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Genres Folk rock
Soft rock
Country rock
Years active 1970 – present
Labels Warner Bros., Capitol, Rhino, American Gramaphone, Oxygen Records, Burgundy
Website Official Website
Gerry Beckley
Dewey Bunnell
Willie Leacox
Michael Woods
Richard Campbell
Former members
Dan Peek
David Dickey
Jim Calire
Tom Walsh
Tony Garofolo
Brad Palmer

America is an English-American folk rock musical band, composed originally of members Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek. The three members were barely past their teenage years when they became a musical sensation during 1972, with their main popularity during the early to mid 1970s and early 1980s. Some of the band's best known songs are "A Horse with No Name", "Sister Golden Hair" (both of which reached #1), "Ventura Highway", "Tin Man", and "Lonely People".

Although their music was derided frequently by critics, the band's singles and albums were very successful commercially. They were popular enough to attract the services of famed Beatles producer George Martin for a series of seven albums. The band survived Peek quitting near its apex long enough to see Beckley and Bunnell return the act to the top 10 as a duo with "You Can Do Magic" in 1982. Touring for almost four decades, America maintains fans and performs over 100 shows per year. On January 16, 2007, America released Here & Now, the band's first major label studio album in over twenty years.


Original members



Early success (1970–1973)

Sons of American fathers and British mothers, their fathers being military personnel stationed at the United States Air Force installation at RAF West Ruislip, London, all three attended London Central High School, at Bushey Hall, about 16 miles Northwest of London, in the mid-1960s where they met while playing in two different bands.

Peek left for the United States for an abortive attempt at college during 1969. Soon after his return to the UK the following year, the three met and began to collaborate on making music. Starting out with borrowed acoustic guitars, they developed a style which incorporated three-part vocal harmony with the style of contemporary folk-rock acts like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Eventually the trio dubbed themselves America, honoring the name of the homeland they had hardly ever seen during their travels around the world. The liner notes to the 1975 compilation album History - America's Greatest Hits, state the band took their name while listening to an Americana juke box. They played their first gigs in the London area, including some highlights at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm where Pink Floyd had played at the beginning of its career. Through Ian Samwell and Jeff Dexter's efforts they were eventually contracted to Kinney Records (UK) in March 1971 by Ian Ralfini, then MD.

America's debut album, America, was first released in 1971 without "A Horse with No Name". After the album was re-issued with the song, it scored #1 on the album charts in the US for 5 weeks.

Their first long-playing (LP) album was recorded at Trident Studios in London and produced by Ian Samwell. Samwell was best known as Cliff Richard's lead guitarist and the writer of his 1958 breakthrough hit, "Move It". Jeff Dexter, Ian's roommate and involved with the music business himself, co-produced the album and became the trio's manager. Dexter also gave them their 1st major gig, December 20, 1970, at "Implosion" at the The Roundhouse Chalk Farm as the opening act to The Who, Elton John, Patto and The Chalk Farm Salvation Army Band & Choir for a Christmas charity event. Although the trio planned initially to record the album in a similar manner as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Samwell convinced them to perfect their acoustic style instead.

The album, simply titled America, was released during 1971 to only moderate success, although it sold well in the Netherlands where Dexter had taken them as a training ground to practice their stagecraft. Samwell and Dexter subsequently brought the trio to Morgan Studios to record several additional songs. One of them was a piece written by Bunnell called "Desert Song", which Dexter previously demoed during studio rehearsals in Puddletown, Dorset at the home of Arthur 'God of Hellfire' Brown. The song had its public debut at The Harrogate Festival, four days later, to great audience response. After several performances and a TV show, it was re-titled "A Horse with No Name". The song became a major worldwide hit in early 1972. America's debut album was re-released with the hit song newly added and quickly went platinum. The album resulted in a second major chart success with Beckley's "I Need You", which peaked at #9 on the U.S. charts.

