The James Gang was a rock band formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1966. Though the band was not a huge commercial success, except in the Northeast Ohio area, the fame garnered by guitarist Joe Walsh has since made the group more notable.
The original band members were 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 military service. After Chandler left, the group featured local guitar legend Glen Schwartz. However, none of the early line-ups released any material.
In January 1968, while also playing lead guitar for the Kent, Ohio band, Mary and the Measles, 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 to become involved in other pursuits. 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 service.
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. After discovering that they liked their sound as a threesome, the group decided to remain that way. In March 1969 the band (now consisting of Fox, Kriss and Walsh) released its debut LP, Yer' Album.
Later in 1969, the group's producer, Bill Szymczyk, was music coordinator for the movie Zachariah, a sort of "western rock musical" based on the novel Siddhartha by writer Hermann Hesse, directed by George Englund and co-written by Joe Massot and the Firesign Theater comedy group. He got the James Gang into the movie as performers and two new songs, "Laguna Salada" and "Country Fever", were recorded for the film. At the time of the songs' recording, a new singer/frontman, Kenny Weiss, was brought in, allowing Walsh to concentrate on his guitar playing. Weiss sang lead on "Country Fever" but was gone by the time the group flew down to Mexico to appear in the movie. "Laguna Salada" and "Country Fever" later reappeared as extra tracks on a 2000 re-release of 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, Thirds (released in April 1971 and featuring the popular single "Walk Away" and apparently missing a jam with Little Richard, titled "But I Try", copyrighted that year but released 41 years later - June 2012) and the live album James Gang Live in Concert (December 1971), Walsh left the band (in late 1971) to embark on a solo career. Vocalist Roy Kenner and guitarist Domenic Troiano then joined the band for the next two albums, Passin' Thru (July 1972) and Straight Shooter (October 1972). But Troiano left in 1973 and ended up joining The Guess Who in 1974. He was replaced by Tommy Bolin (ex-Zephyr). Bolin appeared on two albums, Bang! and Miami, and his presence as an already popular guitarist figure temporarily bolstered the band'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 late August 1974 and went on to join Deep Purple by 1975.
By early 1975, Fox and Peters decided to try again with a new lineup that included vocalist Bubba Keith and guitarist Richard Shack who made an album, Newborn, featuring an Elvis Presley cover, "Heartbreak Hotel". Scottish guitarist Jimmy McCulloch had been approached to join the new lineup as well. But in the end, he elected to stay with Paul McCartney & Wings. The band released a final recording, Jesse Come Home, in February 1976, which referred to the band's namesake, the outlaw Jesse James, with the collaboration of early member Phil Giallombardo, who rejoined along with new guitarist/vocalist Bob Webb. But none of the post-Walsh lineups achieved the level of success they briefly enjoyed while Walsh was a member. Fox was the only remaining member of the original quintet when they disbanded early in 1977.
The "classic" lineup of the band (Walsh, Peters, Fox) reunited to perform at an election rally for 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.
As of May 2004, Glenn Schwartz was playing guitar and singing Thursday nights at "Major Hooples" in the Flats, Cleveland.
In April 2006, it was announced that the Walsh, Peters, Fox lineup of the group would be touring the United States later that summer, featuring a keyboardist and backing vocalists. The trio appeared in August performing live on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio.
- Yer' Album (March 1969)
- James Gang Rides Again (July 1970)
- Thirds (April 1971)
- Passin' Thru (July 1972)
- Straight Shooter (October 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
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Image from Discogs