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Interview with Jeff Walls, May 4, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:10 - Introduction to Athens

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Partial Transcript: I like to start, Jeff, by asking people when they first came to town.

Segment Synopsis: Walls describes coming to Athens to visit childhood friends Bill Tador and Curtis Crowe. He talks about going to parties and hearing music, explaining how the 40 Watt Club was founded. He discusses starting a band called Strictly American where he played a synthesizer.

Keywords: B-52s; Greek life; Marietta, Georgia; Randall Bewley; University of Georgia; alcohol; costumes; drugs; musicians

00:13:12 - Pylon, the B-52s, and the importance of the Athens Music Scene

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Partial Transcript: So, can you talk about the first time you saw Pylon?

Segment Synopsis: Walls describes seeing both Pylon and the B-52s in concert. He discusses how the Athens music scene started small with mostly students from the art school before expanding to include more people. He explains how music in Athens rejected the expense and exclusion of popular music at the time, putting music back in the hands of young people.

Keywords: The Georgia Theatre; The Motive; University of Georgia; bands; college students; fashion show; music production

00:20:03 - Early experience with music

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Partial Transcript: So did you want, early on then, to be a musician?

Segment Synopsis: Walls describes being inspired by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at a young age to play music. He discusses his numerous attempts to learn guitar and talks about taking lessons. He discusses starting a rock n roll band in junior high school with neighborhood children.

Keywords: Ed Sullivan; Paul Revere & the Raiders; child musicians; childhood; classical guitar; early life; electric guitar; music education; music teachers

Subjects: Ed Sullivan; child musicians; childhood; early life; music education; music teachers

00:36:09 - Beginning of Guadalcanal Diary

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Partial Transcript: So if we got back to--I guess it was about '78/79', Pylon is starting...

Segment Synopsis: Wall describes starting a band called Guadalcanal Diary with Murray Attaway, Rhett Crowe, and John Poe. He talks about performing at the 40 Watt Club and other venues. He discusses Guadalcanal Diary's increasing success and various record deals. He explains that despite being from Marietta, Georgia, Guadalcanal Diary was accepted into the Athens music scene.

Keywords: EOD Records; Elektra Records; Love Tractor; REM; concerts; press; touring

00:47:10 - The Strand and MTV Basement Tapes

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Partial Transcript: We were not really from Atlanta, but I suppose we were more from Atlanta than anywhere else.

Segment Synopsis: Walls describes how his friends started a music club in Marietta, Georgia, mentioning how famous bands like REM and Pylon played there despite its short lifespan. He also talks about how Guadalcanal Diary's music video was included on MTV's Basement Tapes show.

Keywords: Bill Tador; EOD Records; Marybeth Gates; Watusi Rodeo; new wave music; small business; videography

00:54:30 - Record deals and European tour

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Partial Transcript: So, you're playing around. How do you go from the one record company--your first company--to being on DB?

Segment Synopsis: Walls discusses how Guadalcanal Diary moved from EOD Records to BD Records to Elektra Records as they became more popular. He describes copying REM's music business strategy, choosing high royalties instead of a large advance. He talks about touring across the United States and Europe. He also mentions conflict with Elektra records over Guadalcanal Diary's sound.

Keywords: Clarendon Ballroom; lawyer; manager; music management; record companies; record licensing

01:09:36 - Move to Athens

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about moving to Athens?

Segment Synopsis: Walls describes moving to Athens after Guadalcanal Diary's European tour. He discusses the differences between the Athens music scene which embrace amateurism and the Atlanta music scene which was business oriented. He talks about performing at The 40 Watt Club and The Uptown, mentioning how Guadalcanal Diary tried to make their shows unique.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Marietta, Georgia; RuPaul and the U-hauls; concerts; injury; performance

01:20:11 - First two albums Elektra Records

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Partial Transcript: How was you time with Elektra?

Segment Synopsis: Walls talks about alternating between recording new music and going on tour. He discusses budget and production problems with Jamboree, the first album Guadalcanal Diary record with Elektra. He describes how their next album, 2X4, went under the budget and was more popular, producing radio hits and a popular MTV video.

Keywords: Album-oriented rock; ICM Partners; agents; music business; music production; record companies

01:28:05 - Final album with Elektra Records

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Partial Transcript: So we had one album remaining...

Segment Synopsis: Walls describes recording a final album with Elektra Records called Flip-Flop. He discusses focusing more on another band called Hillbilly Frankenstein instead of Guadalcanal Diary. He talks about how Flip-Flop had a different sound, different mix of songs, and different studio than Guadalcanal Diary's previous albums. He explains how Guadalcanal Diary broke up because people wanted to pursue different things.

Keywords: children; country music; family; marriage; music business; music production; record companies; touring

01:35:36 - Tour with REM and Hillbilly Frankenstein

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Partial Transcript: I should mention too that we did tour with REM

Segment Synopsis: Walls discusses Guadalcanal Diary's 1985 tour with REM. He explains how it increased Guadalcanal Diary's popularity, gave them experience, and helped them distinguish themselves from REM. He also talks about the difference between Guadalcanal Diary and Hillbilly Frankenstein, mentioning how Hillbilly Frankenstein was never as popular.

Keywords: Lifes Rich Pageant; college music; concerts; family; marriage; performance; record labels

01:41:57 - Musical equipment

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Partial Transcript: Christian always likes to ask about the gear.

Segment Synopsis: Walls discusses the different gear he used over his career as a musician. He talks about using various amplifiers. He describes his early preference for vintage guitars before switching to a Fender Stratocaster. He talks about the difficulty and expense of managing equipment on tour.

Keywords: concerts; performance; recording; sound systems; technology

01:51:37 - Changes in music scene

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Partial Transcript: Bands just don't get paid--attendance is not what is was.

Segment Synopsis: Walls explains how it is harder for musicians to support themselves because less people attend concerts. He discusses how he no longer sees himself in the Athens music scene. He talks about how production values decreased and the music became more conventional as the Athens music scene expanded. He also describes how Athens has changed, mentioning more chain stores and a larger homeless population.

Keywords: Athens bands; commercialization; generational differences; music clubs; musicians; popular music; sound systems