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70s Southern Rock Band: Atlanta Rhythm Section

I was an 80s teen, so I love covering all things Generation X!

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Atlanta Rhythm Section was born in 1971 in Doraville, Georgia, which is a northern suburb of metropolitan Atlanta. The original members consisted of Rodney Justo on vocals, Dean Daughtry on keyboards, Robert Nix on drums, Barry Bailey on guitar and Paul Goddard on bass.

Their self-titled first album was released in early 1972. Because the album was not a success, the band's vocalist Rodney Justo exited the band and was replaced by Ronnie Hammond.

Despite having a new front man, the band struck out once more with their second release, Back Up Against the Wall in February of 1973, so their label (Decca) promptly dropped the band.

In 1974, the band was picked up by another label (Polydor) and soon after, they released their third album -- their third time was the charm for the group. With their album, The Annual Pipe Dream, the band saw their first moderate hit single, "Doraville."

The next two albums for the band saw even less success than the first two, but they gained more exposure by opening for legendary acts like The Who at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida and The Rolling Stones at the Municipal Auditorium in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The band's exposure to a wider audience turned out to be the right move, because their next album, A Rock and Roll Alternative (1976) produced their first mega hit single, "So Into You" in the Spring of 1977.

Mega Hit #1: "So Into You"

Their most successful album was released in early 1978. Champagne Jam opened with a song titled "Large Time," which is a tribute to the fallen members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who lost their lives in a plane crash a few months prior.

Champagne Jam produced the hit single "I'm Not Gonna Let it Bother Me Tonight" and the mega-hit single, "Imaginary Lover." In the same vein as their previous mega-hit single, "So Into You," this song also refers to a longing for the unobtainable and they both give a nod to the notion that fantasies often trump reality.

In an interview with the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum, the band's manager, producer and songwriter, Buddy Buie, was asked if this song was about masturbation and his answer was an emphatic, "Yes!"

Mega Hit #2: "Imaginary Lover"

In the Summer of 1978, Atlanta Rhythm Section saw their busiest and most successful tour season. In June of that year, they played at the Knebworth Festival in Knebworth England alongside such rock legends as Genesis, Jefferson Starship, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Devo.

The next month they appeared before an even larger crowd at the Texxas Jam in Dallas, Texas alongside other legendary acts like Van Halen, Journey, Aerosmith and Eddie Money.

In August of '78, the band played at Canada Jam at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, before a crowd of more than 110,000 people - this was their largest audience to date. At Canada Jam, they played alongside heavy-hitters like The Commodores and The Doobie Brothers.

Atlanta Rhythm Section ended their whirlwind Summer touring season that year, back at home in Atlanta, playing at their own rock festival titled, Champagne Jam. They performed at Georgia Tech's Grant Field in September. Champagne Jam also featured Santana, The Doobie Brothers, Eddie Money, Mother's Finest and Mose Jones.

Atlanta Rhythm Section played before their largest crowd (110K+) @ Canada Jam in Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

Atlanta Rhythm Section played before their largest crowd (110K+) @ Canada Jam in Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

In in October of 1978, the band was invited to play on the White House South Lawn by then President Jimmy Carter for his son, James “Chip” Carter's 28th birthday. The band had had gotten to know Jimmy Carter in his days as Governor of Georgia.

On the day of the White House performance, President Carter gave the following introduction of the Atlanta Rhythm Section:

"Not only are we both from the same part of the country, but I remember when they first started that all the critics and commentators said they didn't have a chance-and they said the same thing about me."

According to the band's website, this event is one of their proudest moments as Time Magazine later reported that the boys from Doraville had "come a long way."

Former President Jimmy Carter & The Atlanta Rhythm Section

Former President Jimmy Carter & The Atlanta Rhythm Section

Hit #3: "Spooky" (remake)

At the end of 1978, drummer Robert Nix departed the band and was replaced by drummer, record producer and former Lobo band member, Roy Yeager.

1979 saw the release of their next studio album, Underdog, which produced two hits: "Do It or Die" and a remixed version of the 1968 classic song, "Spooky."

In the Summer of 1979, the band was featured again at Grant Stadium (Georgia Tech) for a second round of Champagne Jam. Champagne Jam II kicked off in July of 1979 and it featured Aerosmith and The Cars.

Later on in the fall of '79, the band released the double live set Are You Ready, which featured their previous hits and the fan favorite hit, "Another Man's Woman." Although "Another Man's Woman" was only a moderate hit for the band, Rolling Stone magazine rated Paul Goddard’s work on the song as one of the top five bass solos of all time.

Fan Favorite:

1979 was the end of the era of hits for The Atlanta Rhythm Section and for the genre of Southern Rock overall. The band released one more album for Polydor, titled The Boys from Doraville the following year, but this album produced no hits, so they departed from the label.

The '80s crowd favored new wave music, so the group quickly began to lose steam. There were also several member changes, to include the comings and goings of former band members, as well as replacements: Ronnie Hammond, Danny Biget, Roy Yeager, Tommy Stribling, Keith Hamrick, Jeff Logan, J. R. Cobb, Steve Stone, Sean Burke, Shaun Williamson.

Unfortunately, the arrival and departure of new and returning band members did little to rekindle Atlanta Rhythm Section's flame, because they went on to another failed album, non-released efforts, shelved album plans and dropped contacts - the band never returned to its former glory.

Current "Discography"

  • Atlanta Rhythm Section (1972)
  • Back Up Against the Wall (1973)
  • Third Annual Pipe Dream (1974)
  • Dog Days (1975)
  • Red Tape (1976)
  • A Rock and Roll Alternative (1976)
  • Champagne Jam (1978)
  • Underdog (1979)
  • Are You Ready (1979)
  • The Boys from Doraville (1980)
  • Quinella (1981)
  • Truth in a Structured Form (1989)
  • Partly Plugged (1997)
  • Eufaula (1999)
  • Sleep With One Eye Open - The Unreleased 1983 Album (2010)
  • With All Due Respect (2011)
70s-soft-rock-bands-atlanta-rhythm-section

Members and former band members, R.J. Vealey, Ronnie Hammond and J.R. Cobb; founding members, Robert Nix, Paul Goddard and the band's manager, Bobbie Buie, have all passed away.

The current members of Atlanta Rhythm Section include founding members, Dean Daughtry and Rodney Justo. Also present are: Steve Stone, Justin Senker, David Anderson and Rodger Stephan.

Atlanta Rhythm Section still tours today, but mostly to music festivals and nostalgic audiences.

The band's next tour dates are only weeks away and there is one date for my local venue (Phoenix, AZ) - my hope is that I will be vaccinated and well enough to catch my two favorites, "I'm So Into You" and "Imaginary Lover," live and in living color!

© 2021 Rachelle Williams