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The James Gang was an American rock band formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1966. The band went through a variety of line-up changes until they recorded their first album as a power trio consisting of Joe Walsh (guitars, lead vocals), Tom Kriss (bass) and Jim Fox (drums). Dale Peters replaced Kriss on bass for the band's second and third albums. The band had two hit songs, "Funk #49" and "Walk Away", which continue to be popular on classic rock and AOR stations. In 1972, Walsh left to pursue a solo career and would later join the Eagles. The band continued on with a variety of other guitarists and lead singers to replace Walsh, but failed to produce a hit song over the course of six more studio albums and broke up in 1977. Various incarnations have reformed for several reunions since then.
James Gang in 1970; left to right: Joe Walsh, Dale Peters, Jim Fox
|Origin||Cleveland, Ohio, United States|
(reunions: 1991, 1996, 1998, 2001)
|Past members||Jim Fox|
John "Mouse" Michalski
Drummer Jim Fox first played with the Cleveland-area band The Outsiders but left them in 1965 to attend college. After they had a national hit the following year with "Time Won't Let Me", Fox returned temporarily to play with them after their drummer was drafted. After leaving them again to return to school, Fox, heavily influenced by the sound of British Invasion bands such as The Beatles, The Who and The Yardbirds, began to think about forming his own band and teamed up with schoolmate Ronnie Silverman (guitar), bassist Tom Kriss and keyboardist Phil Giallombardo in 1966.
The James Gang's earliest lineup consisted of drummer Fox, Kriss (bass), Silverman (guitar), Giallombardo (vocals, keyboards), and after auditioning some twenty five candidates for lead guitar, the band decided to go with Greg Grandillo, who later played with another popular Cleveland band Rainbow Canyon. He was soon replaced by Dennis Chandler, who was then succeeded by John "Mouse" Michalski who, with the Count Five, had just enjoyed a national hit with "Psychotic Reaction".
A short time later, Fox was invited to audition for a nine piece rhythm and blues band that was being assembled. Fox initially declined the offer but changed his mind when he heard that local guitar legend Glenn Schwartz, who was fresh out of the army, was to be in attendance. After hearing Schwartz play, and hearing that two of his influences were the Spencer Davis Group and Jeff Beck, Fox was impressed and invited Schwartz to join the James Gang. However, Michalski was not as enthused by Glenn's playing as Fox and left the band immediately. Ronnie Silverman soon departed as well to enter the military. Bill Jeric was then brought in to play alongside Schwartz. Unfortunately, no recordings were ever released by any of these early lineups of the band.
Around Christmastime of 1967, Schwartz, who turned out to be AWOL from the army and was breaking up with his wife, decided to leave the band and move to California, where he ended up forming the band Pacific Gas & Electric.
Just days later, shortly after the new year of 1968, a friend of Schwartz's, Joe Walsh (from a band called The Measles), knocked on Fox's door and asked to be given a tryout as Glenn's replacement. Walsh was accepted and the band continued as a five piece for a short time until Giallombardo, who was still in high school at the time, left. Jeric and Walsh worked together on guitar parts but, in the spring of 1968, Jeric ended up leaving as well. He was replaced by a returning Ronnie Silverman, who had been discharged from the military.
On Sunday June 9, 1968 the group played a concert in Detroit at the Grande Ballroom opening for Cream. At the last minute, Silverman informed the others that he would not be joining them at the show. The band, desperately in need of the money, took to the stage as a trio. They liked their sound as a threesome and decided to remain that way.
In 1968 the band signed with manager Mark Barger, who was handling the career of a fellow Ohio band, The Lemon Pipers, who had just scored a big hit with "Green Tambourine". Barger put the Gang in touch with ABC Records staff producer Bill Szymczyk, who got them signed to ABC's new Bluesway Records subsidiary in January 1969.
Later in 1969, Szymczyk was music coordinator for the George Englund movie Zachariah (which was eventually released in 1971), based on the novel Siddhartha by writer Hermann Hesse. Szymczyk arranged for the band to appear in the movie, with two James Gang songs, "Laguna Salada" and "Country Fever", also being used. For the recording of these two songs, vocalist Kenny Weiss, a friend of Fox's, was brought in to allow Walsh to focus on his guitar playing. However, Weiss was gone by the time the group arrived in Mexico to film their scenes in the movie. "Laguna Salada" and "Country Fever" later reappeared as bonus tracks on the 2000 re-release of The James Gang Greatest Hits.
