Lost Treasures: Atlanta Rhythm Section – “Champagne Jam”

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Our Lost Treasure this week is the title track from a Polydor LP released in 1978.  “Champagne Jam” was the most successful album by southern rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section & the title track was a staple of FM AOR stations during that era.  The group formed in 1970 from the ashes of two disbanded groups – The Candymen & Classics IV.  They became the session band for a newly opened studio in Doraville GA near Atlanta called Studio One.  The Candymen had previously backed up Roy Orbison & the Classics IV scored serveral top 40 hits in the late 60’s.  While successful as seasoned studio musicians, their attempts at record releases as a band failed to gain much traction with listeners or radio PDs.  They originally signed with Decca but then moved to Polydor Records in 1973 after getting dumped by their first label.  In spite of little luck with records, Atlanta Rhythm Section toured extensively as an opening band for The Who & Rolling Stones which brought them some much needed recognition with audiences & listeners. Their 1976 album “A Rock & Roll Alternative” finally charted well & yielded their first top 40 single “So In To You”.

 The LP “Champagne Jam” brought them more success with singles “Imaginary Lover” & “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight”.  The band gained more ground appearing at a number of festivals & created their own called ‘Champagne Jam’ which featured Santana, Doobie Bros. Eddie Money, Mother’s Finest & The Outlaws.  Three weeks later, they appeared on the White House lawn at President Jimmy Carter’s invitation for his son Chip’s 28th birthday party. The band had previously met Carter while he was still governor of Georgia during a press junket for their third album and had campaigned for him in 1976 during his run for the presidency.  Their next album was the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s last taste of chart action.  “Underdog” contained their biggest hit yet – a remake of the Classics IV “Spooky”.  Champagne Jam II on July 7, 1979 at Georgia Tech featured ARS, Aerosmith, The Cars, Dixie Dregs & Allman Bros. Band. In October, an ARS live performance from Studio One was released as the double live set “Are You Ready”. Besides the group’s hits and popular tracks up to that time, the album also contained the fan favorite “Another Man’s Woman”.  As the 80’s began, interest in the ‘southern rock’ style had waned & become dated as listeners moved on to New Wave, post-disco & a reinvigorated pop music scene.  The group struggled to gain acceptance of their record releases which failed in spite of several attempts by different labels. A number of personnel changes took place as well.  In 1995 the group went back into the studio, this time to re-record some of their classic songs. This new collection was recorded in North Carolina and the resulting live-in-studio sound of “Atlanta Rhythm Section ’96 (released on CMC International records) presented a different, less polished take on some of their classic tunes and captured the sound of their live performances from that period. It was also around this time that ARS was elected to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. As the new millennium approached band members were battling health problems.  Tragedy struck when ARS drummer R J Vealey died on stage in 1999 of a heart attack after concluding a concert performance. In spite of this, ARS toured sporadically & continues to perform to this day playing mostly festivals & nostalgia-themed concerts.  Enjoy “Champagne Jam” from a crack team of veteran studio musicians & thanks for pointing your browsers to Puget Sound Media!

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Mike Cherry

Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening

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