- The dB's
The dBs Origin Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States Genres Power pop
Years active 1978–1988 Labels Albion, Bearsville, I.R.S., Rhino, Monkey Hill Website www.thedbsonline.net/ Members Peter Holsapple
The dB's are a jangle pop/power pop group who came into prominence in the late 1970s and 1980s. The bandmembers were Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder, all of whom were from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The group was formed in New York City.
Stamey played bass with Alex Chilton in New York during 1977, and with Television guitarist Richard Lloyd recorded "(I Thought) You Wanted to Know" that year. A single of this song, backed with "If and When" (on which Rigby and Holder played), appeared in 1978, credited to Chris Stamey and the dB's. Holsapple joined the group in October 1978.
They released their first album, Stands for Decibels, in 1981, to critical acclaim but negligible sales. Their sound was a modernized version of earlier power pop, with precise arrangements and highly accomplished instrumental work. Stamey and Holsapple were the band's songwriters, and while Holsapple was skilled in the composing of fairly straightforward tunes such as "Big Brown Eyes" and "Bad Reputation," Stamey's songs, which include "Espionage" and "Tearjerkin'," tended to be somewhat more experimental. They released a second album in 1982, Repercussion, which built upon the strengths of the first album, and also released singles such as "Judy." These two albums, recorded on the British label Albion, have since been reissued on one compact disc.
Stamey left the group after the second album, and pursued a career as a solo artist and producer. The group then recorded a third album, Like This, released in 1984. The band had finally landed an American record deal, Bearsville Records, but distribution woes caused the album to be greatly delayed. Rick Wagner joined the band on bass, and Holder moved to lead guitar.
Their last album, The Sound of Music, was released in 1987 with New Orleans bass player Jeff Beninato, founder of the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. Again under Holsapple's direction, this is perhaps the band's most traditional pop album. Jeff Beninato participated in the subsequent tour. Gene Holder left the band to join the Individuals, and Eric Peterson was recruited on lead guitar after replacing temporary guitarist/keyboardist Harold Kelt. Holsapple ended up moving to Beninato's home town of New Orleans after living in Los Angeles toward the end of the band's career.
Two CDs were released after the dB's broke up. Ride the Wild Tom-Tom collected demos, early recordings and singles, and Paris Avenue was a posthumous album by the final lineup, based on demo tapes from the band's waning days. In 1991, Stamey and Holsapple reunited (not under the dB's moniker) as a duo to record an album entitled Mavericks.
Since the group's demise, Holsapple has worked as a session musician, issued one solo album, and was a member of the Continental Drifters. He currently tours with Hootie and the Blowfish. Stamey has released solo records and is a record producer. Rigby is a respected drummer, playing for Steve Earle and others, and Holder has continued to record and produce. Beninato produced Little Queenie's""Q-Ball", is currently producing New Orleans guitar collective Twangorama and administers The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund.
The band reunited in 2005, and has been recording a new album. The band recorded a moving version of What Becomes of the Brokenhearted to benefit the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. The song is available on iTunes and has helped provide help to hundreds of displaced musicians.
November, 2006 saw the release of "Christmastime," an updated version of an album released in the eighties with contributions from Mitch Easter, Ryan Adams, and many other guests. It was reviewed and recommended by USA Today in December, 2006.
In September, 2005 the "classic" lineup of the dB'S played two shows in Chicago, and two in Hoboken, New Jersey. The Bowery Ballroom in NYC hosted the dB'S in January 2007, and in February 2007 the dB's performed at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro NC. Work on the new album continues as time allows.
Although the dB's enjoyed only a limited popularity, their recordings were held in high esteem by critics. Robert Christgau, reviewing their first album, said "This is pop at its tensest--the precise harmonies, broken rhythms, and Byrdsy zoom effects are drawn so tight they make the expertly rendered romantic ups and downs of the songs sound intense and earned." However, their later recordings were felt by some critics to compare poorly to their first three albums. Christgau again, on The Sound of Music: "Yeah, it rocks, but when a pop group leaves it at that they're no better than their latest song, and when their sole remaining songwriter is still dissecting serial monogamy as he says bye to thirty, chances are his latest song doesn't even interest him all that much."
Trouser Press, however, favorably reviewed the recordings with: "The Sound of Music finds the dB's continuing in the style of Like This, with similarly fine results. The country elements reappear on "Bonneville" (complete with fiddles and mandolins), "Never Before and Never Again" (a brilliant Holsapple duet with Syd Straw) and "Looked at the Sun Too Long," which could easily be mistaken for a Gram Parsons tune. There's still plenty of great pop, too, and the group gets heavy on "Any Old Thing." Trouser Press described their final album: "Paris Avenue is a belated first issue of demos for what would have been the band's fifth album. The ingeniously titled tribute album is pretty good, with credible peers like Bill Lloyd, Tim Lee, Don Dixon, Steve Almaas and Bobby Sutliff doing able and, for the most part, unaffected renditions of the repertoire. Some of the arrangements take surprising liberties, but none lack evident respect and affection for the originals."
- Stands for Decibels (Albion Records 1981)
- Repercussion (Albion 1982)
- Like This (Bearsville Records 1984)
- The Sound of Music (I.R.S. Records 1987)
- Ride the Wild Tom-Tom (Rhino Records 1993)
- Paris Avenue (Monkey Hill Records 1994)
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