Atlanta Rhythm Section
Interview by Luc Brunot.
Original version of the interview published in Bands Of Dixie #94 (September - October 2013)
The Atlanta Rhythm Section performances at the Rock Legends Cruise II stroke a lot of people by the quality of the show and the energy displayed by the legendary band of the seventies, which also sees the return of two original members, Paul Goddard and Rodney Justo. Is there a link? All of it made us want to meet the band. To do this, we wanted to propose two points of view and for it, we asked Steve Stone and Rodney Justo
If he joined the Atlanta Rhythm Section after its golden age, Steve Stone is now in the band for over a quarter of a century and is one of those who played the longest time in the band. This pillar of the Doraville band actually speaks about the Atlanta Rhythm Section history in the CD era. He also displays his admiration for Ronnie Hammond and Barry Bailey and reveals the rest of his career.
Can you tell us where you come from, when you were born and, above all, tell us about your musical career before joining the Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1986?
I'm from Atlanta, raised in the Chamblee-Doraville area. I joined the Atlanta rhythm Section in 1986 playing Bass, Before that I was doing mainly session work on Guitar and Bass with a friend of mine named Jeff Sisk who engineered and played keyboards and did vocals on a lot of songwriter demos for other people. That's how I met Dean Daughtry was through Jeff and the studio. I also spent about a year playing guitar working with Wyzard the bass player from Mothers Finest on a project that never really founds its feet.
Around 1986 was a time when there were a lot of changes. I read that in 1987, you were no more a member of the band and that you came back, as a guitar player this time, after the recording of "Truth In A Structured Form", that occurred in 1988. Yet you are credited on the record. Could you explain?
Actually I was only out of the band for a week or two in 1989 until I received a call from Barry Bailey asking if I'd like to play Guitar. It being my main instrument I was very happy for the switch. I didn't play on that recording but I was still a member of the group that's why I'm credited on the record. I could go into more detail but it has a lot of moving parts and I'm not sure I know all of them. So as far I see it I never left or wasn't a part of the band.
What was the Atlanta rhythm Section activity since you joined the band during the 90's? Did you play full time as in the 70's or were you playing from time to time?
We've always played live shows as well as done other projects though the Atlanta rhythm Section was everyone's main band.
The band recorded with the "'96" album, new versions of his classics and, in 1997, with "Partly Plugged", offered again six covers of his own songs. Why did you make this choice and didn't only record new songs?
"96" was recorded for a private company for what I thought was to be a limited release. Since that time they have repacked it and sold it.
"Partly Plugged" was Dean's idea. A lot of classic rock artist were redoing their songs acoustically and we wanted to also but we also wanted some new studio recordings so we had the best of both worlds with that one.
Photo by Courtni Meadow (Rock Legends Photographers)
"Eufaula", released 1999 is I think the most nostalgic album of the band. Was it representative of a similar atmosphere in the band?
Well yes as far as the songs but as far as the band we were very much in that place and time. Everybody was very happy and it was the most collaborative the band had been in years.
You're credited on the writing of an instrumental song, "What's Up Wid Dat?". If I'm not wrong, it's the only one on the Atlanta rhythm Section albums you did. You're not interested in penning songs?
It's the only the Atlanta rhythm Section song I've written on though I have written with other artists. Mainly music, I'm not much of a lyricist.
According to the booklet, only Barry Bailey played the lead guitar. Didn't you play however some solos?
Yes I played solos on "When" And "What up with dat?"
And in concert, playing the classics songs, did you exactly do the same job and soli as JR Cobb or was the distribution between Barry Bailey and you different?
Mostly it was the same as when J.R. was playing. Now I play more of the solos live though Dave Anderson plays his fair share also. We like to split it up more.
I see you mention Jeff Carlisi in the thanks. Did you work with him?
I've never worked with Jeff. We have been friends for years. He's a great player and a great friend. He had loaned me a guitar that was a Buscarino Acoustic-Electric hybrid to use on "Dreamy Alabama" and that's why I thanked him. I did play acoustic with 38 Special on "Rebel to Rebel" at Freebird the Jam. It was a show the night before the premier of "Freebird the Movie" at the Fox but I was just sitting in for that one show.
Ronnie Hammond left the band after a last show on December 6, 2002 in Macon, Georgia. According to what I've read on the Atlanta rhythm Section Internet forum called "Champagne Jam", it was a very special moment for the fans. What are your memories?
It was nice to play one last show and celebrate his career but I always held out hope that he would one day return to playing. Even if it wasn't with us I wanted to hear him sing and play again. I miss Ronnie.
