St. James Group
The St. James Group, the story of American rock 'n roll; classic tale of America's restless post-war youth. St. James Group tasted success during an era of rock 'n roll that changed society. St. James Group's ability to combine musical genres created a unique brand of rock that broke barriers and defied stereotypes. Their musical "trail blazing" was ahead of its time and is the source of the band's legacy.
St. James Group dubbed "pioneer grassroots Central Arkansas-bred band" by Arkansas Times Magazine.
The St. James Group evolved from a dance band into a concert act that enjoyed success with an electrifying stage show. St. James Group started out playing Arkansas schools and moved from the college circuit onto the concert stage by their reputation as performers. Major college exposure brought the group concert bookings with many of the era's better-known acts including Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Badfinger, Olivia Newton-John, Jimmy Buffett, Melissa Manchester, Wet Willie, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jim Croce, and Earl Scruggs Review. The St. James Group's stage show and original songs were performed at music venues from Chicago to New Orleans and many towns in between.
Entertainment attorney Bill Carter represented the group, also representing The Rolling Stones, Tanya Tucker, and others at the time. St. James Group's ability to combine country, bluegrass, and gospel with rock 'n roll led to confusion within the music industry. Record company A&R departments (artists & repertoire) were unable to pigeon hole the band's style into prevailing categories of the period. St. James Group recorded extensively in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee and these sessions have since been re-mastered and released on St. James Group Anthologies I & II and St. James Group Top 20 CDs.
Members of St. James Group were Rick Calhoun, guitar; Mark Calhoun, bass; Johnny Bradley, drums; Andy Fullerton, guitar, banjo, and fiddle; Mark Hays, acoustic & pedal steel guitar; and Chuck Gordon, keyboards. At different times, other members of the band included Mike Mitchell, Danny Dozier, Chuck Gilbert, and Eddie Thomas. The band formed in 1968 while members were students at State College of Arkansas (UCA) in Conway.
A combination of family obligations and "road stress" forced the St. James Group to disband. Throughout the years, former members of the St. James Group have remained active musicians and are better players today than in their youth. Four of the original members continued to perform professionally for the next twenty-plus years. Two members moved to Nashville, became studio musicians, toured with national acts and appeared on national radio and television programs.
Mark Hays moved back to Arkansas a few years ago; friendships were rekindled, planning for a "Reunion" Concert began. The next two years were spent locating the band's original songs, transferring the cuts to digital, and re-mastering the songs into two Anthology CDs. The reunion venue was filled to capacity before the doors officially opened and fans had come from California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Nashville, and all across Arkansas. Cosmic electricity filled the room, and after a simple introduction, the crowd burst into cheers as the band took the stage for the first time in 25 years. After a 21-song set and two encores, the band reclaimed their unique position in Arkansas music history. For the next few months, both the press and the Arkansas music community were buzzing about the band?s triumphant return. "Awesome," "captivating," and "Wow" were just a few of the responses to the Reunion Concert. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette called the show, "a truly transcendent moment". The St. James Group "Reunion" Concert was originally planned as a once-in-a-lifetime event, but in the process, the band rekindled more than old friendships. They also re-ignited interest from a legion of loyal fans and a new generation of younger fans that are hungry for authentic rock 'n roll. Because of the tremendous reception, the original members have now agreed to accept a limited number of concert engagements.
The St. James Group is only a small part of a bigger story about rock 'n roll's golden era an era that leaves its imprint on contemporary music. Today's recording artists, and especially those in contemporary country music, owe their musical heritage to the pioneers of early rock. Both then and now, it is almost impossible for a group to survive without a "hit" record and a record company pushing the group's career. But The St. James Group defied the odds and for ten years contributed to today's rich musical heritage. Their unique brand of "country-rock" was ahead of its time. The St. James Group is part of the story of an era that influenced an entire generation. The band is Southern rock 'n roll and American country music rolled into one. The St. James Group continues to live in the memories of the lives they touched and those fortunate enough to see them in concert again.