Formed on an October night in 1976 following drinks at a Chinese restaurant in Athens, GA, the band played their first gig at a friend’s house on Valentine’s Day 1977 — and the rest was history! The B-52s quickly established themselves as “The World’s Greatest Party Band.” And thirty years and over twenty million albums into their career, there can be no doubt as to why The B-52s remain among the most beloved rock stars ever. Any mystery concerning the longevity and ongoing appeal of the band is immediately solved when exposed to a unique B-52s concert experience. From the timeless gems of “Rock Lobster,” “Planet Claire” and “Private Idaho” to the more recent classics “Channel Z,” “Love Shack” and “Roam”, the B-52s’ unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time their music begins. Seeing that they are so well known for their live show, It is hard to believe that it has taken so long for the band to produce a live album! Luckily, the wait is now over as the band has just unleashed ‘The B-52s: With The Wild Crowd!’ on compact disc and plan on releasing there amazing show on DVD and Blu-ray in 2012. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Cindy Wilson, who along with her late brother Ricky, Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, founded one of music’s most unique bands! The two discuss her musical influences, the history of the B-52s, the band’s first live release and what the future holds for this amazing band!
Your music has influenced so many people over the years and we always like to try and give our readers some insight on an artists early years. I was curious to learn how music first came into your life?
When I was young, 45s were really big and my mother was really into buying, as well as my father. He was into “Rock Around The Clock,” Elvis Presley, the rock ‘n’ roll days and the boogie-woogie days. My mother was into Petula Clark, Herb Alpert and all that kinda stuff. Ricky, who is my big brother, you know, he was listening to The Beatles. I got right in there too! I started using my allowance to buy 45s of everything that was going on at the time. I started with Petula Clark, on up to Donovan and all through the ages. 45s were very important! I would spend a lot of my wasted youth lip-syncing in front of my stereo, pretending that I was on stage! [laughs] Ricky is a good four years older and, as a child, that seemed like a much bigger gap between brother and sister. He was always the coolest! He was always so hip, so I always looked up to his tastes and everything. He was going through The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, The Incredible String Band, The Stooges and all of these amazing artists. It was totally fascinating to me! He thought that I was the funniest thing! He was teaching himself guitar and was going through his kinda folk period. One summer he worked to buy himself a reel to reel, he was totally serious about all of his music. He loved harmony! He would call me into his room and he would teach me some harmonies to do and also to just go crazy! There was a lot of musical experimentation as we were growing up. Keith Strickland, I have known him since, gosh, since I was 12! Him and Ricky were also so creative and outrageous! They were always into music. It was amazing. I think that Ricky, Keith and Fred [Schneider] meet originally during a giant jam in Athens, Ga. I forget exactly where it was, near the train tracks at some club. It was very hippie, free-form but edgy too. It was a jam that just went on and on. The name of the band was “Night Soil” and different people would step in during the course of the night. I think that is how they met Fred originally. But anyway, music has always been a part of our lives.
Looking back on the early days of The B52’s, did you guys have any inkling you would be the big success you became and still going strong all these years later?
No! Were we just in it to entertain ourselves in Athens, Ga. in ‘77, I think that is when we started. Athens wasn’t like it is today, where it is almost like New Orleans with all of the clubs that there are. We had to make our own fun! Everybody knew that parties were the cheap way to go and there were a couple of bars back then where you could go for 25 cent beer night! It was a big social scene with a lot of artists and interesting people. It is a university town and it was so exciting. I was 18 and Ricky and Keith had just come back from Europe, so Ricky and I started hanging together again. It was very exciting with the people that we were meeting. That is how the B-52’s started! We were hanging out with Kate and Fred and going out to eat. It was just a group of friends hanging out and then going back to a friend’s apartment where we just started jamming, which was a natural thing to do back then. It just clicked, ya know? It crazy clicked! We were rollin’ on the floor and we said, “OK! We have got to do a party!” So we did! We did a friend’s party and that was the start of The B-52’s!
