Hall honor thrills B-52's singer
The Thomas Murphy Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta was turned into a love shack Saturday night as family, friends and fans of the B-52's cheered and applauded the band's induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor inducted Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Keith Strickland into the group category at the start of the show, just moments after they performed three of their biggest hits: Love Shack, Roam (Around the World) and Rock Lobster.
"It's overwhelming," Miss Wilson said after the show. "This is a very, very special time in my life. I've having such a wonderful time. I've got my family and friends surrounding me. It's a great moment in my life to be part of the Hall of Fame."
Also inducted into the Macon hall during the evening were Grand Ole Opry star Trisha Yearwood in the performer category, Grammy Awards executive Michael Greene in the nonperformer category and guitarist Little Jimmy Dempsey in the posthumous category. (Just for the record, I only missed Little Jimmy in my four picks a couple of weeks ago).
Augustan Allison Jones, a senior at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, drew a standing ovation with her emotional rendition of Summertime from the movie/Broadway show Porgy & Bess. She was one of two talent search winners this year.
During her acceptance speech, Miss Wilson remembered her brother and original B-52's member Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS on Oct. 12, 1985.
"We love you. The award's for you too," she said.
After the show Miss Wilson told me: "Oh, Ricky's spirit is everywhere. He was there (onstage), absolutely."
Mr. Wilson died shortly after working on the group's 1986 release,Bouncing Off the Satellites. The group was so distraught that its members went into seclusion, returning in 1989 with their most commercially successful album Cosmic Thing.
The B-52's (named after the sky-high wigs worn by Miss Wilson and Miss Pierson) came together one night in Athens, Ga., after some drinks at the Hunan Chinese restaurant. They moved the party to the house of a friend, Owen Scott, and started jamming and singing together. That led to the group's performance on Valentine's Day 1977 at a party in a house on North Milledge Avenue, across from the Taco Stand.
Two years later they were signed by Warner Bros. Records and became the first of the big rock bands to come out of Athens, paving the way for R.E.M., Widespread Panic and others.
Mr. Strickland and the Wilsons had grown up in Athens, while Mr. Schneider and Miss Pierson had moved to Athens from New York.
Miss Wilson told me that she was influenced by country music while growing up, and by Petula Clark, Lulu, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas.
"I think I have a kind of country voice in a way," she said. "I liked the classic country like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. Cosmic Thing was a nostalgic kind of Southern album; not quite country, but it definitely has country influence."
So, why hasn't she tried solo recording in Nashville?
"There's so many people trying to do that," she said. "I'd just be another one trying."
Miss Wilson left the group amicably for a rest in 1990 but returned with the group's 1998 album Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation.
"We're still playing around," she said. "We played a couple of months this summer, here and there. We have a wide audience at our shows - from kids up to the older crowd. It's an interesting audience."
Miss Wilson now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. The other three group members live in New York state.
With a broad smile, Miss Wilson told me she was happy to be performing to a home-state crowd at the start of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame awards show.
"It's a multicultural event," she added of the evening's mix of country, pop and blues, "with different styles, but I think everyone was rooting for us."
The B-52's will not attend the annual dance party of B-52's fans, but there will be a lot of fun at the "Party Out of Bounds 6," which starts at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at Boneshakers, 433 E. Hancock Ave. in Athens. Admission is $5, with proceeds benefiting the AIDS Coalition of Northeast Georgia.
There will be a disc jockey playing B-52's recordings, B-52's videos and band-donated memorabilia for sale. Check out the Web site www.theB52s.com for more information.
OOOPS! ONE EXTRA YEAR: An eagle-eyed reader spotted that I added a year onto Gov. Jimmie Davis' age last week. The former Louisiana governor, who wrote You Are My Sunshine, turned 101, not 102, on Sept. 11. Roy "Pop" Lewis turns 95 today, and Ray Charles turns 70 on Saturday. Both are Georgia Music Hall of Famers.
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 29 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.