Atlanta Rhythm Section

Atlanta Rhythm Section

Atlanta Rhythm Section, sometimes abbreviated ARS, is an American southern rock band. The band unofficially formed in 1970 as former members of the Candymen and the Classics IV became the session band for the newly opened Studio One in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta.

Early Career

The story of the Atlanta Rhythm Section began in Doraville, GA, a small town northeast of Atlanta, in 1970. Local Atlanta engineer Rodney Mills built a new studio in Doraville with the support of music publisher Bill Lowery, producer/songwriter/manager Buddy Buie, and songwriter/guitarist J.R. Cobb. The studio was dubbed Studio One and would become one of the preeminent studios in the Atlanta area. Over the years, artists who recorded there included Al Kooper, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe South, Bonnie Bramlett, Dickey Betts, B.J. Thomas and Billy Joe Royal.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section originally came together as the house band at Studio One. Buie, Cobb and Daughtry had been part of the group the Classics IV - remembered for hits including "Spooky", "Stormy" and "Traces". Buie recruited three musicians he had worked with previously in the Candymen, a group that had backed Roy Orbison, singer Rodney Justo, keyboardist Dean Daughtry and drummer Robert Nix. Two talented local session players also joined in-guitarist Barry Bailey and bassist Paul Goddard. These musicians played on a number of other artists' records and the decision was made to make an album on their own in 1971.

Buie wanted the best players doing his songs as a guitar based band, and he wrote, produced and managed the group, now called Atlanta Rhythm Section(or ARS), from the start. Buie, Daughtry and Nix did a lot of the songwriting together. The Rhythm Section would play on other's albums 3-4 days a week and then work on their own material. They recorded a demo featuring instrumentals and over a couple of years pulled together material for an album. The demo got them a two record deal with MCA/Decca, and so ARS officially began.

The ten songs that made up ARS's self-titled debut album were recorded at Studio One in Doraville, GA in Nov. 1971. Producer/songwriter Buddy Buie wrote nine of the songs in partnership with others in the band. The album was released in 1972 and generated some critical interest for the quality of the songs and musicianship. But there was also some questioning of the idea of a rock band made up of a group of studio musicians who hadn't paid their dues on the road. The album didn't produce any hit songs, so the group continued to play on other records made at Studio One.

It was during the recording of the first album that Ronnie Hammond came to Studio One as an assistant engineer for Rodney Mills. He was skilled on multiple instruments and most importantly, had a great singing voice. When singer Rodney Justo decided to leave the group in 1972 to pursue a solo career, Hammond became the new lead singer. This grouping would go on to make the next six ARS albums together. In 1972, the group tried to broaden their approach as they worked on their second album for MCA/Decca, "Back up Against the Wall" . They kept working hard, spending a lot of time in the studio. For a time, Hammond and Daughtry even lived upstairs above Studio One. It was here that ARS first crossed paths with Lynyrd Skynyrd, who rolled in one night raising a ruckus. Producer Al Kooper worked at Studio One during the day and then ARS would come in and work at night

The second album was released in 1973. With a number of quality songs, the album got the group more notice than the first but did not produce a breakthrough single. At this time, the group went out to do their first live shows to support the album and to expand upon their studio skills in concert. The 11 songs on "Back up Against the Wall" offered a mix of up-tempo tunes and ballads-an approach that would become a cornerstone of the group's future success.

In 1974, the band decided to leave MCA/Decca for Polydor. They also started to establish a reputation in the Atlanta area for doing great live shows by the time they went back into Studio One to work on their next album "Third Annual Pipe Dream". ARS's third album presented a more accessible ARS with a punched up but smoother sound and a variety of types of songs that would have both pop and rock appeal. It climbed to number 74 on the U.S. charts and gave the group their first regional hit, "Doraville", which reached the Top 40. "Angel" was also released as a single and reached number 75 as another regional hit. The 10 songs on "Pipe Dream", including 8 written by Buddy Buie in conjunction with other band members, showed ARS both tighter in their playing and more polished in their song presentation. The band's pop oriented songwriting and diverse musical stylings--characteristics that would distinguish them from other southern rock bands--were displayed to great effect and showed a band coming into their own.

