The B-52s' Party Rolls on Through Phoenix

Categories: Q&A, This Weekend

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The B-52s' funky, flirty and groovalicious party sound is as unmistakable today as it was when the band formed unexpectedly in 1976 after founding members Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, and Cindy and Ricky Wilson downed a flaming volcano drink at an Athens, Georgia restaurant.

"We never planned on having a band. We were friends and crashed parties together in Athens and hung out," says Pierson during a recent phone interview. "So one night we went to the Chinese restaurant and we had very little money to eat, so we thought we'd share this drink . . .

"We went over to a friend's house and started jamming and . . . that's how it happened: the magic drink."

The B-52s are scheduled to perform Friday, July 12, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.

Athens had no music scene to speak of at the time, Pierson says, and there was nowhere to play other than backyard parties. Another band suggested they send demo tapes to CBGB and Max's Kansas City in New York City. The fledgling band landed a gig at Max's.

"It was basically an audition night where you play with 10 other bands," Pierson says. "We drove all the way up there and they said, 'Could you cut your set short to 20 minutes?' That was all the material we had anyway. Afterward, we got straight back into the station wagon and drove back to Georgia. We found out later they wanted us to come back."

The band made the 818-mile trip to New York City a regular event. Eventually, with the help of Danny Beard of DB Records, the band released a single with now-party staple "Rock Lobster" and "52 Girls," cementing their musical appeal.

"That really put us on the map," Pierson recalls. "People started coming in droves to our concerts in New York and that's how it all blew up."

The band quickly signed a major label deal becoming the de facto party band for college kids everywhere. Though the band added new musical elements every now and then, the core sound remained, though Pierson says the band never intentionally tried to create anything in particular. Every song, she says, was part of a collective writing process based around jamming.

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