Guadalcanal Diary

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1981-89 and 98)

- Murray Attaway -- vocals, guitar, harmonica 

- Rhett Crowe -- bass

- John Poe -- drums, percussion, vocals

- Jeff Walls -- lead guitars, keyboards, vocals



- Murray Attaway (solo efforts)

- Dash Rip Rock (Jeff Walls)

- Hillbilly Frankenstein (Jeff Walls)

- Joe Poe (solo efforts)

- Ottoman Empire (Rhett Crowe)

- The Woggles (Jeff Walls)





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Walking In the Shadow of the Big Man

Company: Elektra

Catalog: 60752-1

Year: 1983

Country/State: Marietta, Georgia

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3539

Price: $15.00


Still in high school, singer/guitarists Murray Attaway and Jeff Walls became musical partners when they joined the punk band Strictly American.   Electing to strike out on their own, they formed Emergency Broadcast System.  Walls was teaching Rhett Crowe bassat the time and she was asked to join the band.  Crowe accepted the offer and  quickly suggested a name change to Guadalcanal Diary (based on the 1940s movie).  Though he had no experience on the instrument (having previously played bass), , Walls friend John Poe was added as drummer.


The band quickly became staples on the Athens and Atlanta club circuit, signed by Danny Brown's Atlanta-based dB Records.


With one of the year's most stunning covers (courtesy of George Rodgers), 1984's Don Dixon produced "Walking In the Shadow of the Big Man" was a fantastic album that simply fell victim to the band's own quirky characteristics and being overshadowed by the successes other mid-'80s jangle rock bands were enjoying.  With Attaway and Walls responsible for all ten tracks, the album was simultaneously eclectic (check out the the atmospheric instrumental title track and the sing-along closer 'Kum-Ba Yah') yet quite commercial.  Powered by Attaway's likeable voice and Walls' twelve string jangle guitar, their lyric may have been somewhat sobering, but on tracks like 'Trail of Tears', 'Watusi Rodeo' and the giddy instrumental 'Gilbert Takes the Wheel' they rocked out the way R.E.M. could only dream of.   Hardcore fans consistently deny it, but Attaway's voice has always served as a source for comparison to Michael Stipe and R.E.M.  I certainly detect comparisons in songs like the rocking 'Trail of Tears' and 'Fire from Heaven''.  They certainly weren't trying to clone Stipe and company, but the echoes were there.


The band toured extensively in support of the album, which attracted considerable college radio attention.  In 1984 Elektra signed the band, reissuing the collection nationally.

"Walking In the Shadow of the Big Man" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Trail of Tears  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls) - 2:24   rating; **** stars

Admittedly not the most original comment, but darned if 'Trail of Tears' didn't sound like a rockin' version of REM.   Again, perhaps not the most original theme, but the tune offered up a nice anti-war and you could certainly dance to it.  Apparently uncertain what to do with the song, Elektra released it as a limited edition 12" 45:

- 1985's 'Trail of Tears' (remix version) b/w 'Trail of Tears' (LP version) (Elektra catalog number ED 5071)

2.) Fire from Heaven  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls)  - 3:52   rating; **** stars

'Fire from Heaven' wasn't their most commercial tune, but made up for that with an interesting song structure and a set of lyrics I've always found interesting.  It also showcased what a killer drummer John Poe was.   The sound and video quality are marginal, but YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song at a June 1985 performance at Washington, DC's 9:30 Club: 

3.) Sleepers Awake  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls)  - 3:10    rating; *** stars

'Sleepers Awake' was a dark and somewhat ominous tune.  Darn if Poe didn't get one of rock's biggest drum sounds out of his kit.

4.) Gilbert Takes the Wheel (instrumental)  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls)  - 2:32   rating; **** stars

The first of two instrumentals, 'Gilbert Takes the Wheel' was an impressive display of the band's rock chops.   YouTube has a July, 1983 performance of the song recorded at Atlanta's 668 Clib: 

5.) Ghost on the Road  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls)  - 2:47    rating; *** stars

Hum, the band taking a shot at a touch of country-rock.  Not really bad, just not really something that appeals to my tastes in musical genres.   


