Atlanta Rhythm Section jamming at Winterland in San Francisco on November 16, 1975.

ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION performing at Winterland in San Francisco, Ca. on 11-16-75. PHOTO by BEN UPHAM


Atlanta band makes breakthrough
By MARY CAMPBELL October 23, 1976
AP News features

The Atlanta Rhythm Section Is a band which has made one important breakthrough and is working on an even bigger one. Actually, the band has made more than one breakthrough. It was put together in Atlanta; to do rhythm backup playing for various artists making recordings. That, of course, is where the name came from. They were good, too, according to lead guitarist Barry Bailey. “I think we were more involved in the sessions than, the average player who comes in and reads charts and picks up his check “Vocalist Ronnie Hammond says, “We were the best in that part of the country.” It came partly, he adds, from the same people working together so much of the time.

Then the Atlanta Rhythm Section became a band, for recording, and made two records for MCA, the first in 1972. Rodney Justo, vocalist, left, and was replaced by Hammond on the second album. He says, “I’d come to Atlanta in 1970 and was hanging around the studios. I was an engineer and got to know the guys. When Justo left, they gave me a shot at singing and kept me.” Then the Atlanta Rhythm Section became a band, for performing. That wasn’t easy. Bailey says, “From 1970 to 1973 we’d been mainly concerned with recording. It was a conscious effort to do a good stage show.” Hammond says, “It was either do it well or don’t do it at all. There was a time when everybody in the group probably felt uneasy before going on stage. Now there’s a great deal of anticipation before going on. We enjoy it now instead of dreading it.

“We’ve only become a real good act on stage in the last year and a half and that’s mainly because of me. In high school I played drums and sang lead vocals and I was used to having something in my hands, like drum sticks, and being behind the amplifiers. And also, after singing in the studio so long, it took me a long time to get used to being in front.”

There also were problems with not getting booked enough, changing booking agencies and getting booked in places that used to be good but had become dumps. However, Bailey says, that also seems to be behind them.

The breakthrough they talk about is going to Polydor Records in 1974, where they have made three LPs, “Third Annual Pipe Dream,” “Dog Days” and “Red Tape.” Hammond says Polydor sent its promotion men to radio station programmers, suggesting they listen to Atlanta Rhythm Section music and play it if they liked it. And some stations started to play them.

Currently they’re cutting another LP. They’re working four days in the week, then performing on weekends, which is difficult, but they’re pleased with the tracks they’ve laid down so far. Then, toward the end of next year they plan to release a two-IP live album. “We’ll probably cut it at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, where the people are most familiar with our stuff,” Hammond says. The group’s biggest single so far has been “Doraville,” which they recall got to about No. 38 on the national best selling charts.

Hammond says, “When this group does have a top 10 single record, it’ll be like an explosion. We’ll be bigger than a group which comes out with one single and one album and hits the top. If we get a No. 1 single, probably all our old albums will go gold. “By the middle of next summer, there’ll be a great difference. If it keeps on going the way it has been for the last five years, by next summer everything should be going pretty good. We’ll cut the live album, then with any luck at all every thing will bust wide open.

“We’ve been through the hardest of times you could ever imagine, personally and as a group. I know it’d take an atom bomb to break everything up now.” While they were becoming a band, members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section still did backup work to make money. They’re beyond doing studio session work now, and not yet famous enough to be the “famous guest artist” who appears on another artist’s recording as a favor.

Other members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section are J.R. Cobb, guitarist, Dean Daughtry, piano and organ, Paul
Goddard, bass, and Robert Nix, drums. Nix, Cobb and manager Buddy Buie do most of the song writing. Ages in the band range from 26 to 32 and everybody is Southern, from Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

The two Southern bands.the Atlanta Rhythm Section is most friendly with are Charlie Daniels’ band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Atlanta is right in the middle of the South but Hammound says the Atlanta Rhythm Section doesn’t call itself a Southern hand. “Capricorn Records is in Macon, Ga., and the acts down there that came in to follow up the Allman Brothers got into their twin-guitar lead things. They’re boogie bands, country rock
bands, wearing cowboy hats. Everybody got into that down there. Those are characteristics that don’t
have as much to do with music as they do with image. Everybody wants to be a cowboy now.” Bailey adds, “I think we’re much more versatile musically than the so called Southern bands.”

Neither Hammond nor Bailey plans to spend the rest of his life in music. Bailey says, “There’s nothing like coming off the stage after a great show.” Hammond agrees, “If you come off good in that hour on stage, it’s worth it. If you don’t, you’re miserable for the next 24 hours. “But 1 want to make a lot of money and buy a farm, get married and say Good by to music. I love it but I don’t want to make a life of it. I’m not in it to be recognized on the street but for what I can do with the rest of my life.”

Atlanta Rhythm Section Discography:
1973- Back Up Against The Wall
1974- Third Annual Pipe Dream
1975- Dog Days
1976- Red Tape
1976- A Rock & Roll Alternative
1978- Champagne Jam
1979- Underdog
1980- The Boys From Doraville
1981- Quinella
1989- Truth In A Structured Form
1999- Eufala
2000- Live At The Savoy