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Love Tractor is a band from Athens, Georgia, and like The B-52's, Pylon and R.E.M., is recognized as a founder of the Athens, Georgia alternative rock scene. Love Tractor toured extensively and recorded five critically acclaimed albums during the 1980s—and was particularly known for their instrumental rock. After a return to the public eye in the late '90's, Love Tractor released 2001's The Sky At Night and continues to play and record new material.
The band was formed in the spring of 1980 by guitarists Mark Cline and Mike Richmond. The band played their first few gigs with no bassist and a drum machine, but bassist/multi-instrumentalist/artist Armistead Wellford, drummers Kit Schwartz (formerly of Side Effects) and Bill Berry (future REM drummer), and studio keyboard player Alfredo Villar (of Fans) were soon added. Love Tractor originally performed only instrumental material, but vocals from Richmond were added starting with their second album.
The band first signed to DB Records, their first release being a self-titled album, produced by Bruce Baxter and Alfredo Villar. 1983 saw second album Around the Bend; while on a tour promoting that album's release, Jon Pareles of The New York Times saw them at the Danceteria; in his September 1983 review, he said: "Most of Love Tractor's material moved at the steady pace of 1960's folk-rock, using winsome guitar leads above a cushion of rhythm guitar and a reassuring bass. Like instrumentals by the Ventures or the Raybeats, Love Tractor's tunes use two or three recurring segments and little improvisation. But they don't repeat - they develop. Where song lyrics might have told a story, Love Tractor let the texture of the music thicken. The drumming would get busier, or the bass line pushier, or the lead guitar line more intricate; the clear, catchy melodies grew more urgent with each reprise. When a vocal would float in for a few moments, it was just one more unassuming, thoroughly melodic piece of a song."
After two albums in 1984, the band signed to Big Time (America), releasing This Ain't No Outer Space Ship in 1987. After a final album in 1989 (Themes from Venus), the band split up. Wellford later joined Gutterball. Later, the original lineup (with several different drummers replacing Schwartz) recorded for RCA and Razor and Tie Records. The band stopped touring in 1992, but Cline, Richmond, and Wellford continued to meet every couple of years in Athens to write songs. The band re-formed in 1996 as a performing entity eventually recording 2001's 'The Sky at Night' for Razor and Tie.