Last week, I noted that King biographer Taylor Branch had joined two former college bandmates on a CD, "The Blue Album" (click here for audio). It's a double-tribute, paying homage to the Beatles and the trio's alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Branch (Class of '68) called to chat about the album, so here's a bit more about his music.

At UNC, the group was called The Zookeepers -- with Branch on rhythm guitar -- and featured songs from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Young Rascals. That departed from typical frat party fare, which leaned to Motown and a brassy sound.

About five years ago, the trio was asked to play at a UNC reunion, and rocked on for hours -- "almost killing ourselves," he says. A return engagement was strictly acoustic, a concession to aging eardrums. Still, the beer-drinking crowd was rowdy, so the group moved from stage to studio. "We enjoyed the reunion, but we didn't enjoy the audience," he says.

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In 1966 the group, renamed Off Our Rocker, cut a CD called OverTime. That album, like its successor, focused on Beatles harmonies. Branch and his fellow musicians, Bill Guy and John Yelverton, clearly aren't in it for the money. They have to pay for copyrights and for producing the CDs. But Branch calls the group "a wonderful outlet". He adds, "The only music I do other than singing with these guys is singing in the choir at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church."

What else is Branch, a Pulitzer Prize winner, doing? He's finishing a book -- to be published in May -- about President Bill Clinton. Seems the president made Branch a sort of unofficial diarist and provided remarkable access to the White House. Branch also is working to create an HBO miniseries based on his King trilogy, a project that has been talked about for 20 years.

What better time -- for both projects -- than now? The Clintons are back in the public eye, And Barack Obama's election has re-focused attention on King and the civil rights movement. I told Branch he was a genius for timing his projects this way. He just laughed.

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