On June 9, Greg Germani was riding his bicycle home from Turner Broadcasting Company where he has worked for 25 years when he was allegedly intentionally run down by a driver in a red SUV who left the scene of the crime and has since been apprehended by the police. Even though he was wearing a helmet, Germani still suffered serious brain trauma and other injuries in the accident. He remains hospitalized for rehabilitation and treatment of his extensive injuries. Germani’s family anticipates a long, slow recovery process.
He was the subject of an article that appeared last fall on ArtsATL about his website, Atlanta Time Machine, an invaluable resource tool for discovering the city’s past through archival photos that Germani often juxtaposes with contemporary images of the same buildings and locations for comparison. That website represents just one facet of his personality and interests, and music is another great passion. A ravenous and extremely knowledgeable record collector, he is regarded by his friends as a consummate “vinylologist.”
In recent years, Germani has become a grassroots music promoter, booking and scheduling small concerts at Kavarna in Oakhurst, where he has hosted Chris Scruggs and the Air Castle All-Stars, Rob McNurlin and His Cowboy Band and other contemporary artists who specialize in the type of authentic country-western music that was at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s.
It is heartening, but not at all surprising, to see Atlanta musicians and bands — many of whom Germani has championed over the years — coming together to participate in a fundraising benefit to assist Germani with the substantial medical and care costs not fully covered by insurance such as outpatient therapy, home health care, and possible home modifications. Scheduled for Saturday, August 2 at the Star Community Bar, the featured acts will include Slim Chance and the Convicts, The Blacktop Rockets, Caroline and the Ramblers, Ghost Riders Car Club, The Mystery Men?, AM Gold, Julea Thomerson, Grinder Nova and possibly others. Friends have also started a “Give for Gregg” fund to help with his expenses.
ArtsATL spoke with some of the musicians who are gathering in support of their friend.
James Kelly (Slim Chance and the Convicts): Greg is a fountain of obscure musical knowledge, and always has something new and interesting to share with people. He knows a lot about the Starday record label and studio, where my dad recorded in the ’60s. I have been a country fan most of my life, having grown up in Nashville with a musical dad. The late 1950s and 1960s are my favorite era, and Greg shares that interest. He is much more of a scholar of the classic “honky tonk”‘ than anyone else I know. We are also both big fans of old-school pro wrestling, albeit I think he likes it from a sort of cultural iconic/ironic perspective, and I just love rasslin’!
Caroline Hull Engel (Caroline and the Ramblers): Greg, like myself, enjoys a variety of genres but the one that we both share, which I believe is closest to Greg’s heart, is classic country music: old-school artists like Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, Charlie Walker, Porter Wagoner, Carl and Pearl Butler and Buck Owens. I didn’t know anything about Charlie Walker, and Greg made me a compilation of Charlie Walker songs; one of my favorite songs on the compilation is “Who Will Buy the Wine?,” which I added to our band’s set list many years ago and we still play.
Ted Weldon (Ghost Riders Car Club): Greg is one of the most honest and sincere people I know. He also says Ghost Riders Car Club is his favorite band. There is only one person who has been to more GRCC shows than Greg. That’s a lot of time spent watching me drink. I’m trying to get him to make our set list for his benefit show so we can play all his favorites, but he’s not answering his phone for some reason. We will play songs by all his favorite one-name country stars: Buck, Conway, Ray, Johnny, Porter, Merle, Ferlin, etc. We all miss Greg at our shows, and we hope to see him out on the dance floor ASAP. I’ve known Greg 22 years. I can say all this stuff because I love him.
Dave Chamberlain (WRFG radio host): Greg and I both love Ray Price. His music is very standardized and it’s kind of wonderful the way everything follows the same kind of progression: the lyrics are often mournful and the beat is kinda happy. There’s often a three-note kickoff with the fiddles on every Ray Price classic tune. It’s what makes a Ray Price song so distinctive. From the first second, you go “Oh yeah, that’s a Ray Price song,” and he hasn’t even sung anything yet. So Greg recorded about 25 of them, just the fiddle kickoffs, and strung them all together so it was about four minutes of dut-dut-dut [imitates fiddles] followed by dut-dut-dut [laughs] and so on. It was so much fun.
Chad Proctor (of Sonoramic Commando): I remember Greg tracking down the apartment in Nashville where the Porter Wagoner album cover for The Cold Hard Facts of Life was shot. He knocked on the door and convinced the guy living there to let him take some pictures and showed him the album cover to prove it. I didn’t know anything about the cover, just the song. Turns out that was Porter’s apartment that he used when he was recording [his] TV show because it was close. So they shot the cover there. To this day when I hear the song I instantly think of Greg.
Dave Abramson (WFMU radio host): I can’t think of anyone who has turned me on to more incredible music than Greg Germani. He’s dropped by my radio show a few times over the past 10 years and it’s always been a blast. Whether he’s hepping me to some zany hillbilly dance number like Leb Brinson’s “Hobo au Go Go” or Charlie Walker’s idealistic “Swimming Pool Full of Beer,” Greg would set up each rare spin with a sense of humor and a sincere love of the music. Greg is a tireless pop culture archeologist who wants nothing more than to generously share his passion for the unsung and the unknown with anyone he comes across. Also, his collection of Frank Sutton (Sgt. Carter from Gomer Pyle) memorabilia is a beautiful thing to behold. I’m misting up just thinking about it! God bless country music and God bless Greg Germani!
Chamberlain: Greg is an obsessive, delightfully so. He’s very persistent and loves to be a completist. He discovered that between West Virginia and Ohio there was a bridge [the Silver Bridge] that collapsed in 1967 and people lost their lives [46 in all]. There were a handful of recordings made at the time to commemorate or at least memorialize the disaster. So Greg went on the hunt to find every recording and obviously they were created for a very regional interest. I think he found at least eight so we played all eight of them on my show. Some of them were very factual, all of this very boring information with this mournful music playing in the background [laughs].
Engel: We were at a Big Sandy show at the Earl and Big Sandy had a new steel player with him on that tour, a guy named Chris Scruggs. We were both blown away by Chris’ playing; we were standing next to each other at the show and commented on what an amazing player he was. Come to find out later Chris’ musical roots ran deep — he is the grandson of the legendary Earl Scruggs. Greg and Chris ended up becoming friends and over the past few years Greg has hosted many local shows with Chris and his band coming down from Nashville to play Atlanta’s Kavarna. The most recent show Chris played in Atlanta was just a couple of weeks before Greg was hit. Chris and his band did a whole night of classic rockabilly that night. It was an amazing show and Greg was grinning from ear to ear.
Chamberlain: Greg’s a passionate person and he’s always let his curiosity rule him, which is wonderful. Some people just run in place. They find something that they love and just never move on but he’s always building on his experiences. I tend to believe that whatever you share with the world does have cyclical effects and Greg is the perfect example. He’s so generous and now the people around him are showing their generosity.
Kelly: You always hear people say “He’s such a nice guy”; well, this time it is real. He is such a nice guy, who brings so much happiness to others. As you can tell by the outpouring of support so far, we will be there for him through this ordeal. Anything he needs, he gets.
Chris Scruggs: Greg is an optimistic, upbeat guy. It’s only fitting that love and compassion towards Greg should raise more money than anger towards the man who criminally drove over him. Monetarily, that says to me that at least $30,000 (the amount raised by Crimestoppers to apprehend his attacker) should be raised to go towards Greg’s ever expanding medical expenses. We should show that our love is a more powerful force than our anger. That’s what Greg wants, I’m sure.