The history continues

   

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The group was threatened with arrest at a voter registration rally (these guys were rocking the vote decades before MTV thought the idea up) after the band performed a blistering original song called "Off A Pig." Their charismatic lead vocalist cajoled the authorities by explaining to the audience that the song was about animal abuse, not cop killing. The band's reaction to the police threat was to play louder, a point documented in a news article written in The Red And Black campus newspaper at the time.

The article added that during the band’s outdoor performance on North Campus near the university’s administration building “plainclothes policemen were stationed outside of President Davison's office.” Some say the authorities feared that Ravenstone’s political banter would inspire the several hundred students attending the performance to social mischief and mayhem.

Passionate political expression and personal freedom were the heart and soul of the group and its music. One of the earliest articles written about the group, “Five Set Politics To Music,” appeared in the news section of The Atlanta Journal & Constitution, not its entertainment section.  The Great Speckled Bird, an "underground" newspaper of the era that covered the Atlanta and Athens music scene, also noted the band’s feverish blend of politics and music: "the band usually does political raps between numbers" and “performs original Steppenwolf-like political songs.

 The band’s fervent insistence on freedom of expression extended to its sartorial preferences. The band’s “nubile” lead vocalist (as one reviewer labeled him) had a penchant for wearing controversial wardrobe on stage. One of his favorite ensembles was a shirt with an upside-down cross and the numbers 666 emblazoned over it.

 During one performance in the university's Memorial Ballroom Simpson wore a t-shirt with four letters scrawled on it that he claimed, with tongue firmly in cheek, stood for the “Sam Houston Institute of Technology.”  This scatological statement in cotton earned Simpson an invitation to the Dean of Student’s office where a free-wheelin’ discussion of obscenity laws ensued. Ironically, a full-page photograph of him sporting the infamous t-shirt, artfully angled as to not fully reveal the word’s last letter, was subsequently printed in the university’s student yearbook.

Then there was the night members of the group had to be secreted out the rear exit of an Athens area club under armed guard after several inebriated males threatened violence over their dates' passionate response to what might be tactfully described as Simpson’s microphone-stand-humping performance. The band reacted to this incident in typically humorous fashion by adding Willie Dixon’s “Backdoor Man” to their set the next night. It was at this juncture in their career that I, as their personal manager, began carrying a handgun as protection.

But who would expect anything less from a band that named itself for a field in Germany where they executed witches during the 15th Century? The literary reference is from “Faust” by Goethe, a play that Blasingame, Simpson and Wilson were studying in class when they met. The scene, set at night in an open field, begins "What weaving are they round the Ravenstone? Mephistopheles. I know not what they are...”

 “I know not what they are” is an apt description of the puzzlement some felt when first exposed to the band’s vibrant music and rousing stage antics.

One of my favorite philosophers, Yogi Berra, once said you can observe a lot by just watching. Back in the day I was often asked to explain the group and their music. I couldn't then. I still can't. You had to be there. You had to watch and hear the band to understand what Ravenstone was about. It does remind me of a quote by Maya Angelou: "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

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