Love Tractor (1980–current) is a band from Athens, Georgia, founded in spring 1980 by guitarists Mark Cline and Mike Richmond, and bassist Armistead Wellford, students at the University of Georgia. Like The B-52’s, Pylon and R.E.M., Love Tractor has been lauded by critics and music historians as one of the founders of the Athens, Georgia, alternative rock scene. Love Tractor toured extensively and recorded six critically acclaimed albums, consistently topping the college and alternative charts. Love Tractor was particularly known for their instrumental rock.
The band was formed in April 1980 by guitarists Mark Cline, Mike Richmond and bassist Armistead Wellford students at the University of Georgia. The band played their first few gigs (including their debut on July 9 on Barber Street in Athens) with only a drum machine, but drummers Kit Swartz(formerly of The Side Effects) and Bill Berry (future R.E.M. drummer) soon took over rotating duties as drummer. In 1983 Andrew Carter would take over as full-time drummer; after Carter’s departure. Producer and studio keyboard player Alfredo Villar (of The Fans) contributed to the first two albums. Love Tractor originally performed only instrumental material, but minimal vocals from Mike Richmond were added starting with their second album, Around the Bend.
In 1981 the band signed to DB Records. Their first release was a self-titled album, produced by Bruce Baxter (Pylon) and Alfredo Villar. 1983 saw a 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, and a college-chart-topping cover of Kraftwerk‘s “Neon Lights” (from 1984’s “Till The Cows Come Home” EP), the band signed to Big Time (America), releasing This Ain’t No Outerspace Ship in 1987. After 1988’s Themes from Venus, produced by Mitch Easter, the band went on semi-hiatus. Wellford later joined Gutterball.The band stopped touring completely in 1992, but Cline, Richmond, and Wellford continued to meet every couple of years in Athens to write songs. Later, the original lineup recorded for RCA and Razor and Tie Records. The band re-formed in 1996 as a performing entity eventually recording 2001’s ‘The Sky at Night’ for Razor and Tie.
In 2015 founding members Armistead Wellford and Mark Cline, along with Bill Berry and multi-instrumentalist Douglas Stanley (of The Glands, who had been a major contributor to the band’s 2001 album The Sky at Night), released the instrumental single “A Trip To the Museum”, heralding a return to the band’s instrumental roots. On August 13, 2016 all original members of Love Tractor (Mark Cline, Mike Richmond, Armistead Wellford and Andrew Carter) reformed to perform at the Athens Popfest at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia. The band was accompanied on stage by guitarists Bryan Poole (Elf Power, Casper & the Cookies) and Jay Gonzalez (Drive-By Truckers), drummer Joe Rowe (The Glands, Casper & the Cookies, Pylon Reenactment Society), and synthesist Kevin Dunn (The Fans, Regiment of Women). Love Tractor continues to perform live and will be re-releasing the Love Tractor catalog on vinyl as well as previously unreleased songs and new material.
Current Members: Andrew Carter, Mark Cline, Mike Richmond, Joe Rowe, Doug Stanley, Armistead Wellford
Love Tractor (1982) DB Records
Around the Bend (1983) DB Records
Till the Cows Come Home (1984) DB Records
Wheel of Pleasure (1984) DB/Press London
This Ain’t No Outer Space Ship (1987) Big Time RCA Records
“Party Train” single (1987) Big Time RCA Records
“Athens Georgia Inside/Out” Soundtrack (1988) IRS Records
Themes from Venus (1988) DB Records
The Sky at Night (2001) Razor & Tie
A Trip to the Museum (2015) Cosmic Media Single
“Love Tractor 1880 to 1920 + 100″ Single (2020) HHBTM Records
Love Tractor Remixed and Remastered (2020) Propeller Sound Recordings
Themes From Venus Remastered (2022) Propeller Sound Recordings