ARS were developing a regional following, but they had yet to reach a national audience. They continued to play live shows, working to solidify their identity and carve out their niche. At the time, the Allman Brothers Band had fallen on hard times and Lynyrd Skynyrd was leading the charge of guitar based southern rock. While ARS shared some musical approaches with these contemporaries, their background as musicians-not performers-and more pop oriented songwriting put them in a unique position along with but not truly a part of the southern rock scene.

They played rock, but they also dabbled with country and blues. Their songwriting continued to improve and their musicianship was tighter than ever. ARS tried to be true to themselves and fit into the musical landscape, a challenge they described in the song "Boogie Smoogie": "We like reggae, we dig country, classical music's a gas, we play the blues in three quarter time but they don't want to hear that jazz-they want to boogie".

ARS returned to Studio One in 1974 to work on their next album. They built on the polished production of the previous album while working out a set of songs that were tighter and better than what they'd done before. As always, new songs were written on acoustic guitar or piano, and brought into the studio before being done in concert. In the studio the band would try multiple takes to try different approaches. It was a style that stressed discipline over spontaneity and helped ARS to develop their unique sound which was now coming together.

"Dog Days" was ARS's fourth album and their first true masterpiece, an album that still stands as one of their best. It showcased a band that had found its groove and was taking its music to a new level. Overall, it was a faster paced album than what had come before, featuring six up-tempo songs and two beautiful ballads, all originals. But despite the great material, there were no breakout singles or large increases in national attention. The band continued to refine their live sound and, fairly quickly, went back into the studio to record their next album, one that would capture their evolution in a new way.

"Red Tape" was quite different from the previous album or anything that had come before. As the band played more live shows they developed an ensemble sound that they wanted to capture on record. The result was like an ARS gig with a strong emphasis on their appreciation for the blues. The band had previously been combining pop and rock stylings. For this album they went with predominantly shorter, pop length songs---with one notable exception. The performances featured a harder rock approach than they had recorded before, with a sharp edged guitar sound prominently featured. "Red Tape" was released in April 1976. The first single from the album, "Jukin", was a regional hit and was followed by a second single, "Free Spirit". While these songs got airplay in the South, the album didn't produce the sales Polydor was looking for. They continued to expand their live performances, including a memorable show in the spring of 1976 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta's Chastain Park .


ARS faced increasing pressure for sales and chart success, and this came to a head in 1976. They had been taking three months to record each album, but now were given an ultimatum from their record company to deliver the next album in 45 days----or else. While road weary from touring non-stop for most of the year, they nevertheless went back to Studio One and wrote, recorded, and produced the next album, "A Rock and Roll Alternative" in 30 days. Whether it was the deadline pressure or the natural evolution of the group, they indeed created a rock and roll alternative that would carry them to new heights. The band attained a new level of critical acclaim and popular appeal with this album when it was released in December 1976. It included seven originals and a cover of a blues classic, "Outside Woman Blues", previously recorded by the Yardbirds. While a few songs featured shorter arrangements similar to the last album, most of the songs went back to the longer format of previous albums. And while several of the songs rocked hard, overall the production had returned to the smoother, pop feel the band had used in the past. The first single from "Alternative", "Neon Nites", got close to the Top 40 . But it was the next single, "So Into You", that proved to be the breakthrough. It rose to number seven on the charts and was a staple of rock radio during the summer of 1977. The album made it to the Top 10 on the charts and went Gold. Popularity now carried ARS out of the clubs and into stadiums. On September 4th, 1977 they 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 co-headlined. After this point, for the next several years, ARS was on the road for 250 plus shows a year. And when they came off the road, they were right back in the studio working five days a week. For the first time, the band had popular success to build on, but this also meant increased expectations to top themselves. They worked to produce a focused concept album that would show they were up to the challenge and ended up having their greatest commercial success.

"Champagne Jam" , released in January 1978, was the breakthrough album that marked the zenith of music-making, critical support and popular acclaim for ARS. Eight great songs-all originals-were showcased with the top notch, smooth pop production the group had been refining for years. The songwriting and musicianship maintained the superior standards the band had established through its previous albums. The songs continued the pattern of blending beautiful melodies with shifting tempos and each of the songs clocked in at a moderate three to five minutes. The album proved to be very popular, hitting the Top 10 and quickly going Gold. The title track was released as a single and "I'm Not Gonna Let it Bother Me Tonight" made it into the Top 20. But it was "Imaginary Lover" that proved to be the band's biggest hit, reaching number seven on the charts. A story(possibly an urban legend) has been told of a New York DJ who accidentally played the 45 of Imaginary Lover at 78 rpm and was inundated with calls asking about the new Fleetwood Mac song. Whether the story was true or not, the single and album both hit the Top 10, with the album going Platinum.