After their initial success, the trio decided to dismiss Samwell and Dexter and relocate to Los Angeles, California. Plans to record a new album were delayed somewhat both by the relocation and an injury to Peek's arm. Deciding not to replace Samwell, the group opted to produce the album by themselves. The trio began their move away from a mainly acoustic style to a more rock-music-oriented style with the help of Hal Blaine on drums and Joe Osborn on bass. Peek began to play lead electric guitar on more tracks.

America's second album, Homecoming, was released in November 1972. The group reached the top 10 again with "Ventura Highway". Following singles, including Peek's Don't Cross the River and Beckley's "Only In Your Heart", were somewhat less successful, but not enough to deny the group a Grammy Award for Best New Artist of 1972.

The group's output became increasingly ambitious. Their third offering, Hat Trick, was released in October 1973 after several months of recording at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. Again self-produced, the album featured strings, harmonicas, an eight-minute title track, and tap dancing. Beckley, Bunnell, and Peek were once again joined by Blaine on drums, while Osborn was replaced by David Dickey on bass. The album was not as successful as Homecoming, featuring only one minor successful single, "Muskrat Love". Penned by Texas folk singer Willis Alan Ramsey, Captain & Tennille would take the song to the top 10 in late 1976.

George Martin years (1974–1979)

After the disappointing commercial performance of Hat Trick, America opted to produce their next album with professional help. They were able to secure the services of George Martin, and Geoff Emerick [Beatles Recording Engineer 1966-1970] who played a major role in shaping the sound of the Beatles. Session recordings where done at George Martin AIR Studios in London England and Montserrat in the Caribbean.

The resulting album, Holiday, was released in June 1974. (By this time the group had consciously begun naming their albums with titles starting with the letter "H".) With Martin's guidance, the album's style was very different from America's first three efforts, as he embellished America's sound of acoustic guitars and vocals with an abundance of strings and brass.

1974’s Holiday was the first America album produced by legendary Beatles producer, Sir George Martin

The trio soon found themselves in the Top Ten once again with the first single from Holiday, the Bunnell-penned "Tin Man", which reached #4, featuring cryptic lyrics set to a Wizard of Oz theme. "Lonely People" followed "Tin Man" into scoring Top Ten during early 1975, reaching #5.

Martin worked with the trio again for their next LP, Hearts, recorded in Sausalito, California and released in March 1975. America scored its second chart topping success with Beckley's "Sister Golden Hair" in mid-1975, a song which featured a memorable guitar riff admittedly inspired by George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." The follow-up single, Beckley's ballad "Daisy Jane", also scored among the Top Twenty later during 1975. Peek's reggae-influenced "Woman Tonight" was a third success from the album.

Warner Bros. released a compilation of America's best-known tracks in December 1975, History: America's Greatest Hits, which scored platinum. Martin, who produced the album, got the opportunity to remix tracks selected from the group's first three albums.

During early 1976, the group recorded its sixth studio album at Caribou Ranch near Nederland, Colorado, lending the album's title, Hideaway. Martin directed again. Released during April 1976, it resulted in two successful singles.

Martin and the trio went to Hawaii during late 1976 to work on the group's seventh studio album. The album was recorded in a beach house on the island of Kauai. The album, Harbor, continued the trend of decreasing sales for the group. It was their first album which failed to score either platinum or gold, and it didn't have a successful single.

Shortly after Harbor was released in February 1977, Dan Peek left the band. Peek recently had renewed his Christian faith after years of recreational drug use and had begun to seek a different artistic direction from Beckley or Bunnell. Peek contracted with Pat Boone's Lamb & Lion Records, and issued his first solo album, All Things Are Possible, in 1978. The album, produced by Chris Christian, was successful, and Peek became a pioneering artist in the emerging Christian popular music genre. The title track even entered the Billboard pop charts during the autumn of 1979, peaking at #79.

Meanwhile, Beckley and Bunnell decided to continue as America, ending their contract with Warner Bros. with the release of their first concert LP, Live, during October 1977. Recorded at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, the performance featured a backing orchestra conducted by Elmer Bernstein. The concert was recorded shortly after Peek left the group. The album scored briefly on the popular charts.

