Along with Let's Active, the dB's defined the Southern power pop/jangle pop movement of the early to mid-'80s. The band's music was a quirky blend of smart pop and psychedelia crossed with the more experimental side of new wave. Though they never received widespread recognition outside of critical acclaim, they provided a key link between Big Star and '80s alternative guitar acts such as R.E.M.
Formed in 1978 in Winston-Salem, NC, the original lineup of the band featured Chris Stamey (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Gene Holder (bass), and Will Rigby (drums). All three members had spent time in Stamey's legendary group, the Sneakers, a group he co-founded with Mitch Easter. After relocating to New York, the dB's released their debut single, "(I Thought) You Wanted to Know," for Stamey's Car label. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Peter Holsapple, who had worked with Stamey in the band Rittenhouse Square in the early '70s, joined the band by the end of 1978. Holsapple and Stamey shared the songwriting chores during the band's early years.
The dB's were unable to secure a U.S. recording contract, so they signed to the British Albion label. They released two albums on Albion: Stands for Decibels (1981) and Repercussion (1982). Both records received rave reviews but little sales. Stamey left in 1983 to resume a solo career. Rick Wagner was added on bass but was replaced shortly by Jeff Beninato. With Holsapple fronting the group, they signed to Bearsville in 1984 and released Like This, a more conventional jangle pop album with strong country leanings. Bearsville's internal problems doomed the album despite its obvious hit potential. They eventually left to sign with I.R.S. Records in 1987, where they released The Sound of Music. The album managed to break the Top 200 and college radio support was strong. The dB's received some crucial exposure when they opened for R.E.M. on their Document tour in the end of 1987, but by the end of 1988, the band decided to break up.
Holsapple and Stamey reunited in 1991 for a duo project, releasing Mavericks later that year. Mavericks was the only album the duo ever released. Following its release, Stamey continued with solo projects; he also continued to contribute to the Golden Palominos. Holder went on to join the Wygals and worked as a producer and guest musician for other artists. Will Rigby released one solo album, Sidekick Phenomenon, in 1985. Holsapple joined R.E.M. as an occasional touring member in 1991 and formed his own band, the Continental Drifters, with wife Susan Cowsill. In 1994, Holsapple, Rigby, Beninato, plus new member Eric Peterson (guitar) re-formed the dB's and recorded Paris Avenue, which was released on the Monkey Hill label.