The Atlanta Rhythm Section: The Authorized History is a new 250-page hardcover book (Schiffer Publishing) that chronicles the rise, decline and ongoing perseverance of the group responsible for such ’70s FM radio staples as “Doraville,” “Georgia Rhythm,” “Champagne Jam,” “So Into You,” “Imaginary Lover” and many others. Penned by Vintage Guitar Magazine senior writer Willie G. Moseley, the straightforward account traces the members’ backgrounds in such Southern groups as The Candymen, The Classics IV, The Cardinals and The Martiniques, their gelling as studio musicians (namely as the “house band” at Bill Lowery, J.R. Cobb and songwriter/producer Buddy Buie’s Doraville facility Studio One) and ascendance into a brief, unlikely hitmaking machine in the late 1970s, as well as their later years withstanding membership changes and waning fame. While there’s not much drama involved – the narrative settles into a descriptive litany of album releases and selected live performances about midway through – it offers not only a well-researched history of the band but also a glimpse of the Atlanta music scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, with the Clermont Motor Hotel, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Mighty Hannibal, Jimmy Carter, The Hampton Grease Band, Travis Tritt, Mylon LeFevre, Chief Noc-A-Homa and even Stevie Nicks and Ronnie James Dio among the characters intersecting the story, to varying degrees.
With keyboardist Dean Daughtry as the only member continuously in the lineup since their 1971 formation, ARS continues to play clubs, casinos and festivals, with two Dec. 22 concerts at Eddie’s Attic as their next hometown-area shows. While their best-known vocalist, Ronnie Hammond (who sang on all of their heyday hits), retired from the band in 2001 and died in 2011, original vocalist Rodney Justo has been in the lineup since 2011. After leaving the group in 1979, original drummer Robert Nix died in 2012. Rhythm guitarist J.R. Cobb – who now lives in Monticello, Georgia – left the band in 1986 to focus on songwriting (including Wynonna Judd’s 1994 hit “Rock Bottom,” written with Buddy Buie), work with LaGrange-born musician/producer Chips Moman and play in the backing back for The Highwaymen: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Original bass guitarist Paul Goddard had unexpectedly rejoined the band in 2011 but died of cancer in 2014. Founding guitarist Joe “Barry” Bailey (whom Tinsley Ellis hails as in the book as “the greatest guitarist to ever come out of Atlanta”) retired from the lineup in 2006, a year after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; the 69-year-old continues to reside in Atlanta. Among later additions, an old Chamblee High School pal of mine, Steve Stone (his mom drove the school bus), is now in his 32nd year in the lineup on guitar.