Capitol years (1979–1985)

After more than two years without new studio material, during March 1979, Beckley and Bunnell presented the group's new style with a cover of The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'", part of the soundtrack for the movie "California Dreaming." Although the movie was unsuccessful commercially and the soundtrack was issued by an obscure distributor known as American International, the single scored as high as #56 on the charts.

America's first studio album without Peek, Silent Letter, was released in June 1979 on their new label, Capitol Records. The album, once again produced by Martin, was recorded in Montserrat in the West Indies by the members of the live band, which by then had grown to include Beckley, Bunnell, bassist David Dickey, longtime drummer Willie Leacox, new lead guitarist Michael Woods, Jim Calire on keyboards and sax, and Tom Walsh on percussion. The group began to utilize songs from other songwriters as they sought to increase their commercial success. The album scored no higher than #110 on the charts, leading Bunnell sarcastically to dub the album Silent Record.

America continued to evolve as the 1980s began. For their next album, Alibi, released in August 1980, Beckley and Bunnell sought fresh personnel in the form of producers Matthew McCauley and Fred Mollin. They also employed players from the West Coast, such as the Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit, Leland Sklar and Steve Lukather, to help improve their sound. Alibi eschewed the strings and brass of a typical Martin project in favor of a more popular-rock style. It also became the third studio album in a row without a successful single in the United States, although Beckley's "Survival" scored the top of the charts in Italy. The album's sales maximized at only #142.

View from the Ground became America's comeback album in 1982

America's next album, View from the Ground, released in July 1982, was finally a commercial success. The album, recorded under the working title Two Car Garage, featured a number of songs produced by the duo themselves. As with Alibi, Beckley and Bunnell brought in a number of talented musicians, including the Beach Boys' Carl Wilson, Toto's Jeff Porcaro, Christopher Cross and Dean Parks. But it was former Argent frontman Russ Ballard who had the greatest effect on the group's fortunes. Ballard produced and played most of the instruments on a song he crafted especially for the band, called "You Can Do Magic". The song rose quickly through the popular charts, and scored as high as #8 on the Billboard pop singles chart for a number of weeks during October 1982, the band's first major success in seven years. Following "Magic" was the single "Right Before Your Eyes" an homage to silent movie actors better known to listeners as "Rudolph Valentino" due to its memorable refrain. Written by Ian Thomas (brother of comedian Dave Thomas of Strange Brew fame), and produced by Bobby Colomby, the single barely missed scoring Top Forty during early 1983. Although View From The Ground failed to achieve gold-rated sales, it scored as high as #41 on the album charts, a significant improvement over the previous few releases.

Having had some success with Ballard, Beckley and Bunnell decided to have the former Argent performer produce their next album, Your Move, in its entirety. In the end, Ballard wrote most of the songs and performed most of the instruments in addition to his production duties. For the most part Beckley and Bunnell were singers on an album that Ballard had crafted for them, although they did contribute some material of their own. On one track, Bunnell decided to rewrite Ballard's lyrics, and the successful song "The Border" was the result. Set to the backing of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the saxophone work of Raphael Ravenscroft, the single scored #33 on the charts in August 1983. "The Border" was much more successful on the adult contemporary charts, where it scored #4 (even besting "You Can Do Magic"). It also made #24 on the Dutch Top 40. A second single, Ballard's "Cast The Spirit", failed to chart. The album itself, released in June 1983, was reasonably successful at #81, but something of a disappointment when compared to its predecessor.

America's work was also featured on several soundtracks during this period. Beckley and Bunnell contributed several tracks to The Last Unicorn soundtrack in 1982. The soundtrack became popular in Germany, and the group frequently plays its title track when touring in that country. America also recorded "Love Comes Without Warning" for the 1984 Steve Martin comedy, The Lonely Guy.

