In a time when music careers seem to spoil as quickly as milk in the summer sun, The B-52s have managed to maintain a steady and successful career for over 25 years. Selling over 20 million albums, The B-52s have proven themselves to be a mainstay in the music industry. So how does the quintessentially quirky new wave band manage to continually tour and produce a quality body of work when most new artists can't seem to make it past a sophomore album? Bassist Tracy Wormworth attributes the longevity of the band to the ability to appeal to all age groups. "There's a real generational appeal," she admits. The band has managed to score hits from every decade — from the '70's "Rock Lobster" to the '90's "Love Shack," which took the band to a whole new level of stardom. "It was always happening for the band, but that really took them to a new level," the friendly bassist confesses.
Playing with the B-52s on and off for 20 years, bassist Tracy Wormworth's resume boasts an impressive list of artists from Sting and Lena Horne to Bette Midler. Wormworth may be best known for playing in the all-girl new wave group The Waitresses, who graced us with the classic jam "I Know What Boys Like."
The New York native got the gig with the "B's," as she affectionately refers to them, through a mutual friend, Allison Palmer. "She heard that they were auditioning bass players and recommended me. It just seemed to really click." So, for such a talented and varied artist, what makes playing with the iconic band a unique experience? "I love to play different styles of music," she says. "Their music brings people joy. It's a party. It's spirit feeding. They're really just a joy to be around."
While the B-52s were making their rounds in the underground New York music scene, Wormworth was busy playing with The Waitresses. "I was definitely a fan. They were playing the same circuit, the same clubs as The Waitresses. But they were stars, like Blondie and the Talking Heads," she admits. "It's a real honor to play with such amazing artists."
Like any good night of drinking, ideas can either sink or swim. On an October night in 1976, following cocktails at an Athens, Georgia, Chinese restaurant, the notion of starting a band took flight. Although the band members had little or no previous musical experience (and performed most of their earliest shows with taped guitar and percussion accompaniment), they somehow made it work. The band played their first gig at a friend's house on Valentine's Day 1977. Shortly after, the group of artists began weekend road trips to New York City for gigs at CBGB's and a handful of other venues. Before long, their dadaesque aesthetic and genre-defying songs were the talk of the post-punk underground. The B-52s are "a type of band that are always in demand," Wormworth says. "Their performances have become just as important as their music." While their catchy bass lines and kitschy lyrics are hard to resist, the B-52s' live show is something to be experienced.
And as Wormworth says, "It's really exciting when you look out at the crowd and you see the hardcore fans from the '70s with their teenagers singing along to songs." | RDW
The B-52s • 9/23, 8 p.m. • Sound Board @ Motor City Casino • 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit • 313.309.4614 • motorcitycasino.com • $43.55-$56.85