Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

America relives glory days

Classic folk rock band America will be celebrating their 40th anniversary at the Calvin Theater tonight, Friday Oct. 15. After a 10-day hiatus since a private concert in San Diego, Calif., America will take the stage at 8 p.m. in Northampton to what is likely to be a full house.

Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and former member Dan Peek met each other on an American military base in England in the 60s, according to “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits.” They originally came together to form a band called the Daze, but changed it to America after seeing the name on a jukebox.

Famous Billboard journalist Fred Bronson wrote, “The name America meant more than the logo on a jukebox to them, it was their homeland – even if it was a place they hadn’t lived in for very long.”

In 1971, the trio began its now forty-year-long journey riding “A Horse With No Name,” the hit song that the band is still most well-known for today. The track was a part of their self-titled first album, “America,” which almost immediately won over both their home nation as well as the British one the band was founded in. The album found a home on the United States Billboard charts for forty weeks and was number one for five. On March 25, 1972, “A Horse With No Name” was the U.S. Billboard’s number one single. While not nearly as popular today, “I Need You” also found its way into the Top 10 off their debut album.

One year later, the folk rockers released their second album, “Homecoming,” which featured another top-10 track with “Ventura Highway.” The song, while still popular as a whole, is known mainly for the famous guitar riff, which was used in Janet Jackson’s 2001 song, “Someone to Call My Lover.”

Their quick success led to quick recognition, and in 1973, America won the Grammy Award as the Best New Artist of 1972.

It was not until their 1974 “Holiday” album, which featured “Tin Man” and “Lonely People,” that the band found its way back onto the charts. The following year brought their “Hearts” album and with it, their second number one hit.  

On June 14, 1975, “Sister Golden Hair” reached the top slot on the Billboard singles chart, but only remained there for a week. Along with “A Horse With No Name,” “Sister Golden Hair” is still played regularly on classic rock radio stations.

After the release of “Hearts,” Peek left the band to become a Christian artist, according to Bronson, and consequently, the band struggled to top the charts again.

Over the course of their long venture on the dusty highway of folk rock, America has released 16 albums, the latest in 2007 titled “Here and Now,” among many other anthologies of their hits and live shows.

Founders Beckley and Bunnell are still together and will be performing at the Calvin backed by a full band. 

While America isn’t necessarily on every college student’s iTunes playlist, the melodic and natural harmonies of America would likely be recognized by anyone who has ever owned a radio.

America is performing at the Calvin Theater in Northampton at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15. Tickets range from $35 – $55 and will likely sell out. Scattered seats are still available and can be purchased at

Justin Gagnon can be reached at [email protected].

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