September 8 – Daughtry The Dean Of Southern Rock Keyboards

Happy birthday to one of Southern Rock’s longest-standing and under-rated musicians, Dean Daughtry. The Alabaman keyboardist turns 75 today. Daughtry is the only original member of the Atlanta Rhythm Section still playing. What’s more, he was a member of both bands that essentially merged to form ARS – the Candymen and Classics IV.

He grew up in a household that listened to a lot of Gospel music and that influenced his piano playing, which was good enough as a youth to earn him a music scholarship to college. By then he was listening to, and admiring Ray Charles both for his playing and his songwriting skills. Sometime not long after finishing school, back in his hometown of Dothan, he joined the Candymen, a band which recorded a few of their own songs but were best known for backing Roy Orbison on tour. Doing that, they ran into quite a few other stars of course, one such occurrence leading to Dean playing with the Yardbirds on an Australian TV performance in the ’60s. The Candymen never became a household name… except in their Alabama city, which has a large mural downtown featuring Dean playing his beloved Wurlitzer.

Along the way he also joined Classics IV who had a couple of big soft-rock hits in the late ’60s like “Traces” and “Stormy.” After both of those bands disintegrated, the main players operated Studio One in metro Atlanta, being both the house band and the operators at the studio that was a second home to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and also hosted Starbuck, 38 Special and other southern stars during the ’70s. He became friends with many, including Gregg Allman. He told an interviewer recently he and Gregg were “pretty good friends. When he left Cher, he came and stayed with me for a couple of weeks. He’d be up drinking at eight o’clock in the morning…he’d bring me up some and I’d say ‘Gregg, I can’t drink Jack Daniels and water this early!’”.

Of course, Daughtry along with the likes of Buddy Buie, Robert Nix, and J.R. Cobb were talented enough to not want to be constrained by recording other people’s music, so they formed Atlanta Rhythm Section at their studio in 1972. As their biographer William Moseley points out, “they succeeded with a new concept, of exceptional studio musicians forming their own band, writing and recording their own songs.” Toto did it on the West coast later in the decade, but ARS set the blueprint. Being studio musicians made them something of perfectionists with their own records, which Daughtry says sometimes had them nicknamed “the Steely Dan of the South. It’s quite a compliment.” So too was being called to play at the White House for Jimmy Carter, whose daughter was a big fan. Daughtry’s keyboards set them apart from many of their contemporaries and he further shaped their sound by co-writing a number of their songs including hits like “So Into You”, “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight” and “Imaginary Lover.”

Daughtry is still with the Atlanta Rhythm Section, who report “the band is extremely eager to get back to performing regularly and one again spending time with all our friends on the road.”

11 thoughts on “September 8 – Daughtry The Dean Of Southern Rock Keyboards

    1. Seems like. I used to regret that I didn’t try to track down that studio in Doraville when I was in Atlanta, but since then I found that it was long-closed and is now a small warehouse in an anonymous looking commercial plaza, so wouldn’t have been anything to see as it turns out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        The man was in a lot of history…on youtube they show a studio in the 90s or early 2000s that was being torn down…I forgot which one it was…but get this…it was where a lot of the southern acts recorded…they found an original drawing on the wall that LS road manager (he was killed in the plane crash) drew that ended up in a double album gateway fold…some historical stuff….oh it was in 1999… here it is…it’s kinda interesting

        Liked by 1 person

      2. hmm, the link isn’t showing up here – wordpress oddity I’ve mentioned before – but I’ll look at it on my phone later. I bet those studios would all be full of amazing little bits of music history.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. thanks for posting that! I just started watching it, the audio was a little indistinct on the phone so I’m going to try and call up the video on YT by itself and give it a real viewing. From the little bit I saw, the surroundings don’t look like the photo I saw of Studio 1 but with so much Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special stuff in there, it could well be since that seemed to be the studio of choice for both. Wouldn’t it be cool to get to go through a place like that ?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. badfinger20 (Max)

        It would have been great to be there. That drawing on the wall is what they used for the album art…that should be in the rock and roll hall of fame…what a find….but it was crumbling.

        Liked by 1 person

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