Interview page 2...
JK – How did the band’s politics evolve?
MS – The idea was to start a campus political party called Ravenstone Coalition. After the AJ&C article ran, I met Chuck Searcy, a Vietnam vet. Chuck’s one of the most honorable people I’ve ever known. Like many Nam vets, he came home disillusioned with the war. He helped to start the University’s VVAW chapter.
JK – VVAW?
MS – Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Chuck introduced me to another student and the three of us agreed to form the political party. Dwight Brown, our bass player, went with me to the first meeting that was held at Chuck’s house in Little Five Points in Athens. There were about 20 students there.
JK – Why were you guys so interested in student politics?
MS – Basically we wanted to shift the paradigm.
JK – Shift it? In what way?
MS - Up until that time, student government was controlled by two factions -- white bread fraternities and sororities that voted as a block, and a south campus faction that was dominated by conservatives whose idea of a good time was sticking their fist up a cow’s ass. Both groups were so Neanderthal they wouldn’t even nominate a woman to run for any executive office other than secretary.
JK – You gotta be kiddin’.
MS – Coalition was different. We encouraged everyone to participate in the party. We had minorities, international students, Gays, Lesbians, feminists, Vietnam vets, hippies, vegans, handicapped students, you name it. It was like Noah’s Ark. We had two of everything.
JK – Were you successful?
MS – Coalition’s first campaign resulted in a woman being elected vice president of student government. The following year we won control of the student senate.
JK - This is like a southern version of Wild In The Streets.
MS – Almost overnight, student government went from being a social organization to actually dealing with issues important to students. We passed a no confidence vote in the University President who was unpopular. That caused a political dust up state-wide. We were invited to meet with then Governor Jimmy Carter to discuss the problem. Carter told us during the meeting that he planned to run for President.
JK – Now there’s a man who had a vision of where he was going.
MS - President Carter is one of the smartest and most honest Presidents our country has ever had. Even his detractors admit he’s been our best ex-President. I was privileged to attend his Inaugural in 1976. I also interviewed him a few years later when I was producing and directing the “Portrait of America” series for Turner Broadcasting.
JK – I guess the moral about Ravenstone and the Coalition Party is political activism can make a difference.
MS – Absolutely. Once we were elected, another thing Coalition did was to invite Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda to speak on campus, which really put a burr in the saddle of some campus conservatives. I was asked to be Jane’s photographer for the day and got to spend the afternoon with her. She was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. I had schoolboy visions of Barbarella in my head for days.
JK – I noticed on Coalition’s political platform your support for funding of the University radio station.
MS – Yes. We supported the feasibility study for the radio station that became WUOG.
JK – WUOG is credited with helping to break the Athens music scene by showcasing the emerging bands in it.
MS – I think you could say that WUOG was a major factor, yes.
JK – Ravenstone really impacted the music scene in Athens, then, both through its music and through its politics and its support for the campus radio station.
MS – The main thing we did was have lots of fun. It’s like that line from the song by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen –- “There’s one thing I’ve never done, I’ve never had too much fun…”
JK – During this time you were elected a student senator. You also regularly wrote an editorial column for the campus newspaper and another one for a city paper.
MS – Yes, The Athens Observer. Pete McCommons was one of the editors and owners of the paper at the time. Pete is now the editor and publisher of the Flagpole, which is an influental Athens news weekly that covers the music scene there.
JK – Geez, when did you find the time to go to class?
MS – If you saw some of my grades it was pretty apparent I didn’t. (laughs) I spent most of my time making student films, playing music and rabble rousing.
JK – I noticed during that period Rex Murphy, the Pulitzer prize-winning Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, quoted you in the lead of an editorial he wrote in that paper. Something you had said about student apathy.
MS – It must have been an awfully slow news day. (laughs) Actually, I felt it was important when all this was going on not to take myself too seriously. That would’ve killed it.
JK – One of my favorite photos of you is the one where
you appear to be signing an autograph or something and
you have a tee shirt on that reads S-H-I-T.
MS – That was my Sam Houston Institute of Technology tee shirt. (laughs)
JK – Yeah, right.
MS – These days when you have performers stapling their balls to their leg on stage, a shirt like that is no big deal. But back in the day, it caused a ruckus when I wore it during a performance on campus and some prom queen complained to the administration that she found it obscene.
For me, it was a freedom of expression issue. I asked the Dean of Student Affairs how do you know it doesn’t stand for Sam Houston Institute of Technology?
The silliest part was after the brouhaha the editors wanted to put the photo in the campus year book only they had to get permission from the administration to do it. After some debate, the Dean allowed them to put it in. It ran as a full page that year so I guess I had the last laugh.
JK - I also found this letter very interesting.
MS - Which one?
JK – The one printed in a newspaper and signed by the band with the headline “Sweet Cream.”
MS – There had been a rape on campus the same night as some reverend held a prayer vigil in front of Effie’s, the local house of prostitution, trying to shut it down. The articles ran side by side on the front page of the paper. It seemed sadly ironic so we wrote this letter and quoted "Sweet Cream Ladies," a song by the Alex Chilton and the Box Tops. Alex Chilton's music was an early influence on me.
“Sweet cream ladies forward march,
think what you’re providing,
sweet cream ladies show your starch,
what’s the use of hiding,
tell the socialites to look the other way,
it’s instinctive stimulation you convey,
it’s a necessary compunction,
for those who get tired of vanilla every day…”
JK – The earliest reviews of the band noted Ravenstone’s original music. Most groups don’t start writing their own music right out of the gate like that.
MS – Although we did some cover songs, early on, Ravenstone was really all about our own music.
JK - One critic called your original tunes “tasty.”
MS – Sounds like he was doing a restaurant review.
JK – The band’s music was also described as “earotic rock.” I loved the spelling. How did that description come about?
MS – I think it came from me humping a microphone stand one night in concert or something.
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