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American singer Kate Pierson is famous as the frontwoman for the B-52s, one of the most popular bands of the late 1980s and early '90s.
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Born in Weehawken, New Jersey, on April 27, 1948, singer Kate Pierson started the B-52s in 1976 in Athens, Georgia. The group went on to become one of the most popular bands of the late 1980s and early '90s, with hits including "Love Shack," "Channel Z" and "Rock Lobster."
"We always appealed to people outside the mainstream."
Catherine "Kate" Pierson was born in Weehawken, New Jersey, on April 27, 1948. A true child of the 1960s, Pierson spent her junior high school years worshipping at the altar of Bob Dylan. The future star even emulated her hero by joining a local folk group that sang primarily protest songs. But it wasn't long before pop music took hold as her true passion when the Beatles made their debut. Like millions of other Americans, Pierson first fell in love with the Fab Four while watching their famed 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. "I became a total fan," she later recalled. "I remember seeing them being interviewed on TV and was just wild about them. Of course, when the singles came, my best friend and I had big arguments about our favorite Beatle. I still have an 'I Love John' button from that time." Later on in high school, Pierson would join her first band, The Sun Doughnuts.
Pierson's next musical collaboration (with a similarly creative name), the B-52s, began spontaneously in Hunan's Restaurant in Athens, Georgia. One October night in 1976, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson, and Pierson drank Flaming Volcano cocktails and then kicked off a jam session that would lead to the rise of a hit band. The name "B-52s" came from a southern slang expression for the outrageous 'bouffant' hairdo, a style that would later become Pierson's signature look.
The band's first gig came in 1977 at a friend's Valentine's Day party, but the B-52s would soon move on to bigger venues, frequently making weekend trips to New York City to perform. Trying to tap into the post-punk underground scene, the B-52s played all over the city at famed spots like CBGB and Max's Kansas City, slowly building a reputation as the next big thing. Looking back at the B-52s' rise to stardom, Pierson said, "we were in a vacuum, because we were always driving, so we didn't really have a sense about how our audience was building. We played Hurrah's one time, and we were looking out the window of the dressing room, and Ricky said, 'What are those people standing around in line down there?' And someone said, 'That's your line for people waiting to get in.' That was the first moment I was like, 'Oh my god, we're rock stars.'"
While their music was a genre-bending mix of garage rock and new wave, the B-52s' aesthetic was pure thrift store. The band quickly became known for their wild and wooly performances, attracting a mishmash of fans from all walks of life. "We always appealed to people outside the mainstream," says Pierson, "and I think more people feel they're outside the mainstream these days."
The band's first major hit was "Rock Lobster," a classic party track from their self-titled debut album.
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