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Guadalcanal Diary

While frequently lumped in with such Southern alternative pop bands as R.E.M. and Let's Active, Guadalcanal Diary was distinctly different from its peers, with a sound that was at once melodic and rhythmically aggressive, and a decidedly literary and spiritual bent to the group's lyrics. And at a time when Athens, Georgia, was being hailed as the new center of the smart-pop universe, Guadalcanal Diary hailed from Marietta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb where the band formulated its sound with little input or influence from the local rock scene.

Guadalcanal Diary was formed in 1981 by guitarist and singer Murray Attaway and lead guitarist Jeff Walls, who'd first met in high school and joined a punk band called Strictly American. Rhett Crowe, who was sharing a house with Attaway at the time and was learning to play bass guitar, joined the new band's lineup, and shortly before the new group's first show, John Poe, a former bassist who has worked with Walls, was recruited to play drums when their original timekeeper quit at the last minute. Attaway's roommate chose the name Guadalcanal Diary, from a book by Richard Tregaski about the U.S. campaign against Japan during World War II, enamored of the name's surface ambiguities and undertones of patriotism and warfare.

After developing a reputation on the Georgia music scene thanks to frequent gigging in Atlanta and Athens, Guadalcanal Diary cut its first record, a four-song EP called Watusi Rodeo, in 1983 for the Athens-based DB Records label. A year later, DB and the band followed it up with a full-length album, Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man, produced by Don Dixon. Filled with rich but moody songs about faith, doubt, and the legacy of life in the Deep South, and driven by thundering drums and the clarion call of electric guitars, Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man quickly won an enthusiastic reception from critics and college radio programmers, and in 1985 Elektra Records signed Guadalcanal Diary and reissued the album. More touring followed, as did a cameo appearance in a best-forgotten youth comedy called Rockin' Road Trip.

In 1986, the band released its first album financed by Elektra, Jamboree, which was produced by Rodney Mills, best known for his work with the likes of .38 Special and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. While Mills brought a greater polish to Guadalcanal Diary's approach and the band displayed a greater stylistic diversity, it lacked the force and impact of Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man and was not as well received. Guadalcanal Diary returned to the studio with Dixon for 1987's 2x4, which coupled the energy of the first album with Jamboree's sense of musical adventure and spawned a minor alternative rock hit, "Litany (Life Goes On)." However, Guadalcanal Diary's busy touring schedule was beginning to take its toll when the group cut 1989's uneven Flip-Flop, and by the end of the year, after a long stretch on the road, the bandmembers amicably parted ways.

Following Guadalcanal Diary's breakup, Murray Attaway signed to Geffen as a solo artist, and released the well-reviewed In Thrall in 1993. Walls played guitar with Hillbilly Frankenstein and Dash Rip Rock, and produced recordings for Southern Culture on the Skids, the Woggles, and Man or Astro-Man? Poe pursued a low-key solo career, and Crowe retired from music after a short spell with Ottoman Empire to raise her children. In 1995, Attaway began recording a second album and decided to invite Walls, Poe, and Crowe to join him on a few songs, and while the album was never released due to a change of management at Geffen, the four were happy enough with the tunes they recorded to play a few reunion gigs in Atlanta. In late 1998, the band self-released a live album, At Your Birthday Party, recorded at one of its reunion shows; in 2000, the bandmembers announced they'd gone back on hiatus, but had not ruled out working together again in the future. Continued interest in Guadalcanal Diary has been confirmed by a two-fer compact disc reissue of Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man and Jamboree, released by Collectables in 2003, and limited-edition, remastered, and expanded editions of the group's first three albums, issued by the Rhino Handmade imprint in 2003 and 2004. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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Comments

Great band! We listened to them all the time in college in Jersey!
Want to watch some old live Athens, GA shows with Guadalcanal?
http://www.y o u t u b e . c o m / u s e r / t h e o s o u n d c h e c k ? f e a t u r e = m h e e
- Theo
jhl_az
This was the only band to give me goosebumps when they played. Unbelievable band.
These guys were, at that time the most polished and consistent of the North Ga. Bands. However to say that they developed their sound independentl y is a stretch. There were many exchanges with all those Athens bands, and GD was part of that club w/o a doubt. Trust us. We were there.
Saw them in OK City.. WOW! Just incredible. Sat for about an hour after the show talking to Murray Attaway. Got to ask him everything.. . where did this idea come from? What are your influences? Just a super nice guy.. the only reason this band wasn't the next Beatles is because most people wouldn't know a good song if they fell on it.
luceelearee9
One of my favorite bands of it's time. Along with Minutemen, Husker Du, and even Pylon! I used to play them on college radio, too, in Northeast Louisiana, KNLU. We knew what was up just like Rollins, and WVSF The Voice in Tallahassee. Two other great college radio stations I know a bit about.
I drank my way out of college listening to these guys. Litany, Watusi Rodeo, Vista and Always Saturday. Great guitar.
I love this band,especia l l y this song...yet one more reason to love adore and respect mr. don dixon!!!
I was in high school in Florida in the '80s. My buddy from Roswell used to mail me bootleg cassette tapes and I cherished them all, even the later stuff. Littany and I See Moe were always requested on the WPRK radio show at Rollins College. A little more exposure and maybe that would've bigger than the Smitherenes.
GD was awesome live. I saw them in the mid 80's in ATL at 688 and various other atlanta spots.. very overlooked band from the "athens" music scene
edpotter
I've only heard these guys via their recorded music and loved it. I'd be interested in opinions and thoughts from those that heard/saw them live.

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