Craig Fuller began singing in a group in Ohio in 1969. The 1939 Errol Flynn film Dodge City had a women’s temperance group named the Pure Prairie League, and the band took that name for itself.
The group performed country-rock music. They secured a record deal with RCA Records in 1970. Their first album did not sell well.
Their second album was Bustin’ Out. Craig wrote most of the songs on the album, played guitar, and sang lead. In addition, guitarist Mick Ronson worked on their album in between his projects with David Bowie. Mick did some guitar work, some backup vocals, and arranged the strings.
The group released the album in 1972. Sales were slow, and the record failed to chart, so RCA dropped the group.
Craig was arrested for draft evasion. The government prosecuted his case, and he claimed conscientious objector status. He was briefly imprisoned and then sentenced to work for two years at a hospital. His troubles with the government left him unable to continue with the band. Michael Reilly joined the group as their new lead vocalist and bass player. The group continued touring, mostly in the Midwest.
Because of their touring, by late 1974 college radio stations and album-oriented rock stations in the Midwest began playing songs from Bustin’ Out. The most notable cuts finding airplay were two songs that were back-to-back on the album that featured intertwined lyrics: Falling In and Out of Love and Amie. The pair of songs ran about six and a half minutes, which was much too long for AM radio. RCA resigned the band and edited down a single version of Amie that was only two minutes and thirty-seven seconds and released it. The result was a record that reached #27 on the Hot 100 and #20 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
The band released five more albums that each sold a modest number of records.
The band lost its last original member in 1978, and several other members also left to form their own band. The band held auditions to recruit new members. One man who auditioned had played in the bluegrass band Mountain Smoke, a group that had opened for Pure Prairie League before they had any success. They hired him as their new lead singer, and he remained with the group for three albums. After that, Vince Gill departed for a successful solo career that didn’t really take off until the nineties. While he was with the group, they reached the top ten on the Hot 100 one time and had a few more top forty singles.
The band released a few more albums after Vince left, but by the early eighties, they existed solely as a touring group.
The band completely disbanded for a decade beginning in 1988. Craig and Michael recruited a few old members and several new members, and the group began touring again on a more permanent basis. Time and deaths have resulted in more changes in the group’s membership. They maintain a website at https://pureprairieleague.com/
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