Volume 77
Number 4

Health for All

Fear of Flying

Flying II: High Anxiety

Virtual Vietnam

Uncovering the Past

Wired New World

Enigma: Physics Band

Emory University

Association of Emory Alumni

Current News and Events

Emory Report



Sports Updates





















































EMORY UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT JAMES T. LANEY once hosted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra board of directors, conductor Yoel Levi, and a handful of the symphony’s 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.

“That night was one of our claims to fame,” says Bud Puckett, a research associate in the physics department and the banjo player in the department’s makeshift three-man band. “I seem to remember Yoel Levi kind of distanced himself from us . . . but President Laney always liked our music.”

Emory’s former president isn’t 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 department’s 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.

“We’ve 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.

The physics band’s extensive repertoire includes old standards, show tunes, country and bluegrass, children’s 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 along–although the only time the band actually features a vocal performance is when Puckett sings “The Blues. (He’s happy to provide a quick rendition just about anywhere, anytime.)

On 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.

Despite their popularity, music is just a hobby for the physics band members, and their performances are pure fun. They never rehearse. “That’s against the rules, Puckett says.

But do they ever make mistakes? “Oh, gosh, yes, Puckett says. “But you’d never know it. We never play a song the same way twice.–P.P.P.



© 2002 Emory University