Atlanta Rhythm Section
In 1972 a group of Atlanta-area studio musicians formed the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The band provided a different twist to the growing phenomenon of southern rock.
ARS started playing together in Doraville at Studio One, a recording studio started by Buie in collaboration with Atlanta music publisher Bill Lowery. They recorded several albums in the early seventies but met with meager success until their sixth album, A Rock and Roll Alternative (1976), went gold in 1977 on the strength of the top ten song "So into You." A year later their next album, Champagne Jam (1978), went platinum with hit songs like "I'm Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight," "Imaginary Lover," and the title song.
By this time virtually every major record label had a southern rock band in their stable. Polydor had the Atlanta Rhythm Section, MCA had Lynyrd Skynyrd, Epic signed the Charlie Daniels Band, and the first company to promote southern rock, Capricorn, was still enjoying the success of the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. ARS was cast into this category, but their style was not of the same mold.
Other southern rock bands, like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, centered on a driving, blues-based guitar sound, but ARS smoothed the edges of southern rock to offer subtler, pop-oriented tunes. The long-haired musicians portrayed themselves as "good ole boys," and their songs were lyrically similar to those of other southern rock acts. ARS too sang of the travails of "living out of a suitcase" ("Georgia Rhythm") and unattainable love ("So into You"), but musically they had a sophistication that many others lacked. In live shows they turned up the guitars, but in the studio they dismissed long improvisational guitar solos for cleverly crafted songs.
Though Buie was largely responsible for this sound, the other band members were seasoned session players with a feel for song craft. Dean Daughtry, Robert Nix, and J. R. Cobb had spent time with Buie in the Candymen and Classics IV, so their previous experience involved more than weekend jams in the garage. The band was a collaborative effort: although Buie was the lead songwriter, every member contributed several numbers.
Scott Freeman, Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band (New York: Little, Brown, 1995).
Ted Ownby, "Freedom, Manhood, and White Male Tradition in 1970s Southern Rock Music," in Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts, ed. Anne Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997).
Albert Way, University of Georgia
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