Dan Peek emerged from several years of musical obscurity during May 1984, releasing his second solo Christian album, Doer of the Word, on Home Sweet Home Records. Once again produced by Chris Christian, the album's title track featured Beckley on backing vocals. Peek would issue two more solo albums over the next few years, including Electro Voice (1986) and Crossover (1987).

Meanwhile, America opted for a decidedly different style from its previous offerings for its twelfth studio album, Perspective, released in September 1984. Ballard was out, and synthesizers and drum machines were in. Several different producers, including Richie Zito, Matthew McCauley, and Richard James Burgess, helped create an electronic popular style that was very common during the 1980s, but drastically different from America's usual style. "Special Girl", the album's first single, was culled from hired songwriters and failed to make the charts. The next single, "Can't Fall Asleep to a Lullaby", was co-written by Bunnell, Journey's Steve Perry, Robert Haimer, and Bill Mumy, the latter of Lost In Space fame. Although neither track was played on popular radio, both did achieve minor success on the adult contemporary charts. The album itself was unable to score more than #185 during a brief three-week stint on the charts in October 1984.

Their main commercial success ending by now, Beckley and Bunnell ended their Capitol contract with In Concert, released in July 1985. The concert was recorded at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, California, on June 1, 1985. In Concert became the first America album to miss the charts entirely.

Return to basics (1985–1998)

Beckley and Bunnell spent the latter half of the 1980s focusing on their live show, which they performed well over 100 times a year around the world. While America remained a hot ticket on the touring circuit, they were unable to land a recording contract in the years after they left the Capitol label.

By the early 1990s, the development of compact discs caused the reissuing of many older popular albums, providing many popular acts like America with revived sales. During 1991, America was able to offer four brand new tracks as part of a collection issued by Rhino Records called Encore: More Greatest Hits, which was designed to complement the group's original 1975 retrospective. Standout tracks included the Bunnell-Haimer-Mumy collaboration "Nothing's So Far Away (As Yesterday)" and Beckley's "On Target".

Hourglass (1994), America's first studio album in a decade, was released by Chip Davis's American Gramaphone label

America's resurgence caught the eye of Chip Davis of American Gramaphone Records, who signed the group to his label. In May 1994, America released its first new studio album in a decade with Hourglass. Produced primarily by Beckley and Bunnell, with help from Hank Linderman and Steve Levine, the album featured an eclectic group of songs. "Young Moon", a rare joint songwriting effort from Bunnell and Beckley, was a sleek effort, combining Beckley's love ballad formula with Bunnell's visual imagery. In contrast, "Greenhouse" featured a rough, rocking sound performed by the live band. Re-recordings of "You Can Do Magic" and "Everyone I Meet Is From California" were also included. In the end, despite garnering generally positive reviews, the album failed to become successful commercially.

During 1995 Beckley delivered his long-anticipated debut solo album. Entitlted Van Go Gan, the album experimented with various styles and sounds. Beckley also revisited some early America material, including a remake of "I Need You". "Now Sue" was inspired by the track "Till The Sun Comes Up Again" (from the Homecoming album) when played backwards. Comedian Phil Hartman (who during his earlier career as a graphic artist had designed the "America" logo, as well as many other bands of the 1970s) was featured as the uproarious voice of a televangelist preacher on "Playing God". Although it received exceptionally warm reviews, the album was only available as an expensive Japanese import.

Dan Peek, who had remained largely silent since Crossover, made a modest resurgence in the mid-1990s through his trio of collaborations with Brian Gentry and Ken Marvin of the Nashville-based group, PEACE.

America fans were also treated to a newly-released concert album in 1995. Released by the King Biscuit company, the concert was actually taken from a 1982 installment of the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show. Known as In Concert (not to be confused with the 1985 Capitol release of the same name), King Biscuit experienced modest success with the album.

