Louisville Underground Music Archive Project Oral Histories

Louisville Underground Music Archive Project Oral Histories

Heather Fox, Archivist for Manuscript Collections and Co-Director of the Oral History Center, University of Louisville  

Louisville, Kentucky has a rich musical heritage, including an underground scene that influenced the sound of not only punk, indie, and hardcore, but also popular music regionally, nationally and internationally. In 2013, after the loss of several members of this scene, archivists in the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections (ASC) launched the Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) project to document this important slice of Louisville's musical culture. After receiving donations of over 40 discrete collections comprised of flyers, show recordings, posters, performance videos, fanzines and more, considerable gaps remain in our understanding of the independent music scene's development and the social context that fostered its growth, particularly in the late 1970s and 1980s. For more information about LUMA's beginnings, take a look at our 2015 article in The American Archivist

A number of musical traditions across Kentucky, including gospel, bluegrass, country, folk and blues, have been documented through oral history projects, but none documented Louisville’s indie/punk/hardcore music scenes. In 2016, the University of Louisville Oral History Center received a grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to conduct 30 hours of interviews to fill in this gap in documentation. The LUMA advisory board developed a list of active and well-known musicians in the scene during the early to mid-1980s. The board includes locals such as Nathan Salsburg, musician and curator of the Alan Lomax Archive; musician and actor Will Oldham; professor of popular culture Diane Pecknold; and John Timmons, owner of ear X-tacy, a record store that employed many active participants in the scene.

We hired Chip Nold to conduct the interviews. Nold was lead singer of the Babylon Dance Band, featured on the cover of the Village Voice in 1980. After playing in “The Babs,” Nold earned a degree in history from Princeton and returned to Louisville to become a full-time writer. Although Nold had experience interviewing people for feature stories, we made sure to train him on oral history methodology, and then sent him out with a trusty Marantz PMD 660 to get started.  

So far, our interviewer has completed 12 interviews that total nearly 22 hours. The interviews are available for research and we hope to put them online soon. In the meantime, please enjoy a couple of clips from the collection. 

Audio clips (attached)

Clip 1. Ricky Feather, lead singer of “psychobilly” rock band Bodeco, talks about getting into some trouble while writing lyrics in the great outdoors.

Clip 2. Tara Key, guitarist of the first Louisville punk band, No Fun, describes hearing the music that started her down the path to becoming a guitarist and the first time she played with No Fun. Key is pictured below with No Fun at The Old Galt House (Eclectic Party), summer, 1978. 


2016_133_feather_wild_dogs.mp31.67 MB
2016_133_key_hearing_patti_smith-3.mp35.61 MB