TUESDAY, SEPT 10, 2013 – 7:00 PM
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center
Classic rockers turned country rebels – Exile is reunited and stirring up some musically entertaining madness … just like they did 25 years ago.
In 1978, Exile reached their pop peak with #1 single “Kiss You All Over,” but it was their shift to country music that brought the most success. With six Country Music Association nominations, it’s safe to say the shift was a success. The band topped the country charts with numerous #1 hits including “Woke Up in Love,” “Give Me One More Chance,” “Crazy For Your Love,” “She’s a Miracle,” “Hang On to Your Heart,” “I Could Get Used to You,” “She’s Too Good to Be True” and the list goes on.
In 1963, the year before the Beatles scored their first American hit, a group of kids calling themselves “The Exiles” climbed onto an outdoor stage in the small midstate town of Richmond, Kentucky and proceeded to make musical history—not just with their songs, but with their longevity as well. 50 years later, that same band—Exile—is still rockin’ with a mix of original and seminal members. Nations have had shorter life spans.
Nowadays, J. P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargis and Steve Goetzman can look back on a career arc that embraces 11 No. 1 country and pop hits, two gold albums and fans by the hundreds of thousands. Best of all, Exile is still touring, and continues to create and record brilliant new music. That fact became evident in September 2010 with the band’s digital release of the EP “People Get Ready” on Big Horse Records, distributed by GMV Nashville. AirPlay Direct distributed the EP to radio (July 4, 2012), featuring as the lead single the J. P. Pennington/Sonny Lemaire/Shane Minor-penned “Bread On The Table.”
After watching from the wings as the band performed on the Grand Ole Opry, fellow country star Trace Adkins approached Exile with the proposal that he and they join forces to re-cut a new version of the band’s international breakthrough hit, “Kiss You All Over.” GAC videotaped that historic session for the network’s “Hit Exchange” series. The episode was broadcast multiple times, beginning in December 2011. The song is included on Adkins’ 2013 release “Love Will…”
Following the band’s debut in Richmond City Park – which, as founding member Pennington recalls was “upstaged” by a fist-fight in the crowd – The Exiles steadily moved on to regional and then national fame. In 1966, pop music godfather Dick Clark tapped the band for his “Caravan of Stars,” a touring company headlined by the likes of The Rascals, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Freddy Cannon, Bryan Hyland and B. J. Thomas.
In 1973, after shortening the name to “Exile,” the band continued to pursue and secured record deals in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. However, they were not able to produce a breakout single that could launch the band to super-stardom. Then, in 1978, it happened, thanks to a three-and-a-half-minute surge of heavy breathing called “Kiss You All Over.” The song rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart and stayed there four weeks.
From then on, it was a blur. The band appeared on Midnight Special and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and toured with Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Heart, Aerosmith, Dave Mason, Seals & Croft and other rock luminaries. Now the guys from tiny Richmond, Kentucky, were pounding out music on giant stages throughout the U. S., Europe and South Africa.
But one hit does not a career make. A series of albums and a few personnel switches failed to re-ignite Exile’s pop fire. Fortunately, the band had been noticing the artistic changes taking place in country music, how it seemed to be opening itself to rock and pop influences following the Urban Cowboy craze. “Going country” certainly wasn’t a stretch for Pennington, whose mother, Lilly Mae Ledford, was the pivotal figure in the Coon Creek Girls, an “old-time music” band that once played at the White House to entertain President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the King and Queen of England.
Through their manager, Jim Morey, Exile attracted the attention of Nashville super-producer Buddy Killen. A deal with Epic Records soon followed. The move was perfect fit…the No. 1 hits began pouring out, every one of them written by Pennington and LeMaire. The first, “Woke Up In Love,” topped the country charts in 1984.
Over the next three years, Exile reigned with “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory,” “Give Me One More Chance,” “Crazy For Your Love,” “She’s A Miracle,” “Hang On To Your Heart,” “I Could Get Used To You,” “It’ll Be Me,” “She’s Too Good To Be True” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough.” When it came to light-the-candles-and-warm-the-brandy love songs, Exile was country music’s answer to Barry White.
By the late 1980s, though, the band was suffering from road-weariness. So, one by one, the members peeled off in different musical directions. After a hiatus of several years, during which Pennington and Taylor headed and toured with various permutations of the band, the original members of Exile’s country incarnation reunited in 2008 for what they believed would be a one-time benefit show. But the audience response was so encouraging—and the music still sounded so darn good—that Pennington, Taylor, LeMaire, Hargis and Goetzman decided to regroup and do it all over again.
After 50 years, they certainly know what they’re doing. And the new crowds they’ve attracted know it, too.