Got this Bob Lefsetz piece about Ronnie & ARS from Buie this morning. It's followed by a tribute by Al Kooper. In Buddy's words, "IT DESERVES A REPRINT."
If you have problems linking to it, I've published it on my blog, ZERO, NORTHWEST FLORIDA.
Sometimes you only have to hear a record once.
And this I heard on the only rock station in Salt Lake City. It was entitled "Dog Days". There was a moodiness that always appeals to me, but mostly it was the vocalist, and the chorus:
The dog days were scorchers
Living out of a suitcase, otherwise known as my BMW 2002, I was nowhere near owning a turntable, but when I was finally in one place I bought this album by the Atlanta Rhythm Section and wondered why they weren’t big stars.
Maybe it’s because they were on Polydor Records. Barely a major, if you were on Polydor or any of the affiliated PolyGram labels, like Mercury, you had a strike against you.
But the follow-up, "Red Tape", was even better. There was this almost ten minute track called "Another Man’s Woman".
Today they want the songs shorter, to appeal in call-out research. You’ve got to have a bite-sized hook. But the tracks we liked best in the seventies were mind-benders that started one place and took us to quite another. Of course you know "Stairway To Heaven" and "Free Bird". But you should know "Another Man’s Woman" too. With its epic wailing, the intertwining playing, weaving a tapestry that was so tight you could bounce a coin on it and be so amazed that you kept doing so.
Eventually, the Atlanta Rhythm Section started having hits. "So Into You". "Imaginary Lover". But they got mislabeled, making it on these soft cuts most people did not know they could rock. That’s what happens when you’re a bunch of faceless studio cats from Georgia. People want to pigeonhole you, they don’t want to believe you can do it ALL!
I was a fan. I went to see them at the Roxy with my girlfriend. They were mine. I was glad to see them break through. I wore a smile on my face.
And it’s these second level bands that we bond ourselves to. Anybody can have the superstars, but we hard core musos love the unheralded, the misunderstood, the acts with the goods that can blow almost everybody else off the stage.
And when you connect with an act, you don’t only go along for the ride into the future, you also blast back to the past.
And on one of the band’s earlier albums I discovered a gem.
Yes, on 1974’s "Third Annual Pipe Dream", there’s this magical cut "Doraville".
Doraville, touch of country in the city
Doraville, it ain’t much, but it’s home
Ain’t that the truth. That’s America. That’s where you come from.
Friends of mine say I oughta move to New York
New York’s fine, but it ain’t Doraville
Every night I make a living making music
And that’s all right to folks in Doraville
Pride. Not obnoxious I’m better than you pride, but a warm feeling inside, a belief that how you’re doing it is right despite everybody else telling you that you’re doing it wrong.
Later in the song, Ronnie Hammond urges us to "come on down and visit, you’ll dig it".
And I truly felt that I would.
To be sitting in this studio with these cats where it’s all about music. Where the charts are secondary to locking into a groove.
But I guess that’ll never happen.
You see Monday, Ronnie Hammond passed away.
And it hits me right HERE!
I don’t know if the music of these bands survives.
But they’re the fabric of my identity. Basic building blocks. I agonized over every album purchase. I committed myself to who was good.
And the Atlanta Rhythm Section were good. They delivered.
Their music is a part of me.
From: Al Kooper
Re: Ronnie Hammond
Bob - you eastern-western-but-never- Southern-guy,
I knew Ronnie Hammond well.
I befriended the band they were b4 ARS when they played New York as The Candymen. They were Roy Orbison’s back up band and they opened for The Blues Project and Blood Sweat & Tears when I was a member of each and Orbison took time off. They were signed to ABC-Paramount back then.. We became good friends and when I played Atlanta as Al Kooper with my band in 1972, they invited us down to hear their just built studio and jam. I fell in love with that studio and also the other bands I heard in town when I spent that week there.
I bought into the studio and had my roadies pack up my apartment in New York City and I never even went back HOME from that trip. I moved to Atlanta in 1972, started my own label (Sounds Of the South) and signed two of the bands I heard in town that week (Lynyrd Skynyrd & Mose Jones) Robert Nix, ARS drummer played on Skynyrd’s track "Tuesday’s Gone" and Ronnie Hammond and Ronnie Van Zant challenged each other for the same woman on more than one occasion. I played on two ARS albums and they backed me up on one of my solo albums. When I heard he passed away, I hit You Tube to see what he looked and sounded like lately and he had aged pretty well. However only he and the keyboard player remained from the original band and that was sad.
It rang my bell when you quoted "Doraville," cause that’s where Studio One of which I was part owner for awhile was. "Free Bird" "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Saturday Night Special" were all cut by that Jacksonville band…… in Doraville.
I was told Ronnie wasn’t feeling well and went to the doctor’s office and promptly died right there.
Give ‘em hell up there in Heaven, Ronnie.