Atlanta's Swimming Pool Q's were one of the first Southern new wave bands to gain nationwide recognition in the early '80s after the breakthrough of the B-52's made folks aware that there was more to Southern rock than what Q's leader Jeff Calder called "the Boogie Establishment." However, while most of their Georgia brethren were famous for serving up light, off-kilter pop, Swimming Pool Q's music had a darker and more challenging undercurrent, balancing twisted guitar patterns against lyrics that played on Southern Gothic archetypes in a manner that was often witty, and sometimes ominous.
Born and raised in Lakeland, FL, as a teenager Jeff Calder developed a fondness for both the eccentricities of Southern literature (he would study writing at the University of Florida with acclaimed novelist Harry Crews) and the sonic fragmentation of Captain Beefheart. When he discovered the music of warped Georgia visionaries Hampton Grease Band, Calder found a group of kindred spirits, and in 1973, after the band broke up, he struck up a friendship with HGB guitarist Glenn Phillips. Through Phillips, Calder met Bob Esley, a gifted Atlanta guitar player with a passion for Jimi Hendrix and a taste for left-of-center rock.
Eager to form a band and believing Atlanta was a more conducive venue for his ideas than anywhere else in the South, Calder moved to the Peach state, picked up a guitar, and began writing songs with Esley. In 1978, Calder and Esley had formed Swimming Pool Q's (the name came for mishearing someone talking about a redneck "swinging pool cues" is a fight), fusing the energy of the nascent new wave scene with the musical adventure of Beefheart and Hampton Grease Band. With Esley playing lead guitar and Calder handling rhythm and taking most of the lead vocals, the Q's were rounded out by percussionist Robert Schmid, bassist Billy Jones, and Anne Richmond Boston, who sang lead on several numbers, played occasional keyboards, and brought samples from her impressive toy collection to shows.
Devo and the Police. The band hit the road on their own, touring well before a Southern new wave club circuit had been established, and they developed enough of a following that Danny Beard signed them to his trail-blazing DB Records label. In 1981, the band released their first album, The Deep End; by this time, Pete Jarkunas had taken over on bass from the departing Billy Jones. More touring and positive press followed, with the album eventually moving close to 20,000 copies, and before long the band signed to A&M Records.