In November 1969 bassist Tom Kriss left the band after his father, George, was diagnosed with lung cancer after he had worked for Alcoa for years, where he was likely exposed to various industrial carcinogens involved in the production of aluminum. Kriss was replaced by Dale Peters, who was brought in from another group called Case of E.T. Hooley.
In 1969 Roger Abramson went to JB's, a small club in Kent, Ohio, and advised Belkin Productions to start a Management division with the James Gang and the band Silk, which included Michael Stanley.
In July 1970 the band released its second album, James Gang Rides Again, which included the popular single "Funk #49."
In the spring of 1970, Belkin Productions arranged for the band to open for The Who for six dates during a US tour and their guitarist Pete Townshend was so impressed with them he invited the band to open for him on their fall tour of the United Kingdom. Townshend and Joe Walsh then started a long friendship with Pete telling Rolling Stone that Joe was the best American guitar player. In January 1971 they appeared on Top of the Pops in the United Kingdom.
In July 1971 the Gang returned to tour Europe. During their heyday, the band also shared the stage with artists like: Grand Funk Railroad, Kinks, Humble Pie, Three Dog Night, Led Zeppelin and many more.
But after two more albums, 1971's Thirds, and the live album James Gang Live in Concert released later that same year, Walsh, who was tired of the pressure of doing the lion's share of the writing and singing and being the lone melodic instrument in the trio, left the band in December 1971. He relocated to the mountains of Colorado and eventually formed Barnstorm.
Peters and Fox carried on with vocalist Roy Kenner and guitarist Domenic Troiano (both ex-members of the Canadian band Bush) for two albums, Straight Shooter and Passin' Thru, both released in 1972. But in recent interviews, Fox stated that things did not work out musically with Troiano as hoped, so Troiano left the band in 1973 and would subsequently join The Guess Who.
Troiano was replaced by future Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin after Joe Walsh called to recommend him to the band. Bolin joined the band in August 1973 and appeared on two albums, Bang! and Miami, that saw the band moving from ABC Records over to Atlantic Records' Atco label.
During the recording of Miami in 1974, Kenner ran into legal troubles after a drug bust and was not available initially for recording. Other singers were reportedly auditioned but eventually Kenner was able to return to complete the album. After the record's release, a disillusioned Bolin suddenly decided to leave. He left to work with Dr. John and Alphonse Mouzon and attempted to form another group with future Crosby, Stills and Nash keyboardist Mike Finnigan before accepting the offer from Deep Purple in 1975.
After Bolin's departure, Kenner was also dismissed and the band went over to England to look for a new guitar player. Jimmy McCulloch (ex-Thunderclap Newman) expressed interest in joining but was committed to Paul McCartney's Wings. The group returned home dejected.
By early 1975, Fox and Peters decided to try again with a new lineup that included Fox's old friends, vocalist Bubba Keith, who had been playing out in LA with a band called Uncle Tom and guitarist Richard Shack who had previously played in the band Case of E.T. Hoolie with Peters. This lineup recorded the album Newborn, which featured a cover of the Elvis Presley staple "Heartbreak Hotel”.
The band released a final recording, Jesse Come Home, in February 1976, which featured the return of early member Phil Giallombardo, who rejoined along with new guitarist/vocalist Bob Webb (who, like Joe Walsh, had played in the group The Measles).
Ultimately, none of the post-Walsh lineups achieved the level of success enjoyed in their early 70s heyday. Drummer Fox was the only remaining member of the original band when James Gang finally disbanded early in 1977.
In a 1998 Chris Welch interview, Fox talks of the Gang's final years and the breakup: "It became a quest to find a suitable replacement for Joe Walsh. We'd try some guys and do an album or two, but it wasn't quite what we wanted and so we'd move on to something else in the hope of recapturing the old spirit. Some of the albums were good but we were always looking to find that particular thing we had with Joe and I don't think we ever found it again. So, after all those changes, Dale and I just talked one day and said 'Enough's enough'. That's when we decided to let it go. I never aspired to start another band. Instead I decided to take six months off and see what happened. If John Lennon called I'd see about it. That was my attitude. I wasn't looking to start up again."
After James Gang broke up, Fox was involved for a time with the Belkin management firm, who handled the affairs for artists like Michael Stanley Band, Wild Cherry and Donnie Iris. As for other latter day Gang members, Bubba Keith went on to play for England Dan & John Ford Coley and was later the lead vocalist for Point Blank, while Bob Webb played in Jay Ferguson's band.