You just released “The B-52’s With The Wild Crowd!” and it is terrific! It was well worth the wait but what took you so long to do a live release?
I know! I don’t know if it was that we didn’t have the right people recording us or if it was just jinxed! Every time we tried to record, something would happen! Maybe this was just the right time for it to happen! The people that recorded us for this were top notch all the way! First class! You could really tell!
Did you feel any pressure, as a group, to put this project together?
Well by this time, ya know, we are professionals! So, we aren’t overwhelmed by much anymore! But again, maybe that contributed to it. Actually, we didn’t think too much about it. We were going into the anniversary show in Athens and we were concentrating mostly on that and being there, living in the moment and not counting on this working! But luckily, it really did work out! I think it really captured a great moment in a really good way! I think that the B-52’s songs were really meant to be a live show thing and a lot of the songs are best live, when you can actually feel it! That is what my feeling is and I think that is what this “The B-52’s With The Wild Crowd” album really does.
It seems like the stars finally aligned for you guys!
Yeah! [laughs] Yeah, exactly!
As you said, the band has been around since the late ‘70s and is still going strong. What is the secret to your success?
I think that we are original and we started off like that. Of course, everyone had their own influences and everyone took those influences and put them together into a big pile. We wrote songs and contributed and it was really fresh and original. We also always had a really good time and had a really good live show. I think that people really saw that we were bringing something original and interesting to them. A lot of people were influenced by that.
Do you guys have any plans on tackling new music sometime in the future?
Well, right now we are concentrating on promoting the live CD and there will also be a live DVD of the show coming out in February or March of 2012, I believe. We are really excited about that! This contributes to bringing people into our live shows this year and really inspires us to continue to bring a great live show to the people.
I have seen you live on several occasions and it is always a great show and a great atmosphere.
I am glad you think so! Thank you so much!
Thank you all for you hard work through the years! You guys have been doing it for a long time and make it look easy!
Yeah, yeah! We try to stay in the moment. It is hard traveling these days but again, that is what we do for living. We meet so many wonderful people and you can really feel the energy coming from the audience. It is a really good job to have! Making this kind of energy is really great!
I know you have done some solo work in the past as well. Are you always working on new music and might we expect some new stuff from you in the future?
Yeah, definitely. I have a few people that I work with around here in Atlanta. It’s a lot off fun. I am thinking about doing some more songs with them but I have got my family too! I have to divide my time and be careful not to spread myself too thin!
The B-52’s have seen a lot in their time and surely have some tales to tell from their journey. Any chance for an autobiography of some sort in the future?
Yeah, that is happening. That is the next step. Keith Strickland has a wealth of interesting stuff that hasn’t been brought out yet. I think that he is going to be working on that. We will be helping him with it and it is very exciting. I think that we will eventually see some of that stuff coming out, which nobody has ever seen. I think that fans will think that it is really amazing!
That is great news! It seems you all are in a great place creatively and it is really inspiring to see that!
Thank you! Yeah, it is kind of a badge of honor to still be in music at this time and to have been in it for so long! We are survivors! [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone who might want to follow in your footsteps and create a career for themselves in the music industry?
Have a good live show! [laughs] Because that is where you make your money right now! But things are constantly changing. Hang in there because it is a very difficult time now in music. I think that we are still in between what the music industry is eventually going to be. So yeah, I would say just hang in there and have a good live show!
I think if they look to you as an example, they will have a pretty good idea on how to do that!
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
Well, I am so happy because I have gotten so many messages and congratulations from so many people and our fans! I am just tickled! I am tickled for the fans and for us! I really think it is great! The B-52’s are really grateful to still be in everyone’s minds and hearts!
Thank you for your time today, Cindy! It has been a pleasure and we look forward to spreading the word for you and The B-52’s!
It was a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much!
For all the latest news and tour dates for the legendary B-52s, visit their official website at www.theb52s.com.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.