In August of 1978 ARS hosted another big festival at Grant Field in Atlanta, The Champagne Jam--a celebration of the local boys who had made it big. It was also around this time that ARS played one of their more prestigious venues, the White House. They had become acquainted with Jimmy Carter in his days as Governor of Georgia, and as President he invited them to come play for his son's birthday on the South Lawn in Washington. "My friends," Carter described ARS as he introduced them, "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--they said the same thing about me." This performance was noted in Time Magazine among other places. The studio session men from Doraville had come a long way.

The distance traveled also had a down side as the non-stop pressure of the road and the studio started to get to everyone in different ways. It was around this time that original drummer and songwriter Robert Nix left the band after a falling out over the group's musical direction with Buddy Buie and was replaced by Roy Yeager, who joined them in 1979 after the band was finishing work on their next album.

Released in 1979, "Underdog" continued ARS's popular success and featured eight original songs, one of them incorporating a well known Ashford & Simpson song, "Let's Go Get Stoned". The tone of this collection was softer, with only a couple of songs that could be truly called uptempo. "Do It or Die" and a remake of the Classics IV hit "Spooky" were both released as singles and hit the Top 20. The album went Gold. And with the group's popularity still at an all time high, the decision was made to put out a double live album that showcased the band's musical prowess in concert.

Both a tribute to ARS's popular success and a testimony to their musical abilities, the live album "Are You Ready!" was released in late 1979. The album sleeve's pictures showed how far the group had come-from the house band at a small studio outside Atlanta to playing to stadiums full of people. The album also documented the power that ARS could bring to a live performance. The live album was their last for the Polydor label. And following up to the successful festival show of the previous year, ARS hosted the Champagne Jam II in August 1979 in Atlanta. The band then moved to the CBS label as they went back into the studio to record again. Unfortunately, "The Boys From Doraville" , released in 1980, produced no hits and didn't have the success of their previous efforts. At this point the music scene was shifting and what had been labeled southern rock wasn't getting the attention it had previously.

The Group's Popularity Diminishes

By the early 80s, the music business had gone down other roads marked disco and new wave. ARS continued on as the southern rock scene faded. When they went to record their next album there was again pressure to come up with a success. While the next album also didn't match previous sales, musically it stood along with any of their top albums. "Quinella" , released in 1981, started out rocking harder than the last couple had and also included pop and occasional country/western influences that the group had been refining over the last couple albums. The song "Alien" was a Top 30 single in the U.S and the band continued to play live. In fact, a show recorded in New York City in October 1981, and featuring three songs from "Quinella" , would eventually be released on CD in the year 2000.

After "Quinella", ARS went back into the studio in 1982 to record another album for CBS. Some songs that were recorded for it included the titles "Long Distance Love", "Sleep with One Eye Open", "Longing for a Feeling" and "Stone Cold Hit". A couple of these are said by insiders to be some of the best work ARS had done. But CBS refused to release the album as it was and wanted the band to record more songs. Creative differences led to the entire album being shelved and never released.

In late 1982 lead singer Ronnie Hammond left the group to try some solo work. He began working with some Alabama musicians(Nothing much came of this, however) while ARS again attempted to go into the studio in 1983, with original singer Rodney Justo returning. The previous year, drummer Roy Yeager had been sidelined with a broken leg after tripping over a tree, so he was replaced by new drummer Danny Biget. The group went to Nashville and tried working with 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 form another band, 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 the previous effort, 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. 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. In 1986 Cobb left to concentrate more on songwriting and session work(for The Highway Men , among others) and bassist Steve Stone joined as Stribling moved over to guitar. The personnel shuffles continued as Hamrick left 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 & Daughtry sought to revamp the band by bringing back Ronnie Hammond.

