Band with roots back to '70s set for Crescent Elk
The familiar lyrics and tight harmonies of the 1970s country rock hit "Amie" ("what you gonna do..."), along with many other original tunes, will fill Crescent Elk Auditorium on Sunday evening.
"We are the 'National Guard' of the country rock world," quipped longtime Pure Prairie League front man and bassist Mike Reilly in a recent telephone interview. "We are a weekend band. We used to play up to 270 shows a year; now we go out only 40 to 50 times a year. We all have day jobs."
Sunday's 7:30 p.m. performance is the season finale for the Del Norte Association for Cultural Awareness.
Pure Prairie League (PPL) had its beginning in the "postage
stamp-sized" town of Waverly, Ohio, in the late 1960s, when a group of
high school students started playing music together.
The original band included Craig Fuller (who penned many of the
group's hits), George Powell, Tom McGrail and John David Call. Their
location informed the band's sound; as Reilly put it, "we were
influenced by the rock 'n' roll of Ohio, the rhythm and blues and soul
of Cincinnati, and the bluegrass and country music of northern Kentucky
and southern Ohio."
In 1970, McGrail came up with the name for the band one night while
watching a 1939 Errol Flynn movie, "Dodge City," in which Pure Prairie
League was the town's temperance society. The band's eponymous
(self-titled) first album was released in March 1972 on the RCA record
label, and was hailed as a major early influence in the emerging
popularity of country-rock music.
"Bustin' Out" (RCA, October 1972), which contained the hit songs
"Falling In and Out of Love with You" and "Amie," went platinum and, due
to popular demand, "Amie" was released as a single in late 1974.
In the 42 years since then, the band has released 12 albums, toured
all over the United States and has had varying and sometimes revolving
membership. Case in point is founding member steel guitar player Call,
who took 30 years off, and just returned full-time in 2010. According to
Reilly, Call is responsible for "one of the defining traits" of the PPL
sound. "He doesn't play like other steel guitarists," noted Reilly. "He
plays like a rock and roll player ... it's visceral. He is an icon for
Another PPL icon starting with the first album is "Sad Luke," the
caricature of a cowpoke created by Norman Rockwell. Luke first appeared
on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in September 1927, and has
appeared on the cover of all of PPL's recordings.
"It was chosen by the staff artistic director at RCA, Acy Lehman,"
recalled Reilly. "We decided to stick with him (Luke) as a logo, so we
licensed it from the Saturday Evening Post, along with the font of our
name. We visited Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, Mass., once, in 1976,"
he continued with a chuckle, "and made him an official 'prairie dog.'"
Among many other past members, including Billy Hinds, Larry Goshorn
and Tim Goshorn, luminaries have included Mike Hamilton and Al Garth
(both from Kenny Loggins' band), and Vince Gill (1978 to 1982) and Gary
Burr (both Country Hall of Famers). The group's third album, "Two Lane
Highway" (1975), featured guest appearances by Chet Atkins, Don Felder
of The Eagles and Emmylou Harris.
After a dormant decade, PPL was back with a lineup of Fuller (who
spent some time playing with Little Feat starting in 1987), Connor (who
died of cancer in 2004), Reilly, Burr, Fats Kaplin and Rick Schell
(vocals, drums, percussion), part of the current foursome. Fuller
retired a year and a half ago, and Donnie Lee Clark (vocals, guitar),
who joined the band in 2006 and is also in the current lineup, has taken
over many of his lead vocals.
Day jobs among the present lineup are eclectic. Reilly manages a
bar and grill for a friend on the east end of Long Island. In Nashville,
Schell is a real estate agent, Clark works at the city's airport, and
Call recently retired after a career in the bio-tech industry, tagging
cancer cells for research.
"This year, we dug out some obscure tunes we haven't played since
the early days, 1972-73-74," said Reilly. "It's fun and keeps the band
sharp, breathing new life into old tunes. We're still cookin' with all
IF YOU GO
andbull; WHAT: Pure Prairie League concert
andbull; WHEN: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
andbull; WHERE: Crescent Elk Auditorium
andbull; TICKETS: $20 apiece, available at Del Norte Office Supply
in Crescent City, Wright's Customer Framing in Brookings and at the door
beginning at 6:45 p.m.
andbull; INFORMATION: Call DNACA, 464-1136