The James Gang was a rock band formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1966. The band enjoyed moderate success with the singles "Funk #49" and "Walk Away", and are perhaps best remembered as the first band to feature guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh, later a member of The Eagles.
The James Gang's earliest lineups consisted of drummer Jim Fox, bassist Tom Kriss, guitarist Ronnie Silverman, keyboardist Phil Giallombardo and guitarist Greg Grandillo, who was quickly replaced by Dennis Chandler. Bill Jeric replaced Silverman when he entered the military. After Chandler left, the group featured local guitar legend Glen Schwartz. However, no recordings were ever released by any of these early lineups of the band.
In early 1968 Joe Walsh replaced Schwartz after Schwartz had left the band the previous month to move to California, where he ended up forming Pacific Gas & Electric. The band continued as a five piece for a short time until Giallombardo left. Jeric and Walsh worked together on guitar parts but Jeric ended up leaving as well in the spring of 1968. He was then replaced by a returning Ronnie Silverman, who had been discharged from the military.
In May 1968, the group played a concert in Detroit at Motown's 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 March 1969 the band, now consisting of Fox, Kriss and Walsh, released its debut LP, Yer' Album.
The group's producer, Bill Szymczyk, was music coordinator for the 1971 George Englund movie Zachariah, 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 was brought in as a means of allowing Walsh to focus on his guitar playing. Weiss, however, 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 was replaced by Dale Peters. In July 1970 the band released its second album James Gang Rides Again, which included the popular single "Funk #49". The band opened for The Who during a tour of the United Kingdom.
After two more albums, 1971's Thirds and the live album James Gang Live in Concert released later that same year, Walsh left the band to form 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. Troiano left the band in 1973 and would subsequently join The Guess Who. He was replaced by future Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin, who appeared on two albums, Bang! and Miami. The popularity of Bolin's previous band Zephyr temporarily revived the James Gang's popularity, though they were never again as big a concert attraction as they had been during Walsh's tenure. Bolin ended up leaving the Gang in 1974 to join Deep Purple.
Scottish guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was approached as Bolin's replacement, though he elected to remain with Paul McCartney & Wings. By early 1975, Fox and Peters decided to try again with a new lineup that included vocalist Bubba Keith and guitarist Richard Shack. 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. Ultimately, none of the post-Walsh lineups achieved the level of success enjoyed in their heyday. Drummer Fox was the only remaining member of the original band when James Gang finally disbanded early in 1977.
The "classic" lineup of the band consisting of Walsh, Peters, and Fox reunited 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. In the summer of 2005 the group performed another handful of shows in the Cleveland area.
- Yer' Album (March 1969)
- James Gang Rides Again (July 1970)
- Thirds (April 1971)
- Straight Shooter (1972)
- Passin' Thru (1972)
- Bang (December 1973)
- Miami (August 1974)
- Newborn (May 1975)
- Jesse Come Home (February 1976)
- James Gang Live in Concert (December 1971)
- The Best Of Featuring Joe Walsh (January 1973)
- 16 Greatest Hits (December 1973)
Rock Band music gaming platform
The song "Funk #49" was made available to download on Dec. 30, 2008 for use in the Rock Band music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode which takes advantage of the use of a real guitar / bass guitar, along with standard MIDI-compatible electronic drum kits.
- Wolff, Carlo (2006). Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-886228-99-3
- James Gang website
- IMDb James Gang
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Image from Discogs