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 that very much had a sound of the times. Released in October 1989, "Truth in a Structured Form" was ARS's first album in 8 years and was something a bit different. While they had developed a consistent sound through the 70s and early 80s, this album seemed to draw more on the musical sounds and production styles of the late 80s. Big beats propelled most every song and there was a sharper, synthesized sound that didn't quite showcase ARS's music to its best effect. All the songs, except one, were written by Buddy Buie and Ronnie Hammond, another change from previous approaches. The band did some performances to promote "Truth" . O'Brien 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 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 around this time that ARS was elected to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The band was honored at a September 1996 induction ceremony at the Georgia World Congress Center. The occasion provided an opportunity for a reunion performance of former band members, and despite a temporary power outage, the show went on. Building on the momentum of this event and the impending 25th anniversary of the group, ARS recorded a 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 28th, 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, GA and forced an officer to shoot him. Hammond was seriously injured, but survived the injury and dealt with the depression. This was a blessing, not just for the man but for all ARS fans, as the group was back in the studio and would soon put out an album of new material including some new classics.

This time ARS only took two years to get a new album out. "Eufaula" , released in February 1999, was another winner featuring a number of songs that stand with the best of their catalog. The state of the art of production work displayed the ARS sound to great effect. Lead singer Ronnie Hammond was in classic form and the guitar work of Barry Bailey sounded as good as ever. The band had justifiably high hopes for the "Eufaula" album, but almost immediately problems occurred. The record label, Platinum Entertainment, faced financial troubles and was not able to support the album as intended. A couple of songs were released as singles but did not get the support to break out. ARS continued to tour on a limited basis. But on November 13th, 1999, tragedy struck. After the band had finished an afternoon set at a concert festival in Orlando , FL, 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 recruited a new drummer, Jim Keeling, and soldiered on.

Later Changes

In 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(He 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.

In 2006, sadly, Barry Bailey, who was suffering from ill health, decided it was necessary to no longer travel with the band that was founded to support his phenomenal guitar playing. His amazing tone, distinct legendary style and impeccable musical taste could never really be duplicated. Steve Stone, after being ARS's rhythm guitarist for 18 years, now took up the Herculean task of filling Bailey's shoes as lead guitarist. To support Steve in his effort to fill perhaps the largest shoes since Paul Goddard had left ARS, the band would ask Andy's long-time Billy Joe Royal bandmate and golf buddy, Allen Accardi, to lend his hand. Allen, a Nashville veteran, would travel for more than a year with the band, providing his excellent vocal work in addition to his splendid guitar playing. It was clear, however, that Barry's edge was still keenly missing and a player with more of a rock sound was needed.

Enter David Anderson. David had known drummer Jim Keeling since playing in high school bands together and had impressed Dean Daughtry with his talents after Dean had moved to Jim and David's hometown of Huntsville, Alabama . David played in the band Brother Kane and had had a very active career recording and performing. After just a few performances with ARS, it was clear David was the man for the job. His musicianship and showmanship are a welcomed addition, and if that's not enough, his vocal abilities truly augment the band's sound.

On March 26th, 2008, 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 . Andy's friend, Steve Croson(who'd played alongside him for years in Billy Joe Royal's band), fortunately, 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.

Classic Songs

While ARS didn't reach the commercial success of Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, the group had a strong following in the South and charted a number of major & minor hits such as "Doraville", "I'm Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight", "Champagne Jam", "So Into You", "Imaginary Lover", "Angel", "Do It Or Die", "Neon Nites", and a remake of a Classics IV hit, "Spooky", plus a number of fan favorites such as "Boogie Smoogie", "Jukin'" and "Georgia Rhythm". The band also influenced a number of rock and country artists, notably Travis Tritt, who recorded a cover of the ARS songs, "Back Up Against the Wall" and "Homesick". The group Shudder to Think covered "So Into You".

Current information

The band maintains a Web site [] and still tours with some of its original members, playing mostly festivals and other nostalgia-themed concerts.

Former drummer Roy Yeager is involved in a controversy concerning the destruction of a Tennessee landmark. []

Band Members

"Main Article Members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section"


*"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)
*"Atlanta Rhythm Section '96" (1996)
*"Partly Plugged" (1997)
*"Eufaula" (1999)
*"Live at The Savoy, New York October 27, 1981" (2000)


External links

* [ Official Webpage]
* [ New Georgia Encyclopedia]

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