Baby-boomers and nostalgics traveled to the Reynold’s Performance Hall on Nov. 4 to see “America,” a classic rock band that made its first debut in the 1970s.
Sixty-year-olds came out with their Johnny Cash and Rolling Stones shirts and whooped and wooed like teenagers.
Craig Olsen explained that most people heard about the show from tags on Facebook and the radio.
That is how Reynold’s Hall has kept older generations in Conway socially involved.
The band played songs from their first albums as well as “California Dreamin.’”
Before that cover of the hit from the Mamas and the Papas, singer Bunnell recalled America’s beginning.
“We’d take songs from our heroes like the Yardbirds and Simon & Garfunkel and do them ourselves,”
Bandmember Dewey Bunnell said. “We were called the Dayz if you can believe it.”
At the end of the concert, most of the members of the audience hooted and hollered until the band came back
pretending to have forgotten to play “A Horse with No Name.”
The band was louder than it used to be, showcasing its fairly new guitarist Andy Barr from the alternative rock band Cobra Starship, who ripped solos during several songs including “Greenhouse” and “Only in Your Heart” as part of the band’s contemporary effort to retain relevance.
Bandmember Gerry Beckley joked that their songs weren’t oldies but classic rock, though he said that he didn’t
know the difference.
“In concert we wrapped up in Sydney, Australia, a man had yelled, ‘It’s because you’re still alive!’” Beckley said.
Though they called their band America, they themselves were English artists deriving their sound from American folk rock acts like Crosby, Stills and Nash who were on tour with their new addition Canadian Neil Young that year.
America played at local London joints its first year. These venues included Roadhouse and Chalk Farm.
The band was assigned to the UK Warner Brothers Label and produced its first album, America, in 1971.
The album didn’t receive much success.
However, after debuting their most notable hit, “A Horse with No Name,” selling one million copies and
receiving a gold disc award, the album was rereleased with the single and went platinum.
The U.S. took a shining to Beckley, whose song “I Need You” had gone to number nine on the U.S. charts.
From then, the band relocated to play alongside bands of its genre and closer to its main demographic in
Los Angeles, California.
In 1972, the band released the album Homecoming and pierced the top 10 again, this time with Bunnell’s “Ventura Highway.”
That year they won a Grammy for Best New Artist of 1972, and their success was cemented for the next five years until recovering heavy drug user Peek left on his own path, renewed his faith and became a pioneer of
contemporary Christian pop music.
After his conversion, Peek co-wrote “Lonely People” with his wife Catherine Peek.
America put the song in the album, “Holiday,” and the song was a number five hit.
He died in 2011 from the still poorly understood inflammation surrounding the heart, uremic pericarditis.
This past Nov. 1 would have been his 67th birthday.
This concert at Reynold’s was the first after what would have been Peek’s 67th birthday.
After the band’s fall from grace, the duo Bunnell and Beckley continued recording material and touring and, this
year, are celebrating America’s 47th year.
They now have 20 albums of original records — the last being Lost and Found 2015 — and are immortalized in
the Vocal Group Hall of Fame by their star on Hollywood Boulevard.