"Its the music that really matters to us and it always been the music thats made the difference," say Shenandoah drummer and co-founder Mike McGuire. When McGuire and guitarist Jim Seales started a band in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1984 they never dreamed their dedication to great music would lead them down such a long and illustrious road. By late 1985 they had added bassist Ralph Ezell, keyboardist Stan Thorn and a struggling bluegrass singer named Marty Raybon to the mix and were confident they had the winning combination theyd been looking for.
Utilizing their success as studio musicians and songwriters, Seales and McGuire teamed up with world famous producer Rick Hall and writer/producer Robert Byrne to record seven songs with the band hoping to get a record deal in Nashville. It didnt take long. Columbia was the first.
Label to hear the innovation music and signed the band on the spot and sent them back to the studio to finish their first album. The rest, as they say, is history.
Always embracing the future and never afraid of change, the band scored 5 number one records including "Church on Cumberland Road", "Sunday in the South", and "Next to You Next to Me", then moved from Columbia to RCA records in 1993 and hit again with 4 more number ones including "If Bubba Can Dance" and "I Want to Be Loved Like That." They replaced Thorn with successful writer/keyboardist Stan Munsey and in 1996 the band lured by legend Jimmy Bowen to Capitol Records and they hired close friend and former Randy Travis bassist Rocky Thacker to replace the departing Ezell. It was during this period that Shenandoahs lives shows took on an exciting new dimension and the band produced more charts toppers like "Janie Bakers Love Slave", and the Grammy winner, "Somewhere In The Vicinity of the Heart."
Some acts would have played it safe after establishing themselves as a successful country "Supergroup" and winning a CMA award, TNN and ACM group of the yea accolades, and the much coveted Grammy, but not these guys. With eleven number one songs, countless chart hits, Gold albums, and a reputation as one of the hardest working tour acts in the business, this band is still evolving, taking chances, and striving for the musical perfection and performances that have made them radio and concert favorites around the country.
Shenandoah was again hungry for new musical ground when singer Marty Raybon announced he was leaving the band at the end of 1997. Seales and McGuire immediately called an old friend who had played a vital role throughout Shenandoahs career, a friend they had wanted to work with for years. Curtis Wright had penned several songs for the band including the number #1 hits "Rock My Baby" and radio favorite "Next to You Next to Me." The guys had long admired Wrights vocal talents with the recording duo Orrall and Wright and his recording work as background vocalist for Tim McGraw, Tracy Lawrence, Clay Walker, and countless other major country acts. "Man, weve wanted to work with Curtis for years," says McGuire. "Not only is he my favorite country singer but Ive always loved his writing, that boy can write hit songs!"
Wrights busy writing and recording schedule prohibited him joining the band right away so the guys auditioned several singers and headed for the studio searching for "the new sound." As destiny would have it, a passed and after several recording several recording sessions neither Seales nor McGuire were satisfied. As Seales says, "the singers were good, as was the music, but there just wasnt that special spark we were looking for. We wanted to use this chance to create something fresh and different, something that would set Nashville and country radio on its ear." The two Shenandoah pioneers were re1ucntantly ready to put Shenandoah on the shelf when in early 1999 Curtis Wright called to say the time was right and he was ready to make music.
The new trio wasted no time, they began writing songs and hitting the studio they knew they had all three found exactly what they were looking for. "I feel like Im home", says native Pennsylvanian Wright. "Ive been on the road with some great band and entertained country fans around the country, Ive watched my songs climb the charts to number one and worked studio with some of the biggest acts in country music .its been exciting and Ive certainly enjoyed it, but I gotta tell you, theres a special chemistry with the new Shenandoah that I have never felt before." With a smile he adds, "you know sometimes you do something and it just feels really right. Well this is definitely one of those things, this band is smoking and were writing hit songs and ready to hit the road to give country music fans something to shout about!"
After hearing the latest recording project from the band Shelby Kennedy of Lyricstreet records just smiled and said, "these guys have reinvented themselves again! This material is fresh, original and just what country radio needs." Its impressive, but not surprising, that this trio is one of the few acts that actually write their own material, play and sing in their records and produce hit albums with little outside help. Proof positive that to Shenandoah, the music really does matter.
Theres a new buzz on music row in Nashville these days and the buzz is;
"SHENANDOAH IS BACK, AND BACK WITH VENGEANCE!"