On this day in 1951, Fred Schneider, singer and keyboard player for
new-wave band the B-52's, was born in Newark, Ga. Before
a B-52, Schneider studied forestry at the University of Georgia,
in a vegetarian restaurant and played in bands such as Bridge Mix
Legend has it that Schneider formed the band with Cindy
Wilson (guitar/vocals); her brother, Ricky (guitar); Kate Pierson
(organ/vocals); and Keith Strickland (drums) while
drunk on tropical concoctions. The band took its moniker
from the nickname of the bouffant, coiffured "beehive" hairstyle,
Pierson and Cindy Wilson began to wear.
Playing a stripped-down,
bass-less retro funk, the B-52's, whose lyrics were filled with '50s
trivia, caught on in dance clubs and colleges in 1977. Among the
many sonic signatures of the group's sound were the high, Yoko Ono-
like squeals and shrieks of
Cindy Wilson and Pierson and the sardonic talk-singing of Schneider.
After playing at the New York new-wave haven Max's Kansas City,
began garnering a cult following with their go-go boots and wild
moves; this led to them signing with Warner Bros. in 1979.
That year, the B-52's toured the U.S. and Europe on the strength of
debut album and its outlandish but catchy single,
Wild Planet (1980), featuring the hit "Private Idaho," and the
more danceable EP Party Mix (1981), both went gold and
solidified the B-52's following. The band was less successful with the
artier, less infectious Mesopotamia (1982), which was
Talking Heads' David Byrne.
The 1983 album Whammy was similarly less
popular than the band's first two albums and didn't break any new
musical ground. But the B-52's had far worse problems to deal with.
Ricky Wilson contracted AIDS and died in October 1985. After
Bouncing Off The Satellites went largely unnoticed, the band
a hiatus largely to resolve issues with its record label.
The group re-emerged on Reprise Records with 1990's Cosmic
Thing and its accompanying tour. The group had Strickland
guitar and supplemented itself with auxiliary musicians in concert.
Shack"(RealAudio excerpt) went gold and was voted best
single of 1990
by Rolling Stone readers, who also voted the B-52's as
comeback of the year; the video for "Love Shack" later won several
MTV Video Music
Awards. In addition,
"Roam" went to #3 in the U.S., driving Cosmic Thing into the
5. Few people expected such a return from a band that many had
as a novelty act.
In 1991, Schneider released an eponymous solo album.
When the group released Good Stuff in 1992, Cindy Wilson
elected not to join the accompanying tour. In 1994, the BC-52's (a
one-time only billing) had a hit with "Meet the Flintstones" from "The
Flintstones" movie. Two years later, Schneider released another solo
album, Just Fred, which was produced by Steve Albini. He also
contributed the track "Coconut" to a 1995 Harry Nilsson tribute
For The Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson.
In 1998, the
B-52's issued the greatest-hits album Time Capsule: Songs For a
Future Generation, which included
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Debbie.ram">"Debbie"(RealAudio excerpt), a new track inspired by
Blondie's Debbie Harry, with whom Schneider shares today's
The B-52's, with Cindy Wilson back in the fold, recently went on tour,
co-headlining with the Pretenders. "It'll be good to get out there and
shake my can," Schneider said about the band's first official tour in
Other birthdays: Delaney Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie), 59; Deborah
Harry (Blondie), 53; and Roddy Bottum (Faith No More), 35.