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Welcome to a new series here at RobinAndAllen.com! I'm not quite sure if the title is grammatically correct, but I don't care...it gets the point across.

I have found over the years that something keeps happening to me over and over. I'll be with someone, let's say, riding in a car. I'll put on one of my CD's. The person will say "Who is that? It's really good!" I'll give them the name of the artist, and nearly everytime, the response is..."Hmm. Never heard of them."

There are so many great records that I consider favorites that for some reason never gained mainstream popular attention. Of course, you might ask, "Is it...maybe...that they were just not good?" Maybe, in some cases. But for the most part, I think I just have a knack for finding the gold nuggets in the continuous stream of music. For whatever reason, you never heard of them, but I did. And I loved them. And I would like to introduce you to a few of these artists.

We'll start the series with a Georgia band that were rising stars in the mid-80's...at the exact same time that R.E.M. was becoming huge...Guadalcanal Diary.


Guadalcanal Diary was formed in Marietta, Georgia in 1981 by friends Murray Attaway and Jeff Walls, about the same time that R.E.M. was getting its start in Athens, Georgia. They were joined by drummer John Poe and bassist Rhett Crowe, and soon released an LP with the name "Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man". The record was produced by Don Dixon, known for his production work with early R.E.M. records. It was popular with local college stations, but didn't catch on nationally. Their second album, "Jamboree", was released in 1986. That is when I found them. I bought "Jamboree" in a record store in Athens, Georgia while I was living there with my sister and her family. I was able to see the band at a cool little club on the river in Athens called "O'Malley's". (One memorable event from that evening...Murray stopped between songs to say "Hey Everybody! It's Mary Berry's birthday!" We all turned to see Bill Berry, the drummer from R.E.M. and his wife Mary over in the corner.) Later that year, while working in California, I saw the band open for R.E.M. at the Oakland Coliseum. And finally, while attending an MTV event for local bands in Athens, we were fortunate enough to find ourselves seated beside John Poe (the drummer, remember?) and his wife. I remember his wife nudging John saying, "John, he's a drummer too!" and John very politely nodding and smiling like he really cared or something.

Guadalcanal Diary went on to release a couple of more albums, but never gained the national attention to carry them over the top. They finally broke up, with Murray Attaway releasing a solo album. They recently played together again, and rumors circulate that they might reform and record.

So...a couple of years ago I did a web search on GD and found that their first two records have been released on a single CD for $13.99. When I saw that I ran out of my hotel room, jumped in the car, went straight to Borders, and found it. I have been in musical bliss every since.

There are several great songs on the first record, "Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man", including "Trail Of Tears", "Watusi Rodeo", and "Why Do The Heathen Rage?". But I guess I'm just emotionally tied to the second record, "Jamboree". Murray wrote several songs dealing with spiritual issues, such as "Pray For Rain", "Fear Of God", and "Spirit Train", all of which are pure gems on this CD. "Michael Rockefeller", a song about the mysterious disappearance of the son of Nelson Rockefeller off of the New Guinea coast in 1961, is almost a tribute to R.E.M., with its Pink Floyd "Breathe" chord sequence at double the tempo.

Guadalcanal spread themselves among many genres, which possibly could have led to their inability to catch on nationally. They threw in fun, humorous tunes, such as "I See Moe" (yes, a song about the Three Stooges) and "Cattle Prod", about a farmer with amorous feelings toward his livestock. "T.R.O.U.B.L.E." is a nice jazz/blues song that demonstrates all the musicians' talents.

When you listen to this, you can't help but be overwhelmed with the tight rhythm section of drummer John Poe and bassist Rhett Crowe. No disrespect to Bill Berry of R.E.M. or any other fine drummers from that era, but John Poe was much more than a drummer. He added expression and dynamics to otherwise ordinary drum parts. His playing is one of the standouts of this CD.

So, if you are adventurous, order this CD and prepare to be impressed. Chances are you won't find it at your local store, although I did find the one copy that Borders had. Here's hoping that Guadalcanal Diary give it one more shot.

Order this CD from Amazon
 

Also See:

Volume II: Rockpile

Volume III: Shoegazer