About The St. James Group
The St. James Group is the story of American rock n roll and the classic tale of Americas restless post-war youth. The St. James Group tasted success during an era of rock n roll revolution a revolution that changed society. The St. James Groups 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 bands legacy.
The St. James Group was dubbed a pioneer grassroots Central Arkansas-bred band by Arkansas Times Magazine blazing a rock n roll trail from their own back yard. Nightflying Magazine called them, one of the most successful bands in these parts for a couple of decades. Laurie Black Gross writes, At one of the headiest times in American music history, a time flush with innovation, raw with experimentation and change, The St. James Group did what few groups could manage they developed a unique sound, distanced themselves from the pack, and carved out a niche singularly their own. Offering up a vigorous, gritty, rhythmic mix of original songs, they pre-dated what came to be known as contemporary county by 20 years, out-pacing the music industry.
The St. James Group played together from 1968 to 1978 and evolved from a dance band into a concert act that enjoyed success with an electrifying stage show. The St. James Group started out playing Arkansas schools and moved from the college circuit onto the concert stage by their reputation as performers an accomplishment few others achieved. In the early 1970s, major college exposure brought the group concert bookings with many of the eras 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 Groups stage show and original songs were performed at music venues from Chicago to New Orleans and many towns in between.
During the mid-70s, entertainment attorney Bill Carter represented the group in its negotiations for a record contract. Carter was also representing The Rolling Stones, Tanya Tucker, and others at the time. However, The St. James Groups 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 bands style into prevailing categories of the period. The 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.
From 1973 to 1978, members of the 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 in 1978. 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.
When Mark Hays moved back to Arkansas a few years ago, old friendships were rekindled and planning for a Reunion Concert began. The next two years were spent locating the bands original songs, transferring the cuts to digital, and re-mastering the songs into two Anthology CDs. The Reunion was finally scheduled for Sunday, November 9, 2003. The 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 bands 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 rolls golden era an era that leaves its imprint on contemporary music. Todays 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 groups career. But The St. James Group defied the odds and for ten years contributed to todays 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.