiting my own hook, was more effective than rubber worms. 

We spent hours digging through wood-chip piles on the side of dirt roads for the plumpest worms you can imagine. The smell of day-old chicken livers is forever cemented in my memory, and those mountain waters still run through my veins. In a time when words fail, memories survive. I choose to remember the man I once knew, before time and differences separated us in adulthood.

Last night, as I watched the outpouring of support and love for his family of many years, band mates, lifelong friends, and musicians paid their respects to a vibrant soul, and I realized that the man I once knew was no longer with us. The pain and reality of growing up, is that we often grow apart and become disconnected from even the ones who raised us. I’ll never be able to get the past eleven years back or the things that we each missed in one another’s lives, but that seems to matter much less today. 

To his partner and their family, my heart is with you. To his friends and compatriots, remember it is not a competition, but a community. The Athens community lost one hell of a harmonica player, but the music of the Earth just got a bit more soul. To my father, wherever you are and whatever shenanigans you are getting yourself into, play a little more for me. Tell B.B. and Hendrix you got some work to do. Like Billy Gibbons said, “sounds like the blues are composed of feeling, finesse, and fear,” and you never were short on any of those. 

All my love,