(side 2)
1.) Watusi Rodeo
  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls) - 2:35   rating; **** stars

Built on Walls' surf guitar  inspired licks, who would ever thought a commentary on European colonialism could be so dance ready?

   7" single

- 1985's 'Watusi Rodeo' b/w 'Sleepers Awake' and 'Johnny B Goode' (Elektra catalog number EKR23)

   12" single

- 1985's 'Watusi Rodeo' b/w 'Watusi Rodeo' (Elektra catalog number ED5701)

The band also spent $200 on a self-made video:   YouTube also has a 2011 New Year's Even performance at Marietta, Georgia's The Strange Theater: 

2.) Why Do the Heathen Rage?  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls)  - 3:04   rating; **** stars

The album's prettiest ballad ...  Simon and Garfunkle meet Athens jangke-pop.

3.) Pillow Talk  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls)  - 1:57   rating: *** stars

Another pretty tune with commercial potential.   YouTube has n August 1983 performance at Atlanta's 688 Club: 

4.) Walking In the Shadow of the Big Man (Part 1 ) (instrumental)  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls) - 4:34   rating: *** stars

The album's second instrumental, the tile track sounded like something scored for a film soundtrack.  Pretty, if slightly ominous.  

5.) Kum-Ba Yah (live)  (Murray Attaway - Jeff  Walls) - 3:42   rating; **** stars

'Kum-Ba Yah' was recorded live in the studio in front of a small group of friends.  It made for a strange, but fascinating way to end the collection.





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  2 x 4

Company: Elektra

Catalog: 60752-1

Year: 1987

Country/State: Marietta, Georgia

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5063

Price: $15.00

Cost: $2.00


Folks mistakenly label this Georgia-based quartet as being part of the Athens musical mafia responsible for the likes of Don Dixon, Let's Active, and R.E.M.  They've got the right state, but wrong city since Guadalcanal Diary roots are in Marietta, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta).


Produced by Don Dixon, 1987's "2 x 4" is a great (if largely unknown) album.  With Muray Attaway and John Walls again responsible for the majority of the material, tracks such as 'Litany (Life Goes On)', 'Under the Yoke' and 'Get Over It' offered up a near perfect combination of spirited jangle rock, shimmering harmony vocals and entertaining lyrics. Propelled by John Poe's snarling drums and Murray Attaway and Jeff Walls dual guitars, it was a much heavier release that their earlier releases.  That's good news since, at least for me, the album works on two levels.  Musically it's got some great melodies that are perfect fodder for popping into a car CD on a bright sunny day.  At the same time the band's sometimes dark and disturbing lyrics constantly left me scratching my head as to their meaning. Check out 'Little Birds' and the harrowing '3 am'.   It's probably the quartet's most commercial, consistent and enjoyable release and definitely worth lookin' for.  

"2 x 4" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Litany (Life Goes On)   (Murray Attaway) - 3:41

2.) Under the Yoke   (Jeff  Walls) - 4:28

3.) Get Over It   (Murray Attaway - Rhett Crowe) - 3:00

4.) Little Birds   (Murray Attaway) - 3:57

5.) Things Fall Apart  (Murray Attaway - John Poe - Jeff  Walls) - 2:44

6.) Let the Big Wheel Roll   (Jeff  Walls) - 2:40


(side 2)
1.) Where Angels Fear To Tread  (Jeff  Walls) - 3:13

2.) New Born   (Murray Attaway) - 4:41

3.) Windz of Change  (Jeff  Walls) -2 :55

4.) Say Please  (Murray Attaway) - 2:10

5.) 3 am  (Murray Attaway - Jeff Walls) - 4:12

6.) Lips of Steels   (Murray Attaway - Jeff Walls) - 2:19