Atlanta Rhythm Section
(Read about Atlanta Rhythm Section After the video)
Atlanta Rhythm Section, sometimes abbreviated ARS, is an American southern rock band, formed in 1971. The band's current lineup consists of founding members keyboardist Dean Daughtry and vocalist Rodney Justo, along with newer members, guitarists David Anderson and Steve Stone, bassist Justin Senker and drummer Rodger Stephan.
In the spring of 1970, three former members of the Candymen (Rodney Justo, Dean Daughtry and Robert Nix) and the Classics IV (Daughtry and James B. Cobb, Jr.) became the session band for the newly opened Studio One recording studio in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta.
After playing on other artists' recordings, the Atlanta Rhythm Section was formed in January 1971, with Rodney Justo (singer), Barry Bailey (guitar), Paul Goddard (bass), Dean Daughtry (keyboards), Robert Nix (drums), and J.R. Cobb (guitar).
The band was signed by Decca Records and released their first album, Atlanta Rhythm Section, in January 1972. But after its lack of commercial success, Justo quit the band, relocating to New York as a session singer. He was replaced by Ronnie Hammond, assistant to Studio One's engineer Rodney Mills. Buddy Buie, the band's manager and producer and co-owner of Studio One, is listed first on almost all of their songwriting credits. With Hammond on board, the band's second release, Back Up Against the Wall (February 1973), also failed to sell and Decca dumped ARS from their roster.
Buie's manager, Jeff Franklin, who was based in New York and had gotten the group the Decca deal, was then able to get ARS signed to Polydor, who put out their third release, Third Annual Pipe Dream, in August 1974. Noted Christian Music artist and Southern rocker Mylon LeFevre (Buie, Bailey, Goddard, Daughtry and Rodney Mills had all been regular players at LeFevre's studio before they built Studio One) appeared on "Jesus Hearted People" on Pipe Dream, which also spun off the band's very first hit single, "Doraville", which peaked at No. 35 and pulled the album up to No. 74 on Billboard's Top 200 by November 1974.
Though ARS is frequently referred to as a Southern rock band, the addition of Hammond in particular led them towards a more laid back sound that incorporated Bailey's distinctive lead guitar and Goddard's unique bass playing (achieved by playing with a pick rather than finger plucking) with Daughtry's acoustic and electric piano frequently at the forefront. All this provided for a different approach away from the heavy blues of the Allman Brothers Band and the triple lead guitar attack of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Outlaws.
The band's next two releases, Dog Days (August 1975) and Red Tape (April 1976), sold in lesser quantities, but ARS, who were previously not enthusiastic about touring, began to rethink their strategy and make more of an effort to take to the road by playing with The Who at the Gator Bowl Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida and The Rolling Stones at the Auditorium in West Palm Beach, Florida, both in August 1976, and numerous other shows that same year in the south, northeast and midwest.
The Hit Years
The increased exposure paid off as the group's next album, A Rock and Roll Alternative (December 1976), rose to No. 13 on the Billboard chart and was certified gold in the spring of 1977. The debut single from the record, "So Into You", peaked at No. 7 on April 30 of the same year.
On September 4, 1977 ARS played their biggest show yet, the Dog Day Rockfest at Atlanta's Grant Field on the campus of Georgia Tech University. Heart and Foreigner were the opening acts and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band co-headlined.
In January 1978 ARS released what would turn out to be its most successful album, Champagne Jam, which led off with the song "Large Time", a tribute to their fallen comrades, Lynyrd Skynyrd, some of whom had lost their lives in a plane crash the previous October. Champagne Jam turned out to be their biggest selling album, selling over a million and certified platinum. It also spun off two more hits for the band with "Imaginary Lover" (No. 7) and "I'm Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight" (No. 14).
On June 24, 1978 ARS appeared at the Knebworth Festival in Knebworth, England before a crowd of 60,000 on a bill that also included Genesis, Jefferson Starship, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Brand X, Devo and Roy Harper.
On August 26, 1978 the band appeared at Canada Jam at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada before their largest audience yet (over 110,000) with the Doobie Brothers, Commodores and others.
The following week ARS had a rock festival of their own called Champagne Jam back at Grant Field at Georgia Tech on September 3, 1978, which also included Santana, Doobie Brothers, Eddie Money, Mose Jones and Mother's Finest.
Three weeks later they appeared at the White House at President Jimmy Carter's invitation for his son Chip's 28th birthday party.
Their eighth album, Underdog, was released in June 1979 and contained two more Top 20 hits, "Do It or Die" (No. 19) and "Spooky" (No. 17), a remake of Cobb and Buie's Classics IV hit from 1968.
In 1979 drummer Robert Nix, the group's primary lyricist, had a falling out with manager/producer Buie over the group's musical direction. Nix wished to move in a more rocking direction while Buie was content with their diversive approach, which incorporated the mellower ballads. And the rest of the band's dissatisfaction with his playing due to his excessive "lifestyle choices" sealed his fate and he was replaced by Roy Yeager.
