Ravenstone (band)-Athens, GA
L to R Jeff Coleman, Michael A. Simpson, Randy Delay, Shaun (Last name unknown), Butch Blasingame. This was the last roster of Ravenstone, circa 1974. Drummer Randy Delay was later a founding member of the GA Satelites.
Years active 1971-1974, 2003 to present
Label(s) Prince Avenue Records
Ravenstone is a rock band formed in Athens, Georgia USA in 1971 by Butch Blasingame ( lead guitar , vocals ), Dwight Brown, ( bass , acoustic guitar , vocals ), Michael A. Simpson, ( vocals , harmonica , percussion , air raid siren ), Ralph Towler ( guitar , mandolin , keyboards , vocals ) and Bill Wilson ( drums , saxophone , clarinet , vocals ). A popular group in the southeastern United States during the early 70s, the band has been called “one of the godfathers of the Athens rock scene” and “the first major band from Athens, GA.” 
The band’s early music was muscular and lyrically intense, combining prototype punk elements with roots rock , British invasion and soul influences. Their sound was characterized by Blasingame’s blistering guitar style, the tight rhythm section of Brown and Towler anchored on the jazz inflections of Wilson’s drumming, and Simpson’s distinctive baritone, falsetto flourishes and topical lyrics.
Formation in 1971
The group was formed in 1971 when Blasingame, Wilson and Simpson met in a University of Georgia drama class.  The band’s name is a literary reference to a play the three were studying at the time.  In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust , Ravenstone is a field where those convicted as witches are executed . In the play, Goethe writes "What weaving are they round the Ravenstone? Mephistopheles . I know not what they are.”
Blasingame recruited Brown and Towler, two university students from his hometown of Monroe , Georgia, to join the band.  The three had previously performed together in the group Edifice Wrecks. Wilson is the only member of the band originally from Athens.  Simpson is a native of Forest Park , Georgia.
Ravenstone is known for its persiflage. One of the earliest published photos of the group featured Brown in a gas mask and bow tie and Wilson in a military uniform hanging on a granite cross in a graveyard. A Mickey Mouse doll and a Crusader 's shield are at his feet.  The “Ravesters,” as their fans called them, are the only Athens band known to have performed live using a World-War-II -era air raid siren as an instrument. 
From the beginning, the band’s original music was credited to all five members, listing them in alphabetic order. Although Simpson is the group’s lyricist, everyone in the band has input.  “ We talk about the lyrics so that it doesn't get divisive," Blasingame was quoted in an article for Flagpole Magazine , the Athens alternative newsweekly . "We know each other well enough to know where each person stands. Sometimes lyrics are changed so that we all are behind what the songs say. What you hear is what we all want to say."
Members L-R:Butch Blasingame, Bill Wilson, Michael A. Simpson, Dwight Brown and Ralph Towler
Early Political And Social Activism
During the band’s early period, Ravenstone's concerts at University of Georgia ’s Legion Field and the Memorial Hall Ballroom, and their performances at clubs around Athens and the southeastern United States were notable for the band’s stage antics and political activism as much as their infectious music.
The band is noted for its early support of social issues, which predated and foreshadowed the activism of later Athens music groups such as R.E.M.  In March 1972 Ravenstone performed at a gay rights dance at the Memorial Ballroom on the University of Georgia campus – reportedly the first ever openly held in the southeast United States – on a bill with the Atlanta-based female impersonator Diamond Lil. 
A court injunction was required for the campus concert to occur after the university refused to allow it on grounds that it would be “aiding and abetting” sodomy – a felony under Georgia law at the time that carried a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  The Klu Klux Klan reportedly harassed the band after they performed at the concert. 
“People asked us at the time why heterosexual guys would play a gay dance,” Simpson stated in an interview in 2002. “Our answer was ‘why wouldn’t we?’ For us it wasn’t about sexual orientation. It was a human rights issue. Why shouldn’t everyone be allowed to dance? It sounds pretty silly now but at the time, there were actually those who thought some people shouldn’t be allowed to.” 
The group was threatened with arrest at a voter registration rally on the University of Georgia campus in May 1972 after the band performed the song "Off A Pig."  The song’s lyrics dealt with cruelty to animals and advocated veganism , not violence against the police. As reported in the University of Georgia’s student newspaper, The Red and Black , the band's reaction to the police threat was to play louder. 
The newspaper article stated that during the band’s outdoor performance near the university’s administration building on North Campus plainclothes policemen were stationed outside of the university president's office, reportedly out of concern that the band’s confrontational attitude and politically charged music would incite the several hundred students attending the show to riot. 
