They were the quintessential college rock band of the 1980s, working in the town Rolling Stone called “the best college music scene in the country.” Michael Stipe was an art student at the University of Georgia when he met Peter Buck at the Wuxtry Record store in Athens. Together with Mike Mills and Bill Berry, they formed a rock band called R.E.M. in the spring of 1980.
Athens already had a thriving alternative music scene, with the 40 Watt club as headquarters for groups like the B-52s and Pylon. R.E.M. released their first single, “Radio Free Europe” in 1981 and critics loved it, just like audiences did.
Commercial success and rave reviews greeted every album. R.E.M. signed a $10 million contract with Warner Brothers in 1988; six years later, the deal was an unprecedented $80 million. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
The Athens band has maintained its Georgia roots while selling more than 40 million albums worldwide. R.E.M. first entered the UK singles chart with their hit “The One I Love” on November 28, 1987, Today in Georgia History.