Champagne Jam II on July 7, 1979 at Georgia Tech featured ARS, Aerosmith, the Cars, Dixie Dregs and Whiteface. And in October 1979, ARS performances from Champagne Jam II and elsewhere on the tour were released as the double live set Are You Ready. Besides the group's hits and popular tracks up to that time, the album also contained the fan favorite "Another Man's Woman", with the now famous bass solo by Goddard.
Decline and Departures
The Boys from Doraville (August 1980) showed a steep fall off in sales for the group as radio programmers began turning their attention away from "Southern Rock" to other rock formats, such as "New wave music". The album contained no hit singles and it ended up being their last for the Polydor label when Bruce Lundvall offered them a better deal over at Columbia Records (CBS), who released their next album Quinella in August 1981. Quinella spawned the hit "Alien" (No. 29) but, like The Boys From Doraville, struggled with sales.
In 1982 ARS worked on a second record for CBS, reportedly to be titled Sleep With One Eye Open. But before it was finished, CBS wanted the band to exclude some of the tracks and record more. Buie and the band refused, the album was shelved and ARS were dropped from CBS.
At this point, in late 1982, singer Ronnie Hammond decided to leave ARS for a solo career and Buie also ended his association with the group at this juncture to work with Hammond. But Buddy and Ronnie's work with Alabama musicians never saw any release. Buie continued to run Studio One until 1986 when he sold it to Georgia State University. Unfortunately the upkeep of the studio was too high and it was closed in 1989, eventually being razed to make way for a parking lot. Buie died on July 18, 2015 at age 74.
Drummer Roy Yeager tripped over a fallen tree while on tour with ARS in 1982 and suffered a severe broken leg. One of the band's road crew, Danny Biget, took over on drums and the band's original singer Rodney Justo, who'd moved from session singer to lead singer again in the mid-70s with a group from Georgia called Beaverteeth before retiring from music to eventually segue into a sales position with a wine company, was contacted by ARS to return to do some shows in early 1983.
During 1983, the group went to Nashville and tried working with Buddy Buie's former associate Chips Moman, a more country oriented producer. But results were slow to come and, dissatisfied with this direction, bassist Paul Goddard and drummer Biget left to work with British producer Eddy Offord in another band with former Dixie Dregs keyboardist T Lavitz and guitarist Pat Buchanan, called Interpol, that was in a more progressive rock direction (unfortunately, Interpol never got off the ground). The Chips Moman Nashville sessions were completed, but the results, like their previous effort for CBS, have never been released to date.
Now without a recording contract, ARS continued to play shows, mostly in the south. Andy Anderson, who'd sung on the unreleased Moman project (after Justo was let go), was the new front man and two new members, Tommy Stribling (bass) and Keith Hamrick (drums), were brought in by late 1983.
In 1985 the group tried a new singer, Jeff Logan (who'd played with a band called High Cotton). But Logan's higher voice didn't fit with the band's musical style and Anderson returned as bassist Stribling went on to leave in February 1986, turning it over to Steve Stone.
In late 1986, J. R. Cobb left to concentrate more on songwriting and session work at Chips Moman's new studio in Memphis (for The Highway Men, among others) and Stribling came back to play guitar. The personnel shuffles continued as Hamrick also departed in late 1986 and was replaced by Sean Burke (who joined in early 1987). Another new lead singer, Shaun Williamson, was rolled in in 1987. But in 1988, Williamson, Stribling and Stone were all let go as Bailey and Daughtry sought to revamp the band by bringing back Ronnie Hammond.
Ronnie Hammond Returns
In 1988 Hammond, Bailey and Daughtry returned to the studio with Sean Burke and two new players, Brendan O'Brien (guitar) and J. E. Garnett (bass) to produce a new album with producer Rodney Mills that had more of an "80s Rock sound". Released in October 1989 on the CBS/Epic subsidiary label Imagine, Truth in a Structured Form, ARS's first album in eight years, featured a heavy drum sound that propelled almost every track and a sharper, more synthesized gloss over the songs, with all, except one, being written by Buddy Buie and Ronnie Hammond, another departure from their previous approach. O'Brien, who was co-producer as well as guitarist on the album, was invited to go on the road with the band but he declined, preferring to continue his career in session work (today he is a much in demand producer, having worked with Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and many others). Steve Stone then returned, as guitarist this time. But album sales for Truth lagged and there was another hiatus in their recorded work as the band continued to tour, with Justin Senker replacing Garnett on bass in 1992 (after subbing a show for him the previous year) and R.J. Vealey taking over the drum chair from Burke in 1995 after the latter suffered a leg injury.
