Hop in My Chrysler, It's as Big as a Whale

Known for their eclectic sound, energetic live performances, retro fashion sense - and huge bouffant hairdos! - the B-52s were popular on college radio and the live music scene of the early '80s.

After playing their first show at a house party in Athens, Georgia on Valentine's Day 1977, they moved to New York, headlining at CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. Introduced to a national audience after appearing on Saturday Night Live in 1980, they released several successful albums and had a couple of hits - Rock Lobster and Private Idaho.

While working on their fourth album in 1985, guitarist Ricky Wilson died suddenly of an AIDS-related illness. His sister vocalist Cindy Wilson and the other band members took a few years off.

Ricky's death was not only a devastating personal loss, but he'd been responsible for much of their unique sound. He wrote most of their songs and played in an unusual style, using only four strings and special open tunings.

Faced with looking for a new guitarist, drummer Keith Strickland instead decided to BE the new guitarist. He taught himself to play in Ricky's signature style and began writing new songs. The resulting album Cosmic Thing turned out to be their biggest success to date with songs like Roam, Channel Z, and Love Shack.

They've continued touring and recorded their first live album in their hometown in February this year: With the Wild Crowd: Live in Athens, GA. It will be released on DVD in 2012 for their 35th anniversary.

Catch their show at the Ogden Theatre on December 11 or listen to:

Bonus: Cameos

Kate Pierson's distinctive voice can be heard on fellow Athens,
GA musicians' R.E.M.'s 1991 album Out of Time, and on Iggy Pop's Candy.

Fred Schneider appeared with Sleater-Kinney on Wig in a Box: Songs From and Inspired by Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Written by Tammi on December 5, 2011

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