An article written about the group in The Great Speckled Bird , an Atlanta counterculture underground newspaper , noted the band’s blend of politics and original music.  During the early period of the band, Simpson was questioned by administration officials regarding controversial statements he made during live performances of the band on campus. 
The band’s insistence on freedom of expression extended to its sartorial preferences. Simpson, described in the press as the band’s “nubile lead vocalist,”  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. 
“The point I was making at the time is that the number 666 is just that, a number” Simpson stated in an interview  . Any belief about the number is just something some person later injected or infused into it. It’s a man-made symbol. As such, it has no power unless you give it power.”
During one performance in the university's Memorial Ballroom Simpson wore a t-shirt with four letters on it that he claimed were initials that stood for the “Sam Houston Institute of Technology.”  Despite objections from administration officials, a full-page photograph of Simpson wearing the t-shirt with the scatological slang term, angled as to not fully reveal the word’s last letter, was subsequently printed in the university’s 1973 student yearbook. 
An early article written about the group, “5 Set Politics To Music,” appeared in the news section of The Atlanta Journal & Constitution , not its entertainment section. The story detailed the group’s intentions to form a student political party at the University of Georgia, which the band subsequently did.  Initially called Ravenstone Coalition in 1971,  and later, Coalition Party, the political party created by group members and other university students won the election of its executive slate and took majority control of the student senate in 1973. 
Following Coalition gaining control of the university’s student government, the student senate passed a “no confidence” vote in University President Frederick Corbet "Fred" Davison .  Simpson, who had been elected senator from the university’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication , was one of the sponsors of the resolution.  Representatives of the student government, including Simpson, later met with Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter to voice their concerns. 
Impact of Band
Shortly after Ravenstone was created, music critic Jim Pettigrew, Jr. favorably reviewed their first Memorial Ballroom performance.  In describing the band’s "hot licks" he wrote: "The five-man group played some good hard rock, a smattering of blues and tasteful original material." 
This concert review was written in October 1971 ,  six years before the Athens music scene gained fame with the emergence of the B-52’s , eventually leading to the city's worldwide recognition for such bands as R.E.M., Pylon and Love Tractor in the early1980s and Widespread Panic in the early 1990s.
When the original members of Ravenstone reunited in 2005 music critic David Bill noted : “If the return of Ravenstone does nothing else, at least it might wake folks up to the fact that there was a music scene in Athens before the B’s bopped in that house on Milledge Avenue and Stipe & Co. stumbled through the closet hole in that Church.” 
As writer Gordon Lamb observed in Flagpole Magazine, “Predating the phenomenon of Athens house party scene that birthed R.E.M. and the B-52's by a good six years or so, Blasingame, Simpson and Wilson shared a common house that doubled as the Ravenstone band practice space.” The house was renown for its parties.  The white columned, southern gothic residence was located on Prince Avenue, on the land that now serves as the intersection of the Prince and King avenues .  The band flew an American flag on its porch, a response to critics who labeled their progressive social and political views unpatriotic. 
In addition to its support for numerous social and political causes, the band also impacted the Athens music scene by its early support of the University of Georgia’s student radio station WUOG . Coalition, the student political party the band was instrumental in creating, supported funding of the station.  WUOG is credited with helping to break the Athens music scene by showcasing the emerging bands in it.
With the band’s fan base growing in the spring of 1972 , Ravenstone went into Atlanta's Web IV Studio to begin recording their first album, More Love.  After completing several tracks, including “Watercolor,” a rocker that was to be their first single,  and “Babylon,” a political anthem that was a live performance favorite, the group abruptly disbanded. A version of the title track was subsequently released as a DVD bonus feature for the cult horror movie Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers , which Simpson directed in 1987 .
After the demise of the original roster, later lineups of Ravenstone featuring Blasingame and Simpson were fixtures on the Southeast club circuit. These incarnations of the band featured drummer Randy Delay , whose work can be heard on Drivin N Cryin 's "Honeysuckle Blue" and as a founding member of the Georgia Satellites ' "Keep Your Hands To Yourself,” and bassist Greg Veale, who was subsequently a founding member of the Athens band, the Normaltown Flyers .
During much of his tenure in Ravenstone, Simpson was also a columnist for The Red and Black and The Athens Observer. Notable subjects of his columns included the occultist Aleister Crowley  and a satirical Halloween column noting the influence of the satanic church in United States national politics.  His writings advocated legalization of marijuana  and amnesty for Vietnam-era draft evaders  and military deserters.  The Atlanta Constitution Editor J. Reginald “ Reg” Murphy quoted Simpson’s columns in editorials in that Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper. 