This success resulted in a new record deal with King Biscuit's subsidiary label, Oxygen Records. After rumors that Steely Dan producer Gary Katz would produce the project came and went, the album eventually reached the stores in September 1998. The new album, entitled Human Nature after the name of Beckley's home recording studio, was accompanied by a modest commercial blitz. The first single, Beckley's "From A Moving Train", featured a strongly acoustic style. The track received considerable airplay and moderate success in adult contemporary formats. Reports claimed that the song was a major success in the popular charts in Spain. A second attempt at a single in "Wednesday Morning" was somewhat less successful. Although the album had a number of strong tracks, in the end it failed to garner the sales that Oxygen was expecting, and America was once again without a record deal.

New millennium (1999–2006)

The next few years saw the group's catalog expand with a number of side projects, reissues of older albums on CD, and several major retrospective releases. In July 2000, Rhino released Highway: 30 Years Of America, a three-CD box set which included 64 remastered tracks spanning the group's career. Included were a handful of alternative mixes and demos such as an early take of a stripped-down "Ventura Highway". A year later, in August 2001, Rhino released a trimmed-down single disc compilation, The Complete Greatest Hits, which assembled all of the group's 17 charting Billboard singles for the first time. The disc also included two newly-recorded songs, "World Of Light" and "Paradise." The album represented another milestone for the group. Peaking at #152 on the Billboard album charts in October 2001, The Complete Greatest Hits was America's first charting album since Perspective in 1984.

The Complete Greatest Hits (2001) was America's first charting album of the new millennium

On the solo front, in February 2000 Beckley released Go Man Go, an album remixing a number of tracks from Van Go Gan. The original Van Go Gan album finally saw its initial domestic release that July with bonus tracks. June saw the roll-out of another Beckley side project, Like A Brother, recorded with Robert Lamm of Chicago and the late Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys under the name Beckley-Lamm-Wilson. Dan Peek resurfaced in 1999 with a new website and his first solo release in many years, Bodden Town.

America had a somewhat unusual regaining of fame during 2001 with the success of Janet Jackson's single "Someone to Call My Lover". Jackson's track wove the famous "Ventura Highway" guitar riff into a song which rose to #3 on the Billboard pop charts, and introduced one of America's most recognizable melodies to a new generation.

America fans were treated to new material in late 2002. In October, the group released its first Christmas album, Holiday Harmony. Produced by Andrew Gold, the album received positive reviews for its imaginative blending of elements of classic America tunes into familiar holiday standards. Included were three new tracks, including a Bunnell-penned ode to "Ventura Highway" called "Christmas In California", featuring Beckley on lead vocals.

One month later, in November 2002, America released a live album, The Grand Cayman Concert. Recorded the previous April in the Cayman Islands, the concert featured just Beckley and Bunnell on acoustic guitars, a throwback to the earliest days of their career. Included were their most familiar songs along with a few rarities, such as "Wind Wave" and "Pigeon Song".

After this new material, the band ended their recording, as Beckley and Bunnell concentrated on their consistently lucrative touring schedule. America occasionally offered new DVDs, such as a re-release of their 1979 concert film, Live In Central Park, a 2004 concert at the Sydney Opera House, and a 2005 show at the Ventura, California, Concert Theater joined with Stephen Bishop and Andrew Gold directed by Sheldon Osmond. Also in 2005, America appeared on the PBS concert series SoundStage with long-time friend Christopher Cross.

In April 2006, after a few solo concerts, Beckley released his second solo album of all-new material, the well-received Horizontal Fall.

Recent activity (2006-07)

During 2006 America was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.[1] Although the group remained very much active and popular in the nostalgia concert circuit and had occasionally issued new material on minor labels, their offerings were largely ignored by the greater commercial music industry and record-buying public.

