UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT JAMES T. LANEY once hosted the Atlanta
Symphony Orchestra board of directors, conductor Yoel Levi,
and a handful of the symphonys principal musicians at
Lullwater. Silver clinked and champagne flowed as these distinguished
guests mingled, chatting about music and the arts, while in
the background . . . a physics professor plunked out the beat
on an old washtub bass and two other physicists, on a banjo
and a six-string guitar, picked homespun tunes ranging from
show music to bluegrass.
night was one of our claims to fame, says Bud Puckett,
a research associate in the physics department and the banjo
player in the departments makeshift three-man band. I
seem to remember Yoel Levi kind of distanced himself from us
. . . but President Laney always liked our music.
former president isnt the only one who appreciates the
unique sound offered by the physics department band, loosely
called the Physics Conduction Band (a title that has never really
stuck). With no formal name, no uniforms, no sheet music, and
no CDs for sale, the unlikely trio has nonetheless been a fixture
at University events for nearly four decades and is a favorite
with many Emory community members. Regular gigs include the
annual parents weekend breakfast, the traditional party
hosted by the president following Baccalaureate, and the physics
departments Christmas fete, but the band also has played
at countless birthday parties, retirement celebrations, holiday
parties, groundbreakings, private faculty gatherings, and student
social events since they formed in the early 1960s.
done it all, says Raymond C. Duvarney, the physics professor
who actually coaxes bass-like sounds from the thirty-year-old
washtub (also called a gutbucket), which is painted orange
and covered with mysterious physics formulas. The third band
member, Woody Wood, taught physics at Emory from 1965 to 1975.
He is retired but still plays guitar regularly with the group.
physics bands extensive repertoire includes old standards,
show tunes, country and bluegrass, childrens songs, and
even a few classical pieces. The ragtag ensemble often surprises
their audience when they set toes tapping and even get folks
dancing and singing alongalthough the only time the band
actually features a vocal performance is when Puckett sings
The Blues. (Hes happy to provide a quick rendition
just about anywhere, anytime.)
one unforgettable occasion, Duvarney recalled, a woman in the
audience stood and belted out every word to the classic Summertime.
Another time, at an outdoor performance, he was pulling so hard
on the washtub string that it broke and the force sent him tumbling
over the fence behind him, much to his listeners amusement.
their popularity, music is just a hobby for the physics band
members, and their performances are pure fun. They never rehearse.
Thats against the rules, Puckett says.
do they ever make mistakes? Oh, gosh, yes, Puckett says.
But youd never know it. We never play a song the
same way twice.P.P.P.