Ravenstone disbanded in 1974.
Members L-R: Ralph Towler, Bill Wilson, Butch Blasingame, Michael A. Simpson and Dwight Brown
Interest in the band and its music sparked by the release of the song “More Love” on the Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers DVD led the original members of Ravenstone to reform in 2003 .  The band released Back on the Rock in 2005. After an absence of more than thirty years from the stage, Ravenstone returned to Athens for a performance at The Ritz .  The night was chronicled on the DVD One Night Only.
Ravenstone calls their current dance rock sound “ âge-défier , ” literally "age-defying" in French. Brown, the band’s multi-lingual bassist, coined the phrase. He was inspired by a quote from Jim Capald i , the late drummer for Traffic : “Rock is an attitude, not an age.” 
The band is currently recording their next CD, tentatively entitled Shades In The Shadows. The first EP single from that release featuring the songs “Dance of Life” and “Natural Born Slaves” will be released in 2007 on Prince Avenue Records, the band’s label.
The Insashable Horns led by Jim Boling, the band’s producer, often join the band for their live performances. The four-piece horn section features Jonny Hibbert on tenor sax. Hibbert, a founding member in 1977 of the popular Atlanta band Cruis-O-Matic,  later formed the Hib Tone label which released the first R.E.M. single “ Radio Free Europe .” 
Technical Support Crew
Ravenstone is notable for its original technical support crew, which included Rob Roth, Al Davison and Jimmy Ellison.
Rob Roth, the band’s original lighting designer, formed his own lighting design and equipment rental company in 1975 . He is known in the concert touring industry for his innovative lighting designs. He was recognized by Performance Magazine, the international concert tour publication, as Performance Lighting Designer of the Year in 1984 . His many clients have included Britney Spears , Justin Timberlake , Shania Twain , Elton John , Billy Joel , Metallica , The Eagles, and Widespread Panic. 
Al Davison, the band's original sound mixer, continued to be part of that city's music scene for many years, including a stint as the percussionist for the Athens Music Award-winning band Slippery People. He is active in AthFest , the city's annual music festival. He has also worked in software development and computer support for R.E.M., Pearl Jam , among other bands. He is the husband of the current Athens Mayor Heidi Davison.
Following his time as part of Ravenstone’s support crew, Jimmy Ellison was a music critic for The Athens Banner-Herald using the moniker J Eddy Ellison. He was a founding member and bassist of The Side Effects , an Athens band that had the distinction of debuting at a party with the band that became R.E.M. in their first performance. In May 1980, The Side Effects were the first band to play at the Athens 40 Watt Club East, which opened across the street and later merged back to the original 40 Watt Club , one of the most famous music clubs in Georgia.
Atlanta, 2005. Members L-R: Ralph Towler, Bill Wilson, Butch Blasingame, Michael A. Simpson and Dwight Brown
Butch Blasingame (lead guitar, vocals)
Dwight Brown, (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals)
Michael Simpson, (vocals, harmonica, percussion, air raid siren)
Ralph Towler (guitar, mandolin, keyboards, vocals)
Bill Wilson (drums, clarinet, saxophone, vocals)
OTHER NOTABLE MEMBERS
Randy Delay (drums)
Greg Veale (bass)
Jimmy Ellison (road crew)
MUSICIANS PERFORMING AS THE INSASHABLE HORNS
Jim Boling (trumpet, flute)
Taylor Gillen (tenor sax)
Jonny Hibbert (tenor sax)
Wally Tirado (tenor sax)
More Love (EP single) 2001
Back On The Rock (CD) 2005
Dance of Life (EP single) 2007
Heard Instinct (CD) 2009
Ravenstone performs at the Ritz in Athens, Ga in 2005
Members L-R: Butch Blasingame, Micael A. Simpson, Dwight Brown and Ralph Towler.
Background left is the Insatiable Horns, who often performed witht eh band.
Pictures and information cuurtesy of Michael A. Simpson, lead vocalist for the band
1. Klyza, John “Michael Simpson Interview” 2002 www.sleepawaycampfilms.com retrieved July 26, 2007.
2. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
3. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
4. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
5. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
6. Ravenstone photo and caption The Red and Black. October 6, 1971.
7. Burel, Charles athensmusic.com “Present at the Creation: Ravenstone & the Birth of Athens Rock.” Posted August 21, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007. http://athensmusic.net/newsdesk_info
8. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005
9. Roger “Now That I Can Dance.” The Great Speckled Bird. March 20, 1972.
10. Roger “Now That I Can Dance.” The Great Speckled Bird. March 20, 1972.
11. Fulton, Fran “Court Lets Gays Dance.” The Red and Black. March 22, 1972. In 1998, the Georgia Supreme Court declared the sodomy statute unconstitutional. See Powell v. State .
