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Interview with Ballard Lesemann, September 23, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:12 - Early life and introduction to music

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Partial Transcript: Ballard, you grew up in South Carolina?

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes how his parents played instruments and had a large record collection. He talks about his uncles who played in bands, and he discusses how his musical relatives encouraged him to play music. He talks about getting a toy drum kit at age four and continuing to play drums through his childhood. He describes taking music lessons, and he details his struggle to save enough money for a real drum kit.

Keywords: American Bandstand; Charleston, South Carolina; Elvis Presley; Mount Pleasant, SC; New Wave music; The Police; classical music; clock radio; concert band; conducting; family; music education; radio; rock bands; snare drum; symbols

00:09:18 - First band

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Partial Transcript: By that time, I joined a band.

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes lying about his age to join his first band when he was 13. He discusses how the other band members were much older than him, describing how he played at college parties and clubs when he was only 15. He talks about how the band mostly played covers of party tunes, New Wave music, and older songs, but he states that they later attempted to write their own music. He discusses learning how to be in a band, stating that music gave him an identity. He talks about learning the bass and saving money to buy musical equipment.

Keywords: 4-tracks; Andy Griffith; Blondie; Drum kits; Let's Active; Ludwig Drums; The Committee; The Islands; The Nabors; The Police; The Producers; The Sound Committee; The Swimming Pool Q's; U2; alcohol; auditions; bus driver; he Islands; high school; parents; punk bands; records; thrift stoes

00:24:04 - Move to Athens

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Partial Transcript: Getting to Athens, I got here the fall of '88.

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes moving to Athens, Georgia to attend the University of Georgia and play music. He talks about playing base in a band called Hay Tire Blowouts. He discusses how he neglected his schoolwork to focus on music and ended up dropping out of college. He describes how Athens was unique due to the musical opportunities it offered, and he discusses how it was easy to play music but hard to make money in Athens. Lesemann talks about being kicked out of Hay Tire Blowouts and joining The Killbillies which played punk rock music and Put the Strange Dansel to Work which played folk music.

Keywords: 40 Watt; Mercyland; Reverend Larry Turner; Sound of the City; The Downstairs; The Grit; The Meat Puppets; The Squals; Uptown Lounge; college radio; drummer; porch parties; student loans

00:34:46 - Involvement with Roosevelt

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Partial Transcript: When did you start Roosevelt?

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes starting a band called Roosevelt with John Crane and Daniel Pruitt. He talks about their difficulty trying to release an album, and he describes playing gigs and college parties as the band tried to manage and promote themselves. Lesemann discusses the difference between the Atlanta and Athens music scenes. He talks about playing with Roosevelt for three and a half years before becoming involved with other bands including Subtraction, The Germans, and Poolside.

Keywords: Flagpole Magazine; Shingle (album); Spotify; The Meat Puppets; Vic Chesnutt; Youtube; extended play record (EP); lawsuit; original music; radio; record company; record deal; social networks; tour; vinyl

00:50:40 - Music and film review

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Partial Transcript: Through the '90s, going to see live shows was like part of the thing, you know. And then it became my job.

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes writing record reviews and reviewing films for Flagpole Magazine. He talks about hosting a local television show called Box Office Banter where he discussed films while eating at local restaurants. He also describes the expanding restaurant and music scene in Athens, mentioning how people defy stereotypes by going to see a variety of music.

Keywords: Paul Trudeau; Roger Ebert; advertisements; film critic; journalism; movie theaters; music critic; television production; typing

01:00:31 - Touring with Vic Chesnutt and other bands

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Partial Transcript: Well, we played with Vic Chesnutt together.

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes how Vic Chesnutt brought people together across different sides of the music scene. He talks about performing with Chesnutt on the Craig Kilborn Show which aired on national television. He describes touring around the United States and Europe with Chesnutt and other bands. He discusses how touring was a great experience, but he says that he was not aware of the dangers at the time. He favorably compares European tours with Shannon Wright and Elf Power, stating that Wright's tour was well organized while Elf Power's tour was a disaster due to bad management.

Keywords: Bandcamp; Bill Walton; CBS studios; Randy Jackson; alcohol; car accidents; death; record label; suicide

01:14:55 - Work in Athens

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Partial Transcript: We got back from that dead broke.

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes working four part-time jobs after returning from an European tour with Elf Power that left him completely broke. He describes how it is easy to find employment in Athens through the restaurant and bar scene. He discusses how Athens used to be less segregated between university students and community members than it is today.

Keywords: Reese St, Athens; affordable housing; college town; food service; housing; real estate

01:20:44 - Work as music editor for Flagpole Magazine

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Partial Transcript: Do you have just a few minutes to talk about being the music editor at Flagpole?

Segment Synopsis: Lesemann describes his work as music editor for Flagpole Magazine. He talks about how he learned to carefully write music listings and describe bands in order to avoid offending musicians. He talks about how musicians pressured him to write good reviews, and he mentions that his friend poured a drink on him after he gave their show a negative review. He describes how he left Athens in 2005 to work for the Charleston City Paper.

Keywords: Cheap Trick; Dave Schools; Panic in the Streets; Rock*A*Teens; Tom Petersson; contract workers; editors; employment; interviews; journalism; layout; music critics; photography