The list of hits written by American pop-soft rock band America is really quite an impressive sight to behold. Starting with their 1971 debut single ‘A Horse With No Name,’ America racked up hit after hit throughout the 1970s. The group that would go on to win the 1972 Grammy Award for best new artist was formed in England by Gerry Buckley, Dan Peek and Dewey Bunnell. Sons of U.S. Air Force officers stationed in the United Kingdom, the trio met while in high school in the late 1960s.
With Peek having exited the band in the late ’70s, Buckley and Bunnell carry on the America name with pride. America perform at Casino New Brunswick on Friday evening.
In July 2011, Buckley and Bunnell unexpectedly lost their former band-mate Dan Peek when he passed away at the age of 60 at his home in Missouri. Dewey says that losing Dan was certainly a shock to both him and Buckley:
‘We hadn’t performed with Dan nor been in touch with him for quite some time, but his passing was still a shock. There was certainly no indication that Dan was in any kind of serious health trouble,’ Dewey says. ‘Like anything and anyone in life, you just settle in thinking that this is the standard that someone will always just be there.’ Dewey says that Dan’s departure from America after the trio’s 1976 record Hideaway was an amicable one.
‘Dan was quite religious and Gerry and I just hadn’t realized it. Dan had become a born-again Christian and wanted to get away from the roughand-tumble lifestyle of being on the road. He had roots in Missouri and ended up settling down there after he had left the band. We had such joyous times with Dan; that is something that both Gerry and I will carry with us.’
Although their recorded output has become somewhat scattered over the course of the last decade, the last two releases from America hold much significance in the group’s already impressive catalogue: 2007’s Here and Now saw Gerry and Dewey team up with producers Adam Schelsinger (Fountains of Wayne) and James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) to deliver one of their strongest releases in recent times. The producers called in some guest musicians who had, in one way or another, been influenced by America.
What was perhaps most remarkable about Here and Now is that, despite the guest stars who contributed, the finished product still sounded very much like America.
‘Here and Now was the perfect example of what happens when you wait around for phone calls; interesting things come of them,’ Dewey says. ‘Even before we worked together on the record, Gerry and I both enjoyed Fountains of Wayne. Gerry and Adam began trading music back and forth. Adam then introduced us to some of the other artists that he was working with which is how a lot of the performers on the record became involved. The common thread running through that record is that it is singer-songwriters appreciating other singer-songwriters.’
On 2011’s Back Pages , Dewey and Gerry delivered an album of cover songs that ran the gamut from Boy Dylan, Neil Young and the Zombies to ’90s acts such as Gin Blossoms and the New Radicals. Dewey says that the idea to make an album of cover songs was something that the record’s producer, Fred Mollin, had been after the duo to pursue for a number of years.
‘Once we started looking at the material we were interested in covering off on Back Pages , the list could have literally gone on forever,’ Dewey says. ‘We really had to narrow our thinking on the project if only to help us narrow down the track listing. There were some Motown and Psychedelic Nuggets that we would have loved to include had there been the space.’
Dewey doesn’t rule out the possibility of America undertaking a second volume of cover songs at some point down the road. For the time being, however, he says that he and Gerry have no immediate plans to head back into the studio.
‘At the present time, we do not have any commitments or any kind of formal relationship with any record label. Needless to say, the recording aspect of being in America has thinned out to say the least in part because the industry itself is so scattered. At the present time, we have nothing on the books in terms of recording this year. As with many previous years, we will continue working on the road.’
Joking that he, Gerry, their backing band and their modest crew are gluttons for travel, America continue to perform between 85 and 100 shows per year. Now in their 43rd year of touring, America routinely performs throughout the United States and Canada, and Dewey says that international work comprises a part of the group’s itinerary each year as well.
Article published in the February 7, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript