Thirty years ago, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama , Marty Raybon (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Ralph Ezell (bass guitar, backing vocals), Stan Thorn (keyboards, backing vocals), Jim Seales (lead guitar, backing vocals), and Mike McGuire (drums, background vocals) came together to form Shenandoah. Over the course of time, Shenandoah became one of the mainstays of country music. Together, they released nine studio albums, of which two have been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The band has also charted twenty-six singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including the Number One hits "The Church on Cumberland Road," "Sunday in the South" and "Two Dozen Roses" from 1989, "Next to You, Next to Me" from 1990, and "If Bubba Can Dance (I Can Too)" from 1994. The late 1994-early 1995 single "Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart," which featured guest vocals from Alison Krauss, won both artists a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Last year, the group released their first Gospel release, Good News Travels Fast, on the Daywind Roots label. The band's signature sound, as well as Raybon's unmistakable vocals, seamlessly lend themselves to eleven songs of faith, redemption and familiar southern Sundays. We are honored to catch up with Marty Raybon for this exclusive interview.
Q: Congratulations on celebrating the 30th anniversary of Shenandoah. Let's take a trip back, how did Shenandoah begin? Why did you choose the name Shenandoah?
The name Shenandoah was actually given to us by the Rick Hall, which was the gentlemen we had a production deal with at the time. Along with the Record label's head and CEO Rick Blackburn at (CBS) Columbia.
Q: When you first had your first #1 hit with "The Church on Cumberland Road," what was initial reaction? Did you envisage Shenandoah would have had such a long career?
We had seen growth before "Church on Cumberland Road" became a number one record. We had kinda been working in an upward movement with a top 10 record "She Dosen't Cry Anymore" as well as a Top 5 record with "Mama Knows". I'm not sure at that time we were thinking of a 30 year run.
We were in the mode of trying to find great songs for another Cd. To make what was the foundation a stronger building. They've always said in the music business your only as big as your last hit. I'm not sure I believe that completely, because people, our fans have been very loyal and the reason for our success.
Q: Even in your early days, many of the songs have a Christian slant to it. And what I love about your songs is that they are filled with great moral stories. Was it purposeful that you chose songs with a religious/moral content?
We did make a conscious effort to look for songs that had something to say that was more positive. The Lord in all our life's from our youth was always important. We pasts on a few songs that the Record label, believe would be a smash for us. But the story line in the Lyrics were things we just didn't want to promote. Drinking, Cheating and Partying that just didn't fit who we were personally.
Q: Over the last 30 years in the career of Shenandoah, what were some of the highlights for you?
We have been very fortunate to celebrate a lot of wonderful things over the past 30 years. To name a few would be, our first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, our first time being on TNN's Ralph Emory show. Winning the Grammy Award, the number one singles. The Brotherhood we shared through the years.
Q: And what were some of the lows or disappointments for you and the group?
I would have to say the death of Ralph Ezell our bass player was not only our lowest low. But, it was a tremendous disappointment to realize what we all had started together, we couldn't finish together.
Q: Over the years you have had so many hits as well as great album cuts. If I have to pick my favorite three, they would be "Ghost in This House," "Moon Over Georgia," and "There Ain't No Beverly Hills in Tennessee." What would be yours and why?
Not all of the songs you record on a cd gets to be a single. So that will leave album cuts that you wish would have been. On the CD "The Road Not Taken" I always believe that could have been a big record, at that time in our career I felt that was in our wheel house. But the Label wanted to move on to another project we had ready to go.
Q: Last year, you released "Good News Travel Fast," which we gave it a great review. Why did you decide to release a Gospel record?
We had done a few Gospel tunes on other cd's we'd released before. But had never done an entire Gospel cd. " Good News Travels Fast" was something we had wanted to do for sometime, we were very excited when Day Wind Records had approach us to do it.
Q: Is this a one off Gospel album one off? Are is there another one in the pipeline?
We hope, from the success so far from this project we can get in the studio to do another one. Shooting for a 2019 release of a new one. This is very important us.
Q: What's next for Shenandoah? And what are your goals for the next 30 years?
We have in the works right now for a 2017 cd. That will be celebrating our "30 year anniversary Tour" in the fall. We truly enjoy what we do, it's changed our life's and with the right songs and love of the music. Our prayers are that we can change others life's as well.
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