The B-52s (styled as The B-52’s prior to 2008) are an American new wave band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1976. The original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider (vocals, percussion), Kate Pierson (vocals, keyboards), Cindy Wilson (vocals, percussion), Ricky Wilson (guitar), and Keith Strickland (drums, guitar, keyboards). Ricky Wilson died from AIDS-related illness in 1985, and Strickland switched from drums to lead guitar. The band also added touring members for albums and live performances.
The group evoked a “thrift shop aesthetic”, in the words of Bernard Gendron, by drawing from 1950s and 1960s pop sources, trash culture, and rock and roll. Schneider, Pierson, and Wilson sometimes use call-and-response-style vocals (Schneider’s often humorous sprechgesang contrasting with the melodic harmonies of Pierson and Wilson), and their guitar- and keyboard-driven instrumentation composes their trademark sound which was also set apart from their contemporaries by the unusual guitar tunings used by Ricky Wilson on their earlier albums. The band has had many hits, including “Rock Lobster”, “Planet Claire”, “Private Idaho”, “Whammy Kiss”, “Party Out of Bounds”, “Wig”, “Love Shack” and “Roam”.
During 2019, the group announced a tour starting in May in the States, taking in Europe, and back to the States through the fall. On September 30, 2019, the band is featured on the Archie Comics’ comic book Archie Meets the B-52s, was released in February 2020.
Frederick William Schneider III (born July 1, 1951) is an American singer, songwriter, arranger, and musician, best known as the frontman of the rock band The B-52’s, of which he is a founding member. Schneider is well known for his sprechgesang, which he developed from reciting poetry over guitars.
Catherine Elizabeth Pierson (born April 27, 1948) is an American singer, lyricist, and one of the singers and founding members of the B-52’s. A multi-instrumentalist, she plays guitar, bass and various keyboard instruments. In the B-52s, she has performed alongside Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider, Ricky Wilson, and Keith Strickland. In the early years, as well as a vocalist, Pierson was also the main keyboard player and was notable for performing on a keyboard bass during many live shows and many of the band’s recordings, taking on a role usually filled by a bass guitar player which differentiated the band from their contemporaries. This along with Pierson’s distinctive wide ranging singing voice remain trademarks of the B-52’s unique sound. Pierson has also collaborated with many other artists including The Ramones, Iggy Pop and R.E.M. In February 2015, Pierson released her first solo album, Guitars and Microphones, featuring material co-written by Sia Furler. She later released the non-album single “Better Not Sting the Bee,” and on April 15, 2016, she released a cover of “Venus” as a single.
Cynthia Leigh Wilson (born February 28, 1957) is an American singer, and is one of the vocalists, songwriters and founding members of new wave rock band the B-52s. She is noted for her distinctive contralto voice and also plays percussion during live shows. Wilson is the younger sister of the late guitarist Ricky Wilson who was also a founding member of the band.
Keith Julian Strickland (born October 26, 1953) is an American multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, composer, and one of the founding members of The B-52s. He was born in Athens, Georgia. Originally the band’s drummer, Strickland switched to guitar after the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson in 1985. Strickland also plays keyboards and bass guitar on many of The B-52s recordings, and has occasionally provided backing vocals. Strickland composes the music for The B-52s. He said of the process: “Ricky and I used to write the music together, but now I write the individual instrument parts and arrange the instrumental compositions myself. I’m trying to convey a feeling when I compose. I think of my instrumentals as soundscapes – the chord progressions, rhythms, harmonics and musical direction are used to evoke various sonic atmospheres or moods.” Strickland came out as gay in 1992. On December 13, 2012, Strickland retired from touring for the B52s. Fred Schneider said of Strickland’s announcement, “We had known about Keith’s decision for a while but we just didn’t want to think about it. Keith will probably still be available for special shows but he wanted to get off the road. Keith will always be able to work with us whenever he wants. He’s a best friend.”
Ricky Helton Wilson (March 19, 1953 – October 12, 1985) was an American musician best known as the original guitarist and founding member of rock band the B-52’s. Born in Athens, Georgia, Wilson was the brother of fellow member Cindy Wilson. The B-52’s were founded in 1976, when Ricky, his sister Cindy, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and Fred Schneider shared a tropical flaming volcano drink at a Chinese restaurant and, after an impromptu music session at the home of their friend, Owen Scott III, played for the first time at a Valentine’s Day party for friends. Wilson’s unusual guitar tunings were a large contribution to the band’s quirky sound. On October 12, 1985, at the age of 32, Wilson died from complications related to AIDS following the recording of the band’s fourth studio album Bouncing Off the Satellites. According to Strickland, the album had been completed and mixed before Wilson’s death, with only the cover art not yet designed (an illustration by Kenny Scharf was ultimately decided upon). Devastated, the band went into seclusion and did not tour to promote the album, although they did several photo shoots and TV appearances, and filmed a video for “Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland”. In addition to his work with The B-52’s, Wilson played the guitar on the song “Breakin’ in My Heart” on Tom Verlaine’s self-titled debut album in 1979. This was his only non-B-52’s appearance on record. He also appeared in various films, notably One Trick Pony. Posthumously he also appeared in Athens, GA: Inside/Out, The B-52’s 1979–1989, and The B-52’s Time Capsule: Videos for a Future Generation 1979–1998 through archival footage.