New book highlights Atlanta music memories through concert flyers

henry owings
Henry Owings is the author of "Plus 1 Atlanta - Concert Ephemera from a Storied Metropolis.” (Hillery Terenzi)

Once upon a time, before online mailing lists, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, Atlanta indie musicians had to take it to the streets to advertise their upcoming shows. Instead of sending out an invite to their thousands of online friends, local bands would create eye-catching flyers and staple them up all over town. Atlanta author, designer, publisher and producer Henry Owings recently compiled a collection of these memory-inducing images called “Plus 1 Atlanta – Concert Ephemera from a Storied Metropolis.” Owings joined “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes via Zoom to talk about the image collection and its vivid portrait of Atlanta music from 1962 to 2003.

Henry Owings has been involved in the local music scene for decades. In addition to his books “The Rock Bible” and “The Indie Cred Test,” he founded Chunklet magazine, a humor and music publication based out of Athens. He explained how he hit on the idea of a lovingly archived volume of nostalgic concert posters. 

“I don’t know what you’ve been doing the last couple of years, but I certainly wasn’t going and seeing any shows,” said Owings. “So I was working on a box set for the Athens band Pylon, and it gave me a glimpse into all of this stuff that, as a fan of Georgia music, I had always heard about but I had never seen. And so it’s one thing to talk to somebody who talks about seeing the Stooges at Richard’s in Midtown or whatever, but it’s another thing to find these artifacts.”

He continued, “I just wanted to actually hold and scan them. And more than anything, I just wanted to get it right, and my inner editor came out, and a couple of actual editors came out and helped me try and explain 50 years of music in this town.”

The visuals are accompanied by essays from Owings and many other local artists (including a foreword by comedian and actor David Cross) on memorable moments in Atlanta music. He attested to a principle of neutrality guiding his hand, saying, “What I wanted to do was show Atlanta. I didn’t want to show my personal biases. I wanted to show warts and all; I wanted to show the cool bands, I wanted to show the lame bands, and it’s not incumbent upon me to say which is which.”

As Owings namedrops venue after venue that today’s concert-goers may never have heard of, a hidden history of Atlanta begins to emerge. He mentions forgotten stages like the Point, the Metroplex, 688, Rose’s Cantina, P.J.’s Nest, the Rec Room, the Nitery and many more. He also immortalizes wilder-than-fiction stories from the Atlanta scene, like the early days of RuPaul’s emergence in Midtown nightclubs or the time when Jerry Garcia might have considered dosing the local municipal water supply with LSD.

As for the original event posters themselves, Owings treats them like hallowed artifacts. “I’ve kind of largely been very allergic to holding on to this stuff. I don’t want to hold on to it. If somebody gives it to me, it goes to a museum. If it’s from Atlanta, it’s going over to Emory, and if it’s from Athens, it goes to UGA. [These are] profoundly intimate memories that people are sharing with me, and I take it very seriously.” 

“Plus 1 Atlanta: Concert Ephemera from a Storied Metropolis” is out now.