Barry Bailey retired in 2006. The band had not recorded a studio CD since "Eufaula" and Barry Bailey was ill. Was however this period memorable for the band?
We have recorded with the lineup we had in 2010 a project called "With All Due Respect" on Fuel 2000 records. And this goes back to your last question Ronnie sang a couple of versus on "Conversation". The CD has some new and old Atlanta rhythm Section as well as covers of some of our favorite songs by other bands. The label also released "From the Vaults" it is a true retrospective of the band and features a few different versions as well as songs by bands that led up to the creating of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. They are both available at www.fuel2000.com
With my question, I was thinking more about the period between "Eufaula" and the departure of Barry. For me who lives in Europe, the only things I can notice about these days are that Ronnie Hammond retired, that the band didn't release any album and that Barry Bailey was ill. That are not very positives elements and I guess it wasn't to be very exciting for the Atlanta rhythm Section. But, you, who lived these days within the band, how do you see these years (1999-2006)?
Those were some strange years. Ronnie had been shot and was recovering from that when our drummer R.J. Vealey who had been with us for around 5 years had a heart-attack and died about 20 minutes after we had finished doing a show in Orlando. I witnessed it and rode to the hospital in the ambulance but there was nothing that could be done. That stayed with me for years. Also some of us had family members that were going through hard medical times as well as Barry's illness. The band wasn't working as much due to those things, though we still pulling together for support in our personal lives.
With the departure of two icons of the band, did the Atlanta Rhythm Section members think to stop the adventure?
No there has never been a thought of stopping. While we miss our friends we still enjoy playing together. If no one came out to hear us we would still play music together. We are fortunate enough that we still have folks who enjoy the music and make it possible for us to go on the road and share it. And to them we are very grateful.
As you said, you now replace Barry Bailey as the lead guitar player. Do you play the phrases he created, his solos or are you doing your own thing?
If it is part of the song I absolutely play what Barry created. Of course I'm not Barry and don't play with the exact touch and feel he does. He is one of a kind. The years I spent playing with him only increased my admiration for his skills. I also feel very protective over what he created as he is one of the most important people in my life. I was 22 when I joined and he became a big role model for me. Like a big brother. Now we do have parts of the show that David and I have our own things we do and the band likes to play off of each other in some extended solos.
I don't believe there are family links between the two Anderson in the band, Andy (the singer) and David (the guitar player). Right?
No they are not related.
You mentioned "With All Due Respect" with the participation of Ronnie Hammond. But others guests were Rodney Justo and Paul Goddard. If we know that Rodney was still in relation with the band, replacing for example Andy Anderson in 2008 for two months, we don't know nothing about Paul Goddard after his departure in 1983. Were the band still in touch with him during all these years?
Dean kept in touch with Paul more than anyone. It was on the ride home after Ronnie's funeral that Dean approached Rodney about rejoining. Also at the time Justin Senkers three boys were at an age that he wanted to spend more time at home and so Dean reached out to Paul who had sat in with us a few times over the previous year about his interest in going out on the road again. So in 2011 Rodney Justo (vocals), Paul Goddard (bass), Dean Daughtry (piano and keys), David Anderson (guitar), Jim Keeling (drums) and I (guitar) were and still are the band as of now.
What was he doing from 1983 to his return in the Atlanta Rhythm Section?
He was working on computers.
How was he invited to perform "Sleep With One Eye Open" on this album?
We had wanted to get as many members from the bands years as possible to play on the recording and that song was a good fit for Paul. The Atlanta rhythm Section from the time it was formed has never broken up. Members have left and others come in, Sometimes people rejoin. We are all friends and respect each other so we wanted to show that in a project we were all part of. Rodney Mills has engineered and or co-produced almost every Atlanta rhythm Section recording and of course Buddy Buie has written, produced and been the heart of the band from day one. Also Buddy and J.R. Cobb are still a writing team and are still creating great songs. We hope to be recording some in the near future.
J.R. Cobb does only songwriting today? He doesn't play no more sessions or in a band?
Yes J.R. is still writing and I believe he plays some at his church.
Photo by Courtni Meadow (Rock Legends Photographers)
The return of original members such as Rodney Justo and Paul Goddard didn't open the door to the idea of a J.R Cobb's return too?
He did sit in with us a few years ago on a couple of songs. As far as the road he shows no interest at all in travel, and if we do another recording he is always invited to play if he would like to.