12. Lamb, Gordon “Kicking Ass Long Before You Were.” Flagpole Magazine. August 10, 2005.
13. Klyza, John “Michael Simpson Interview” 2002 www.sleepawaycampfilms.com retrieved July 26 2007.
14. Lamb, Gordon “Kicking Ass Long Before You Were.” Flagpole Magazine. August 10, 2005.
15. Shields, Mitchell “Students Rally, Register To Vote.” The Red and Black. May 5, 1972.
16. Shields, Mitchell “Students Rally, Register To Vote.” The Red and Black. May 5, 1972.
17. Roger “Now That I Can Dance.” The Great Speckled Bird. March 20, 1972.
18. Johnson, Jimmy “Rock Concert Remarks Ire Candidates.” The Red and Black. March 9, 1972. Towns, Preston “Ravenstone Refutes Charges.” The Athens Daily News . March 10, 1972.
19. Roger “Now That I Can Dance.” The Great Speckled Bird. March 20, 1972.
20. Burel, Charles athensmusic.com “Present at the Creation: Ravenstone & the Birth of Athens Rock.” Posted August 21, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
21. Klyza, John “Michael Simpson Interview” 2002 www.sleepawaycampfilms.com retrieved July 26 2007.
22. Burel, Charles athensmusic.com “Present at the Creation: Ravenstone & the Birth of Athens Rock.” Posted August 21, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
23. Burel, Charles athensmusic.com “Present at the Creation: Ravenstone & the Birth of Athens Rock.” Posted August 21, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
24. Granum, Rex “5 Set Politics To Music.” The Atlanta Journal & Constitution. November 25, 1971
25. Nickelson, Mark, “New to UGA Politics: Ravenstone Party.” The Red and Black, November 10, 1971.
26. Punaro, Arnold “Coalition Sweeps Campus Elections.” The Red and Black. April 13, 1973.
27. Lewis, Nancy “U. of Georgia Senate Asks Davison Ouster.” The Atlanta Journal. January 24, 1974.
28. Nelson, Charles “Student Senate votes no confidence in Davison.” The Red & Black. January 25, 1974.
29. Klyza, John “Michael Simpson Interview” 2002 www.sleepawaycampfilms.com retrieved July 26, 2007.
30. Pettigrew Jr., Jim “Musical Truckin’s.” The Red and Black. October 13, 1971.
31. Pettigrew Jr., Jim “Musical Truckin’s.” The Red and Black. October 13, 1971.
32. Pettigrew Jr., Jim “Musical Truckin’s.” The Red and Black. October 13, 1971.
33. Bill, David athensmusic.com Posted by August 24, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007. http://www.athensmusic.com/archives/001154.html
34. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
35. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
36. Granum, Rex “5 Set Politics To Music.” The Atlanta Journal & Constitution. November 25, 1971
37. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned.” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.
38. Burel, Charles athensmusic.com “Present at the Creation: Ravenstone & the Birth of Athens Rock.” Posted August 21, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
39. Burel, Charles athensmusic.com “Present at the Creation: Ravenstone & the Birth of Athens Rock.” Posted August 21, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
40. Simpson, Michael “Crowley Influential In Satanism.” The Red and Black. November 1, 1973.
41. Simpson, Michael “Satanic Church Based On Life.” The Red and Black. October 26, 1972.
42. Simpson, Michael “Pot Legalization.” The Red and Black. September 21,1973.
43. Simpson, Michael “Draft Evaders Deserve Our Understanding.” The Red and Black. February 15, 1973.
44. Simpson, Michael “Amnesty Needed.” The Red and Black. September 25, 1974.
45. Murphy, Reg “Campus Report: Poetry & Presidents.” The Atlanta Constitution. April 17, 1973.
46. Roth, Rob. Production Resource Group. http://www.prg.com/people/rroth retrieved June 23, 2007
47. Lamb, Gordon “Kicking Ass Long Before You Were.” Flagpole Magazine. August 10, 2005.
48. Lamb, Gordon “Kicking Ass Long Before You Were.” Flagpole Magazine. August 10, 2005.
49. Burel, Charles “Age-Defying Rock That You Can Dance To.” http://www.ravenstoneband.com/Bio.htm Posted March 2005. retrieved July 23, 2007
50. Cruis-O-Matic . http://theancestors.com/cruisearlyyears.htm. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
51. Lamb, Gordon “Have You Been Ravenstoned” Flagpole Magazine. August 24, 2005.