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Interview with Ken Starratt, July 30, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:14 - Early musical interests

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Partial Transcript: How about talk a little bit about where you grew up and how you got involved in music.

Segment Synopsis: Starratt mentions elements of his early life including his parents and sports. He talks about developing musical interests during college and describes live shows at Boston Commons, Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, and Woodstock. Starratt admires rock artists like Duane Allman, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix.

Keywords: Concert on the Commons; Fitchburg State University; Massachusetts; The Allman Brothers Band; The Band; family

00:10:26 - Transience after college

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Partial Transcript: So, did you have a guitar when you started playing?

Segment Synopsis: Starratt chronicles his life after college, from working at Vermont's Miramar Ski Club to living in a mountaintop teepee and later joining The Free State of the Arc, a radical leftist commune. Starratt talks about teaching himself guitar, falling in love, and having a son during this time. He explains that he moved to Athens to be close to his son after he and his wife broke up.

Keywords: Bob Dylan; Waitsfield; communism; playing by ear; skiing; wealth distribution

00:21:50 - Moving to Athens

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Partial Transcript: Did you live right in town in Athens when you came here?

Segment Synopsis: Starratt describes travelling from Maine to the South, mentioning unexpected cultural similarities and differences. He recalls arriving in Athens and accidentally moving into the same trailer park as his ex-wife after taking directions from a friendly police officer.

Keywords: University of Georgia; culture; mobile home; van

00:28:07 - Eldorado

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Partial Transcript: How long were you at the trailer park?

Segment Synopsis: Starratt talks about doing odd jobs and living at Eldorado, a vegetarian restaurant, artist hangout, and practice space for The B-52's. Starratt describes his reaction to their early music, explaining that as a Deadhead, he preferred rock to punk or new wave music.

Keywords: art community

00:37:23 - Kennebunkport / Growth of The B-52's

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Partial Transcript: Not long later, my son's mother, Jorma's mother, moved back up to Massachusetts.

Segment Synopsis: Starratt talks about moving to Maine and jamming with Bob Hay, who would later become his partner in The Squalls. He looks back on the mid-70s Athens music scene, describing it as underdeveloped. Starratt also outlines how the B-52's went from playing "carnival music for the dead" to being the world famous "ultimate party band" in the late 70s.

Keywords: Acme Blues Band; Dawg House; Fox Theater; Georgia Theater; Mad Hatter; Tone-Tones; bars; dance party

00:47:29 - Rock v. New Age sound

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Partial Transcript: Anyway. Bob came down and lived with me at a friend's house for a while.

Segment Synopsis: Starratt discusses Tyrone's O.C., where he played rock music on open mic nights, and the 40 Watt, a popular Athens club that boosted the punk and new age scene. He talks about the cult of personality surrounding Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia and explains that the Talking Heads bridged the gap between rock and new age for many Deadheads.

Keywords: Chameleon; Curtis Crowe; R.E.M.; Talking Heads; Watkinsville; drugs; new wave; psychedelics; tripping

00:56:37 - Formation of the Squalls

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Partial Transcript: At Tyrone's we started the open mic- Bob and I.

Segment Synopsis: Starratt talks about Monday nights at Tyrone's, including one event at which everyone took mushrooms. He also talks about Bob Hay's songwriting and the beginnings of The Squalls, from practicing at "the psychedelic shack" to performing at Eldorado's Halloween party.

Keywords: Al Walsh; Cindy; Mig Little; drugs; syncopation

01:06:08 - Comparing electric guitars / Early Squalls releases

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Partial Transcript: What were you playing- had you graduated to electric guitar?

Segment Synopsis: Starratt compares various brands of electric guitars, including Travis Bean, Epiphone, G&L, Fender, and Music Man. He also talks about drummer Mig Little and a bad car accident that precipitated her exit from the band. Starratt discusses releasing the Squalls' first EP and participating in the movie "Athens, Ga.: Inside/Out."

Keywords: 688; Bill Cody; Carol Levy; Guitar Center; recording

01:13:08 - The Squalls EP and touring

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Partial Transcript: Anyway, we got to put out our first EP around '83 or '84.

Segment Synopsis: Starrett talks about recording the Squalls' first EP, with Jim Hawkins, who had previously worked with the Allman Brothers. He talks about booking gigs and touring the east coast, mentioning that crowds got bigger after the movie "Athens GA: Inside/Out," which featured the Squalls and other local bands, was released. Starrett explains that the Squalls cancelled their last album and broke up in 1990 because the members did not want to leave their families and tour.

Keywords: Al Walsh; Bob Hay; CBGB; Cindy; Maxwell; Mineshaft; Village Voice

01:23:56 - Al and Bob / Robert Burns day

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Partial Transcript: To be quite frank, Bob was the songwriter, but Al was the heart of the band.

Segment Synopsis: Starratt praises Al Walsh, the Squalls' bassist, and Bob Hay, the band's songwriter. He also mentions the Yams, a band he was in postdating the Squalls, and he talks about performing Scottish songs at the Robert Burns replica home in Atlanta every year.

Keywords: Bill David; Bob Hay and the Jolly Beggars; Michael Johnson; Robert Burns catalog

01:32:07 - Jorma Kaukonen / Weed and parenting

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Partial Transcript: Jorma came to live with me when he was nine.

Segment Synopsis: Starratt discusses his son Jorma's drumming abilities and his influence on local hip-hop. He also recalls Jorma building a skateboarding ramp in their backyard and hanging out with friends. He comments on the legality and age appropriateness of smoking weed and advises parents to be honest with their kids about drugs.

Keywords: Flagpole; The Gathering; drugs; family; law; marijuana

01:41:05 - Human rights festival

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Partial Transcript: Maybe a little bit about the human rights festival and your involvement with it?

Segment Synopsis: Starratt talks about handling logistics including raising money, building stages, and booking music for the human rights festival, which now takes place annually in downtown Athens. He mentions festival performers, talks about ensuring that all booths were nonprofit, and explains how he organized events with a city government.

Keywords: Michael Collins; art auction; volunteering