Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/30/2019

A number of Americans who were subject to the draft during the Vietnam War evaded it by moving to Canada. One of the most prominent draft evaders was Jesse Winchester. He was not pleased when his draft notice arrived, and in 1967 he moved to Quebec. Once there, he initially joined a local band. After a while, he began singing and writing songs and appearing as a solo act. Canadian Robbie Robertson (who later formed The Band) caught Jesse’s act and began working with him on Jesse’s first album in 1970. Several more albums followed. While Jesse got airplay in Canada, since he was unable to tour in the US his records failed to cross the border.

Russell Smith, Jeff Davis, Butch McDade were members of Fatback, a rock group that was formed in Knoxville in the late sixties.

When Jesse decided to expand to a band, he recruited David McDade and Jeff Davis and created Jesse Winchester and the Rhythm Aces. Somehow Jesse decided to record two of the songs that Russell had written on his next album, and Russell moved to Canada to help out. He ended up joining the Rhythm Aces and touring with Jesse for a brief period. One of the songs on Jesse’s album was written by Russell, Third Rate Romance.

Engineer and producer Barry Burton convinced Russell, David, and Butch to move to Memphis and recruited Billy Earheart III and James Hooker and a new group was born in 1972: The Amazing Rhythm Aces. It’s pretty clear how they came up with the name.

It took until 1974 for the group to complete and release their first album, Stacked Deck. The first single from the album was a new version of Third Rate Romance. The group’s Canadian roots seemed to help; the record reached number one on the Candian chart and also topped the Canadian Country chart. The single also hit #11 on the US Country chart and, more amazingly, got as high as #14 on the Hot 100 in 1975. Two more singles did well on the US Country chart, but their crossover to pop was over after just one hit.

The group won a Grammy award in 1976 for BEST COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP for The End Is Not In Sight (The Cowboy Tune).

Barry left the group in 1977 and was replaced by Duncan Cameron. After future success as a group seemed unlikely, the group completely disbanded by 1978.

Russell released a few solo records, but his real success came as a songwriter. He eventually wrote four number one Country singles for four different artists.

Barry continued producing other groups and doing session work as a guitar player.

Billy joined Hank Williams Jr.’s band, Cameron became a member of Sawyer Brown, and James became the leader of The Blue Moon Orchestra, Nanci Griffith’s backup band.

Sammy Kershaw covered Third Rate Romance in 1994 and his version reached #2 on the Country chart and #66 on the Hot 100. The video for his single put a slightly different spin on the ending.

Perhaps inspired by Sammy’s success, some members of the Amazing Rhythm Aces reformed the group in 1994 and continued recording new music through 2007.


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