I've seen a few videos of the Atlanta Rhythm Section from shows during the Rock Legends II and I was very impressed by the band and his dynamism; it appears to be in a top form. The Atlanta rhythm Section seems to now have a more rock approach than these last years. Seeing these videos, it was a little like to come back to the days of albums like "Red Tape" and songs like "Another Man's Woman" when the band sounded harder and was less pop. Was it a misleading impression or is something changed with this new line-up?
As long as I've played with the band, to me, we have always rocked live. We may have shifted up a gear or two with Paul playing again, as he is a true rock bass player. You get a different feel playing live then doing a studio recording. And of course the energy of the crowds can change the dynamics on any night also.
We know the great bass playing of Paul Goddard, but how is the man?
Paul is a great person and a close friend.
With this new line-up, did the set lists evolve?
Well when people come to see the Atlanta rhythm Section they are expecting to hear the hits and that really doesn't leave much room to change things much. We would like to add "Another Man's Woman".
Has the return of a band including more original members an influence to attract more audiences, to permit to play more concerts, to get more paid deals?
That would be a question to ask a promoter. I really don't have a good answer.
With the return of a band including more original members, do you play more concerts?
It seems the same to me. We've continued over the years working through all the changes.
Was it the first time you did an event like this Rock Legends II Cruise with around 25 bands playing during four days in a closed place like a boat? What do you think about this concept and what are the best memories?
Yes that was the first cruise we have done. I had a great time. There were so many great bands to go see. I remember sitting in my room and looking at the schedule to see that Paul Rodgers was playing and getting in the elevator and end up watching a great show all within 10 minutes. And it was like that the whole trip. Plus getting to catch up with old friends from the other bands was great.
Do you have some specific projects with the band ? Are you writing songs and planning an album?
Dean has been talking about a new recording so if it happens it will start sometime in the next year.
I suppose it would be utopic to wait for an European tour?
We would all love to go back to Europe but I haven't heard of anything in the works.
Apart from the Atlanta rhythm Section, do you have other musical projects? Is it possible for you and would you like, in parallel of the Atlanta rhythm Section, to play in another band or have a solo career?
I play in a couple of local bands time permitting, Just doing covers. I also do sessions for other artists.
In 2003, you were playing on a project called "All Night All Stars". Dean Daughtry was with you, with a lot of others famous musicians, on these songs that were sung by different singers like Gregg Allman (singing the Atlanta rhythm Section song "Normal Love"), Jimmy Hall, Ronnie Hammond, etc. How were you involved in this project?
I played on a few of the tracks. That was a fun experience. Tim Wilson and Steve Melton put that together because a lot of the artists involved had wanted to work together. Levon Helm became one of my favorite people ever on that project. His daughter Amy has great voice and is a great person to work with also.
Dean and you also played on two songs that appear on 2007 album of Alison Heafner, Robert Nix's wife. They were living in Memphis I believe and Robert Nix left the Atlanta rhythm Section years before you joined. How were you involved in playing on these songs?
We did some recordings with them in the mid 90's and that (the tracks I worked on.) is what was on that recording. As far as how it happened I couldn't tell you. My friend Jeff Sisk and I were running a studio called Hollyberry Studios and we did a lot of recordings there.
Do you play on others albums?
I've worked on a few projects over the years. Tim Wilson who co-produced "All Night All Stars" project is a comedian and I've played on most his Recordings. Also Dean and I worked on a James Brown record for the Atlanta Falcons football team (1) and like I said with the studio I recorded so much I can't recall it all. It was fun though. All on 24 track tape. I miss tape.
What are your dreams for the future?
You know they are pretty simple. Just to keep playing and having fun. I'm a pretty content person. I would like to work with some younger artists and help them fulfill their dreams.
Many thanks, Steve.
Thanks to you Luc.
(1) "Atlanta Will Be Rockin'" by James Brown &Atlanta Falcons (Emerald Coast Music AF8267)
The 45 seems hard to find. It's possible to listen it at www.georgiasoul.com/sounds/blog/atlantaberockin.mp3
James Brown (lead vocals) - Jacque Daughtry (female vocals) - Johnny Hibbert (horns and sax) - Michael Jackson (bass) - Dean Daughtry (keyboards and synthesizer) -Steve Stone (guitar) - Keith "Mike Hammer" Hammrick (drums) - Ron Laster (guitar) - Johnny Griggs (percussion)
Written by Jacque Daughtry and Buddy Causey - Produced By Dave Pensado and Dean Daughtry - Executive Producers : Bill Lowery and Jacque Daughtry
Recorded at Southern Tracks Studios (Atlanta), Sound Scape Studios (Atlanta), and Studio South (Augusta).
These three pictures by Courtni Meadow (Rock Legends Photographers). Thanks to him for all.