The "classic" lineup of the band consisting of Walsh, Peters and Fox first reunited in July 1991 at Nautica Pavilion in Cleveland when Fox and Peters took to the stage during a Walsh concert to play three songs. The trio then gathered together again to perform at an election rally for President Bill Clinton at the Cleveland State University Convocation Center on November 4, 1996. They also appeared on The Drew Carey Show in the 1998-99 season and at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Allen Theater in Cleveland for three shows in February 2001, joined by keyboardist Mark Avsec (ex-Wild Cherry and Donnie Iris & the Cruisers). And in the summer of 2005, the group performed another handful of shows (joined again by Avsec) in the Cleveland area.
As of May 2004 Glenn Schwartz was playing guitar and singing Thursday nights at "Major Hooples" in the Flats, Cleveland. And as of 2014, Schwartz continued to perform at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. Schwartz died on November 3, 2018, at the age of 77.
In April 2006 it was announced that the Walsh/Peters/Fox lineup of the group would be touring the United States later that summer, supported by keyboardist Bill Appleberry and backing vocalists Gia Ciambetti, Robbyn Kirmsse and Stacy Michelle. During this summer tour, the band appeared in August performing live on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio.
In March 2012 it was stated on ultimateclassicrock.com that Walsh was in the Cleveland-area Lava Room Recording Studios with Fox and Peters, working on new recordings of their well-known James Gang tracks, with longtime friends Joe Vitale and Michael Stanley contributing. Since this time, however, nothing more has been heard about this, probably due to Walsh's ongoing busy schedule with the Eagles.
|Year||Name||US Top 200||Notes|
|1970||James Gang Rides Again||20||RIAA: Gold|
|1976||Jesse Come Home||109|
|Year||Name||US Top 200||Notes|
|1971||James Gang Live in Concert||24||RIAA: Gold|
|Year||Name||US Top 200||Notes|
|1973||The Best Of ... featuring Joe Walsh||79|
|1973||16 Greatest Hits||181|
|1969||"I Don't Have the Time"||—||Yer' Album|
|1970||"Funk #49"||59||James Gang Rides Again|
|1972||"Looking for My Lady"||108||Straight Shooter|
|"Had Enough"||111||Passin' Thru|
|1973||"Must Be Love"||54||Bang|
|"Got No Time for Trouble"||—|
|1974||"Standing in the Rain"||101|
|"Cruisin' Down the Highway"||122*||Miami|
U.S. charts are Billboard unless otherwise noted. * Record World Singles Chart.
- Joe Walsh – vocals, guitars, percussion, keyboards (1968–1971, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2006)
- Jim Fox – drums, percussion (1966–1977, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2006)
- Dale Peters – bass guitar, percussion, vocals (1969–1977, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2006)
- Greg Grandillo – guitar (1966)
- Ronnie Silverman – guitar (1966–1967, 1968)
- Dennis Chandler – guitar (1966)
- John "Mouse" Michalski – guitar (1966)
- Glenn Schwartz – guitar (1966–1967)
- Bill Jeric – guitar (1967–1968)
- Tom Kriss – bass guitar, percussion, vocals (1966–1969)
- Phil Giallombardo – keyboards, vocals (1966–1968, 1976–1977)
- Kenny Weiss – vocals (1969)
- Domenic Troiano – guitars, backing vocals (1971–1973)
- Roy Kenner – vocals, harmonica, percussion (1971–1974)
- Tommy Bolin – guitars, synthesizer, vocals (1973–1974)
- Richard Shack – guitars, vocals (1975–1976)
- Bubba Keith – guitars, vocals (1975–1976)
- Bob Webb – guitars, vocals (1976–1977)
- Mark Avsec – keyboards (2001, 2005)
- Bill Appleberry – keyboards, synthesizers (2006)
- Gia Ciambetti – backing vocals (2006)
- Robbyn Kirmsse – backing vocals (2006)
- Stacy Michelle – backing vocals (2006)
- "RS#181: Joe Walsh". The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe.
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- Giles, Jeff; Wardlaw, Matt (August 28, 2015). "James Gang Look Back on 'Rides Again' at 45: Exclusive Interview". Ultimateclassicrock.com. Diffuser Network. Archived from the original on March 9, 2017. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
- "iTunes – Music – The James Gang Greatest Hits by James Gang". Itunes.apple.com. 2000-05-02. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- Herdt, John. "JIM FOX INTERVIEW 2013". Tbolin.com. Tommy Bolin Archives. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- "James Gang reunion - Cleveland, Ohio, 1991". YouTube. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- "Joe Walsh Pictures". Nysse.com. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- "Cleveland musician Glenn Schwartz dies at 77". Wkyc.com. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
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