Here & Now, released in January 2007, was America's first major label studio album in over 20 years

However, a fateful connection would provide a sudden and unexpected change in fortune for the group. During the mid-2000s, Beckley began correspondence with Adam Schlesinger of the independent rock music group Fountains of Wayne. Beckley had been a fan of the 2003 Fountains of Wayne album Welcome Interstate Managers, and Schlesinger turned out to be a fan of America's work. The exchange of songs between the two resulted in them recording a few tracks together. The recordings came to the attention of SonyBMG's new Burgundy Records label, which was impressed both by the quality of the material and by the possibility of pairing America with other independent artists. The company contracted America to record a new album with Schlesinger and his musical partner, James Iha, formerly of The Smashing Pumpkins, at the production helm. Entitled Here & Now, it would be America's first major-label studio album since Perspective in 1984.

The recording sessions at Stratosphere Sound in New York City, which ran through July, attracted a number of notable guest musicians, including Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller, along with members from the groups Nada Surf and My Morning Jacket. Seasoned veterans Stephen Bishop and Rusty Young were also involved.

In an effort to aim the album toward both younger and older audiences, the label decided to bundle the new album with a second disc comprising live performances of every track from History: America's Greatest Hits, previously recorded at XM Radio as part of XM's Then Again...Live series, recorded with longtime America drummer Wil Leacox, guitarist Michael Woods and bassist Richard Campbell. In the run-up to the album's scheduled release on January 16, 2007, America attracted publicity unknown to it since the early 1980s. In addition, early positive reviews of the album suggested a possible critical reappraisal of the group's work and legacy and the possibility that 1970s soft-rock could become "cool" and "hip" with a newer generation of musicians and fans.

Dan Peek

Ever since Dan Peek left the group in May 1977, speculation has abounded as to whether he could or would return to the fold. The split was certainly amicable. On Peek's 1978 solo debut album, All Things Are Possible, Beckley and Bunnell sang back-up vocals on the track "Love Was Just Another Word". According to Bunnell, at around that time Peek even joined the group onstage to perform a few songs during a concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. On Peek's 1984 follow-up album, Doer of the Word, Beckley provided prominent backing vocals on the title track. In November 1999, credible rumors began to spread that unreleased demo recordings from the early 1980s featuring Beckley and Bunnell collaborating with Peek would be released on CD sometime in early 2000. No such recordings have been released to date.

The questions about a possible reunion of the original trio began not long after Peek left the group. When asked about the prospects for a reunion in the early 1980s, Beckley and Bunnell stated that they were happy for Peek in that he had found a new life and a new direction, but that it was unlikely there would be a reunion. "All things are possible, like [Dan] says", Beckley told radio host Lew Irwin in 1982, but "it just doesn't seem in the cards." Within a few years, however, Peek had begun to entertain just such thoughts publicly. "Like they said and like I said, all things are possible", Peek told interviewer Steve Orchard in 1985. "I really have my fingers crossed. I would love to get back together [with them] and do some things."

Although Beckley and Bunnell have over the years become increasingly firm in their position that a reunion with Peek is unlikely, and could in fact be counterproductive, record companies have tried to persuade the duo to change their minds. Bunnell noted to Steve Orchard in 1998 that "[w]e had a few labels say that they would be interested in recording us if we would bring Dan back or if we could put together the original trio." Beckley and Bunnell have chosen to maintain their decision to remain a duo.

In 2000, Peek began posting a number of weekly "episodes" to his website relating to his experiences prior to and during his years in America. Peek raised a few eyebrows both for his candid discussion of his experiences with drugs and religion and for his observations of Beckley and Bunnell. Eventually, Peek compiled the material into a book entitled An American Band, which was released in late 2004.

Certain sources have suggested erroneously that a reunion with Peek actually did occur. A Rolling Stone rock music discography book, printed during the mid-1990s, contained an apocryphal entry for America stating that Dan Peek had reunited with Beckley and Bunnell for a tour in 1993 with the Beach Boys. This misinformation has been so widely disseminated that even esteemed Australian rock journalist and historian Glenn A. Baker erroneously assumed this to be true in an interview question posed to Beckley and Bunnell on the Live at the Sydney Opera House DVD.


See also


  1. ^ – Vocal Group Hall of Fame

External links


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