In 1995 the group went back into the studio, this time to re-record some of their classic songs. This new collection was recorded in North Carolina and the resulting live-in-studio sound of Atlanta Rhythm Section '96 (released on CMC International in April 1996) presented a different, less polished take on some of their classic tunes and captured the sound of their live performances from that period. It was also around this time that ARS was elected to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The band was so honored at a September 1996 induction ceremony at the Georgia World Congress Center.
ARS then recorded another new album, Partly Plugged (which was released in January 1997 on the independent Southern Tracks label). It featured some new songs done plugged in and more remakes of some classics done the way they had been written---unplugged on acoustic guitar and piano.
On December 28, 1998 there was a close call with tragedy. Singer Ronnie Hammond, who had battled alcoholism and depression off and on over the years, got into a confrontation with the police in Macon, Georgia and forced an officer to shoot him. Hammond was seriously injured, but survived the injury and dealt with the depression.
The band's fifteenth album, Eufaula, was released in February 1999 but problems occurred almost immediately as the record label it was released on, Platinum Entertainment, faced financial troubles and was not able to support the album as intended. ARS continued to tour on a limited basis. But on November 13, 1999, tragedy struck. After the band had finished an afternoon set at a concert festival in Orlando, Florida, 37 year old drummer R. J. Vealey complained of indigestion and then collapsed and died of a heart attack. "It was very sudden, very shocking," said guitarist Barry Bailey. "He was a great drummer, the best drummer this band ever had." ARS then recruited new drummer Jim Keeling and continued on.
In early 1999, while Hammond was still recovering in the hospital, Andy Anderson returned after twelve years to front the band until Hammond was well enough to return (Anderson would return again in May 2000 to sub another show for Ronnie). But in 2001, Ronnie decided to take a gig with another group, Voices of Classic Rock, that conflicted with ARS's schedule, forcing him to make a choice between the two. Ronnie chose to stay with VOCR but left the touring business altogether soon afterward to focus on family and song writing. A retirement show for Ronnie was held on December 6, 2002 at a club called Whiskey River in Macon, Georgia, where Ronnie performed backed by Dean Daughtry, Justin Senker, Steve Stone, Jim Keeling, Wendall Cox (from Travis Tritt's band) and Mike Causey (from Stillwater). Hammond died on March 14, 2011 in Forsyth, Georgia, at age 60 of heart failure.
During its later, more recent days, the band has shown it can sometimes still draw the type of crowds it did it is heyday, such as the 150,000 fans it drew to the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee in June 2000.
In early 2006, Barry Bailey, who was suffering from cerebral palsy, decided to retire from the group to take care of his wife, who was sick with cancer (which ended up taking her life on July 6, 2006). Steve Stone took over most of the lead playing from this point on and Andy Anderson's long-time Billy Joe Royal bandmate and golf buddy, Allen Accardi, was brought in as second guitarist. Allen, a Nashville veteran, would stay with the band for more than a year but it was clear that a player with more of a rock sound was needed, so a friend of Jim Keeling's, Huntsville, Alabama native David Anderson, from the band Brother Cane, was brought in as the new guitarist in April 2007.
On March 26, 2008 singer Andy Anderson suffered a heart attack just before he was to catch a plane to Las Vegas to join the band for a two-night stand at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. Fortunately, Andy's friend, Steve Croson (who'd played alongside him for years in Billy Joe Royal's band), lived in Vegas and was able to step in for his buddy on short notice. In April and May, original singer Rodney Justo returned, joined by ARS's 1987-88 singer Shaun Williamson, until Andy was healthy enough to return later in May.
The Return of Paul Goddard and Rodney Justo
In May 2011 fans of the Atlanta Rhythm Section were stunned to see not only the permanent return of Rodney Justo but the re-introduction of original bassist Paul Goddard to the stage after a 28-year absence. Unfortunately Paul's second tenure with the band was short-lived as he died of cancer on April 29, 2014.
After Paul's death, ARS continued to play shows with a lineup of Rodney Justo, Dean Daughtry, Steve Stone, Dave Anderson, Justin Senker and Jim Keeling. Keeling was replaced in March 2016 by Justo's friend Rodger Stephan.
While ARS did not achieve the commercial success of Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, the group had a strong following in the South and charted a consistent string of hits such as "Doraville", "I'm Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight", "So Into You", "Imaginary Lover", "Do It Or Die" and a cover version of the Classics IV 1968 hit, "Spooky", plus fan favorites such as "Boogie Smoogie", "Champagne Jam", "Jukin", "Neon Nites" and "Georgia Rhythm". The band also influenced a number of rock and country artists, notably Travis Tritt, who covered the ARS songs "Back Up Against the Wall" and "Homesick". The group Shudder to Think covered "So Into You".
The band still tours, playing mostly festivals and nostalgia-themed concerts.
Their most recent album, With All Due Respect (May 2011), was largely covers of other artists' songs (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, etc.) alongside re-recordings of classic ARS tunes, done at Southern Tracks Studios with longtime engineer Rodney Mills.