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Interview with Cindy Wilson, August 9, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:09 - Growing up in Athens

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Partial Transcript: Since you grew up in Athens, I won't start by asking you when you moved here.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses her childhood in Athens, emphasizing the impact of the university on the community. She describes how people in Athens were behind popular trends, and she mentions the continued popularity of bouffant hairstyles which influenced the B-52s. Wilson talks about her educational experience in Athens, mentioning race riots in the 1970s. After high school, she mentions taking typing at Athens Technical College and working at a lunch counter.

Keywords: Fraternities and sororities; Greek life; The University of Georgia (UGA); diversity; employment; family; financial stability; foreign films; integration; race relations; segregation

00:12:08 - Ricky Wilson and the beginning of the B-52s

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Partial Transcript: So, can you talk about that time period when you finished high school and you're living in Athens and all these interesting people?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson explains how her brother, Ricky Wilson, was good at saving money which enabled him to travel to Europe numerous times. She discusses going to dinner with Ricky, Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson, and Fred Schneider and then playing music together which resulted in the formation of the B-52s. She talks about performing at a house party in Athens before the band went to New York.

Keywords: Keith Strickland; Owen Scott; University of Georgia (UGA) Library; band; concert; siblings; street music

00:17:48 - The Athens music scene

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Partial Transcript: Before we sort of embark on this wonderful history of the B-52s, can you talk a little bit about just sort of what it was like being here...

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes the positive impact of other people from Athens on her life. She talks about how Jeremy Ayers, a local artist, introduced her band-mates to famous artists and the New York gay scene. She describes her embrace of alternative culture and how Athens was more open-minded due to the university. She explains how the city's tolerance and cheap cost-of-living brought interesting people to the area.

Keywords: Jimmy Hendrix; LGBTQ; New York City; Sylvia Thinn; drag scene; high school; homophobia; progressive; queer culture; thrift stores

00:26:52 - Success in New York City

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Partial Transcript: So, to go back to the B-52s. You had a wonderful description of that first party.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes how the B-52s traveled to New York City to perform and their popularity within the city. She talks about recording with record labels and being mentored by the Talking Heads. Wilson explains how the band bought an old Victorian house together in Mahopac, New York and lived there for two years. She also mentions purchasing a Brownstone with her brother and husband before moving to another place after her brother's death.

Keywords: "52 Girls"; "Rock Lobster"; 13th Street, New York; CBGB; Gary Kurfirst; Island Records; Long Island Station; Max's (New York); Warner Bros. Studios; West 12th Street, New York; housing; landlord; radio; tenants

00:37:57 - Recording albums and touring

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Partial Transcript: So can you talk about what it was like making the first album?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes recording the B-52s' first two albums in the Bahamas. She discusses how the B-52s first achieved mainstream fame in Australia. She talks about the excitement of being in a successful band and touring around the world. Wilson goes into detail about finding and traveling with the numerous wigs that she wore alongside Pierson. She discusses how the band's third album found success with the African American community in Detroit. She also talks about the importance of dance and audience participation.

Keywords: Mesopotamia; Wild Planet; Chris Blackwell; Compass Point Studios; Europe; Japan; Motown music; Nassau, Bahamas; art band; bohemian culture; college radio; performance art; race

00:50:58 - Impact of the B-52s

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Partial Transcript: So, can you talk about what it was like to come back and visit friends or relatives in Athens, and see this kind of--what you had sparked?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes the reaction of people in Athens to the B-52s. She discusses how women and men worked together and emphasizes the progressive nature of the band. Wilson talks about danger of angry crowds, detailing negative experiences. She describes how the B-52s exemplified an alternative gay and bohemian reality, inspired others to create music, and proved themselves as an important American band.

Keywords: Flordia; Germany; LGBTQ; New Wave music; fans; femininity; gender roles; hyper masculinity; riot; sexism

01:03:15 - Ricky Wilson's Death and Cosmic Thing

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Partial Transcript: So, I don't think we can let you go without at least asking you a little bit about Cosmic Thing.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes the devastation of her brother's death, discussing how the B-52s recorded their fourth album, Cosmic Thing in an attempt to heal. She details her shock at the album's success and explains how they used their success to spread awareness about AIDs. Wilson discusses leaving the B-52s after touring and returning to Georgia in order to be closer to her family.

Keywords: Artists Against AIDs; HIV/AIDS; Reagan administration; Warner Bros.; children; homophobia; stigma

01:11:00 - Going on tour with children

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Partial Transcript: But then you eventually did go back to touring.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes returning to the B-52s to go on tour, discussing the logistics of having children on tour. She discusses her decision to leave her children at home once they were older. She talks about the benefit of corporate shows which paid a lot, enabling her to spend time at home. Wilson also describes performing a show with a two-month old at home, further emphasizing how she balanced her role in the B-52s with motherhood.

Keywords: Chrissie Hynde; Debbie Harry; airplanes; family; maternity leave; nannies; school; tour bus

01:21:59 - Meeting famous people and returning to Athens

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Partial Transcript: And then there was the time we played the Honors...

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes performing at prominent venues and meeting famous people including Don Rickles, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. She talks about going to the White House where she met Bill and Hillary Clinton. Wilson talks about being back in Athens, describing how it now belongs to the new bands even though the B-52s continue to affect people. She also talks about her recent solo work.

Keywords: fame; performance; photography; solo career; writing music

01:28:54 - Songwriting process of the B-52s

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Partial Transcript: I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about the difference in the sort of song writing process for the band?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes the band's collaboration in the songwriting process, discussing their ability to switch vocals around. She talks about how they sometimes got lyrics from friends which Ricky Wilson or Keith Strickland would then put to music. She says typically, Stickland provided loose music that they would experiment to in order to write songs. Wilson describes singing with Kate Pierson and learning about harmonies from her brother.

Keywords: American trash aesthetic; Jeremy Ayers; Robert Waldrop; albums; instrumentation; jam sessions; music composition