America

  • Rock band formed in England in 1970. The members were Gerry Beckley (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Dewey Bunnell (vocals, guitar) and Dan Peek (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica).
  • Beckley, Bunnell and Peek lived in the UK, as their fathers were in the U.S. Air Force stationed in London. They met in high school in the mid 60s. In 1969, the began to play together, using borrowed acoustic guitars. They found that they could sing well in three part harmony. They dubbed themselves America, because they did not want people to think that they were British singers trying to sound American. They played in gigs around London, and a record producer heard them, and signed them to a record label.
  • Their debut album was released in 1971 – the self titled America. Initially, it did not sell well. Later that year, they recorded some new music, including a piece named Desert Song. They played the song at several concerts, getting a great response from the audience. It was renamed A Horse With No Name, and released as a single in 1972, where it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The record company quickly re-issued the America album, this time including A Horse With No Name as the opening track. The album subsequently hit #1 on the album chart, selling over 1 million copies. A second single, I Need You, peaked at #9.
  • The band moved to California in 1972, and changed management. They wanted to develop more of a rock sound, though acoustic sound and harmony would remain integral to the group. Their second album, Homecoming, was released in November that year. The hit single from the album was Ventura Highway. That year, America won its only Grammy award, for Best New Artist. See my March 31 Mark’s Vintage Vinyl post for more information about this album.
  • Their third album, Hat Trick, was less successful, with only one minor hit, Muskrat Love. They decided that future albums needed a new producer (their second and third albums were self produced), so they hired George Martin to produce their next 5 studio albums, from 1974 to 1979. Martin famously was the producer for most of the Beatles’ records. Martin enhanced America’s acoustic sound with brass and strings. In 1974 and 1975, they had hit singles with Tin Man, Lonely People and Sister Golden Hair, which became their second #1 song. The albums and singles later in the 70s were less popular. In 1977, Peek left the group to start a solo career of Christian music. Peek died in 2011 at the age of 60.
  • America continued as the duo of Beckley and Bunnell, releasing albums in the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s. They managed 1 more top 10 single – You Can Do Magic peaked at #8 in 1982. They’ve made 20 studio albums, 9 live albums and numerous compilation/greatest hits albums.
  • The band remains popular today on the nostalgia tour circuit, and their shows often sell out. I still sing the high harmony when I hear their music. Here’s a video of the band rehearsing their song I Need You. 

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