Fred Schneider Of The B-52's

On this day in 1951, Fred Schneider, singer and keyboard player for

the

new-wave band the B-52's, was born in Newark, Ga. Before

becoming

a B-52, Schneider studied forestry at the University of Georgia,

worked

in a vegetarian restaurant and played in bands such as Bridge Mix

and

Night Soil.

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,

which

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,

the B-52's

began garnering a cult following with their go-go boots and wild

dance

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

their eponymous

debut album and its outlandish but catchy single,

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Rock_Lobster.ram">"Rock

Lobster" (RealAudio excerpt).

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

produced by

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

1986's

Bouncing Off The Satellites went largely unnoticed, the band

took

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

switch to

guitar and supplemented itself with auxiliary musicians in concert.

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Love_Shack.ram">"Love

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

top

5. Few people expected such a return from a band that many had

written off

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

album,

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

birthday.

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

six years.

Other birthdays: Delaney Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie), 59; Deborah

Harry (Blondie), 53; and Roddy Bottum (Faith No More), 35.