BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Butch Weaver was regarded as the “Godfather of Rock” in Atlanta.
Charley Magruder’s, the north Atlanta club he owned from the early 1980s through its demise in 1996, was the spot that attracted a motley procession of familiar faces, from Tommy Shaw of Styx to Lemmy of Motorhead to Butch Patrick (aka Eddie Munster) to members of Metallica — all of whom would swing by when in town for a concert or visit.
Weaver loved his Magruder’s family, and on Sunday, they will celebrate his life with a music-centric memorial at Center Stage dubbed “Charley Magruder’s Last Call.”
Weaver died on March 9 of an alveolar hemorrhage at the age of 72.
“Everyone kept thinking, this thing ain’t gonna get him. He had come so close to death so many times,” said Billy Greer, bassist for the band Kansas. “He had a lot of health problems over the years, but man, what a personality. He had this infectious laugh that would warm you up all over.”
Under Weaver’s guidance, Magruder’s earned a reputation as a haven for rockers, and Jesse James Dupree, frontman for the Atlanta-formed Jackyl, a frequent presence on rock radio in the early ‘90s, has plenty of stories to tell.
Dupree’s earlier band, PG-13, regularly played Magruder’s, which he called “THE destination point for great music.”
“It was such an intimate, unconventional setting. I don’t know if that was the genius in Butch or if he was just a lucky (guy), but between the vibe of the place and the people who worked there — there was literally a waiting list of people who wanted to work there because there was no turnover — he created a really unique atmosphere.”
Dupree also birthed his patented chainsaw-slicing-through-wooden-bar-stools routine — which evolved to complement the Jackyl song “The Lumberjack” — during a PG-13 concert at Magruder’s.
“The sheer fact that Butch survived everything I put him through …,” Dupree said with a laugh.
Dupree and Greer will be at Center Stage on Sunday, along with a lineup featuring Georgia mainstays Caroline Aiken, the Athens Band, Shyanne, Michelle Malone and Drag the River, Swinging Richards, Angie Aparo and others.
Kaedy Kiely, afternoon drive host on The River (97.1 FM), knew Weaver since the late ‘80s, when she hosted a weekly club night for then-Atlanta powerhouse 96 Rock.
“It was our second home,” Kiely said of Magruder’s. “It was our favorite music and everybody just got down. It was such a variety of people.”
Kiely will emcee Sunday’s event.
Weaver’s success with Magruder’s was apparent, but many who knew him for decades also unabashedly praise the man as well as the businessman.
“Butch was the ‘most interesting man in the world’ in real life,” said Kansas guitarist Rich Williams. “He not only had more friends than anyone I’ve ever met, (but) Butch knew more people who considered him their best friend than anyone I ever met.”
Weaver was a decorated Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1967-70 as a Huey pilot. The Center Stage gathering is free, but donations to the Vietnam Veterans of America are encouraged.
“For years, Butch wanted to have another Magruder’s reunion,” said Kiely. “We want to do that and remember him.”
A Celebration of Life in Honor of Butch Weaver
With Sandra Hall, Caroline Aiken, the Athens Band, Michelle Malone and Drag the River, Swinging Richards, Steve Stone, Billy Greer, Angie Aparo, Jesse James Dupree and more. 5 p.m. April 1. Free (donations suggested to the Vietnam Veterans of America, vva.org). Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta.