Marty Raybon Interview:
Is a Shenandoah Reunion In the Works?
[Shenandoah’s 2015 tour dates have been added to the bottom of this article.]
Shenandoah and Marty Raybon have been getting some good press lately, and that might be the understatement of the year. Country megastar Miranda Lambert has paid tribute to beloved country songs from the past in her hit song “Another Sunday in the South,” and Shenandoah gets a name drop in the lyrics and a bright spotlight in the song as she discusses her youth and how she (and the rest of us) enjoyed Marty’s haunting voice in such country standards as “Two Dozen Roses,” “Sunday in the South,” and “Next to You, Next to Me.”
And, frankly, I’m glad Miranda’s shining that spotlight. Marty Raybon (Full Circle, Shenandoah) is what country music should be. His voice weaves magic into the songs he sings, and anytime he’s nearby I make it a point to catch him perform. He’s one of the few artists I’ve ever seen live that sounds the same way he does on record, and I never get tired of hearing him: from Gospel to bluegrass to mainstream country, I celebrate Marty’s entire catalog.
And so does Miranda Lambert, as she sings in her song: “Just another Sunday in the South, / Wanna put on some Shenandoah and crank it loud.”
Miranda sings it proudly and also echoes that sentiment in her press:
“Every generation of country artists have people who inspired them to do what they do. At the heart of my country inspiration is Shenandoah. They created a pure sound that takes you back home every time. And most of us are still trying to replicate that sound today!” – Miranda Lambert
The icing on the cake is that in this fantastic Lambert song you hear the familiar voice of the greatest country music vocalist of all time, in my opinion (although to me it is a fact), as Marty Raybon collaborates with Lambert and contributes vocals to the song. To say I love this song and its Lambert/Raybon collaboration is the understatement of 2014. I was so excited to learn about it that I rushed to get a hold of my friend and musical hero Marty Raybon to discuss the song in detail (which you’ll see further down in my interview).
And for anyone who needs a refresher on the group’s history: Shenandoah was formed in 1985 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The Grammy Award winners had several number one hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Original band members Mike McGuire on drums and Jim Seals on lead guitar remain with the group, and they still tour, but with new counterparts. In 1997, lead singer Marty Raybon departed the band to pursue other music endeavors. He is currently very active with his bluegrass group Full Circle. Ralph Ezell, the original bass player, passed away in 2007.
Although the original line-up has been disbanded for many years, Marty breathed some new life into the rumors of a reunion in my recent phone interview with him. Shenandoah drummer Mike McGuire also commented to Rocking God’s House about a reunion possibility:
Do you think you will ever perform with the boys in again?
Marty: It is something we have talked about. We have talked about it several times, and we have run over it about us getting out there and getting back together. What happens to a lot of groups, unfortunately, is that bands have a big falling out. People wind up hating one another and that kind of stuff. You know, brother, that actually wasn’t the case with us. At the end of a 12-year run everybody just started heading in different directions. Mike was wanting to do more songwriting and, to be honest, a lot of that stemmed from as much work as we had done for 10 straight years. I mean for 10 years we hammered it. I think a lot of it had to do with burn-out, and the opportunity to be able to lay off, back then in 1997, you go to a label and say, look, we are going to take a year off. Artists do it all the time now, but to say it then, and then say, “After a year we are going to get back into it,” a label would have said, “No, you are not.” But now-a-days that is what people do. And back then if we had had an opportunity to do that I don’t think there would probably still be the original Shenandoah, if we had had the opportunity to back off for awhile. One year we did 70 dates with Randy Travis, but most of the time not only doing dates with him but also doing dates on our own, and by the time the end of the year winds up we have ended up doing 200 and something days before you know it, and then you do that for 10 years in a row — and being gone from home for 317 days. Now we didn’t work 317 dates, but we were away from home, you know, driving all over the country from anywhere to Canada, Florida and back and somewhere in between. But nothing is off the table [as far as a reunion], and the conversations you and I have had in the past and this Miranda Lambert thing really have done nothing more than rehash that conversation. To tell you that it hadn’t would be telling you a story. Me and the guys from Shenandoah have brought it up several times recently: “Hey, what are we going to do with this, are we going to talk about doing this again, are we going to do it?” We have actually talked about doing this seriously for a few years off, and then again with Miranda and her new song, and this time it really may happen, and I would be tickled to death, and I know the other guys in the band would be too. It is just kind of one of those things, that Shenandoah just kind of went away. We were not forced out of the business; our records were still being played. Stan had left in ’95, Ralph left in ’96, and I left in ’97. It was just one of those things where we just went away. Shenandoah today is actually in the top five recurrent, ever since ’97, we are still in the top five recurrent with acts like George Straight. You check XM radio and I hear Shenandoah all the time. And also as a solo artist I go out and do these bluegrass festivals, and I hear people are requesting the Shenandoah songs and asking, “Hey, are you guys ever getting back together?” I am doing a tune tonight for Mike in the studio, and we have talked about how many times they even get asked, “Hey, are you guys ever going to get the original group back together?” It is getting closer to becoming a reality than a lot of people realize.
[7/7/14 Update] Shenandoah drummer Mike McGuire provided the following quote to Rocking God’s House on July 7, 2014, after the article was published. Mike says this about a possible reunion:
[The next question resumes my interview with Marty.] How did Miranda Lambert approach you to sing on this song “Another Sunday in the South?”
Marty: Actually the producer did. And from what I understand, Ashley and the gals that wrote it with Miranda, they were talking about the older songs and stuff, their influences and stuff like that, and that is kind of how it came about. To the best of my understanding that is how it happened. The song itself isn’t just about Shenandoah; it is really about the ’80s and the ’90s country music, which is so neat. Really [that’s] what a lot of people are longing for. There are a lot of people out there that love Restless Heart and Sawyer Brown and the other acts that were out at that time, and during the run that we (Shenandoah) were out there. To be honest with you, the heroes that I had, you know, when Shenandoah were doing what we were doing, was the Merle Haggards and the George Jones and the Gene Watsons, Johnny Paychecks, and stuff like that; when we started making records, we had the opportunity to work with them. There were several occasions where we opened shows for Haggard and Jones. To think even at that time, while we were doing that, and to think back as a boy and having dreams of being in the country music business, to even be on the same record label with the cats that we loved! We were on Columbia, and there was Haggard and Jones who were on Epic, which was a division of CBS — and [there was Johnny] Paycheck — and being on the same record label as all of those cats, that was mind-blowing for one thing: that it ain’t that you are just in the country music business and have a record deal, but you are sharing a record label with these cats that you love and know so much about. I don’t know for sure, and I certainly don’t want to put words in Miranda’s mouth, nor the other gals that wrote the song, but I personally know how it was for me and for us as the group Shenandoah, and what it means to be a part of something. To say that all of us are honored by the song and what Miranda did, I don’t think there is even a good enough word for it — I really, truly don’t. I think we are more than humbled by it. To think that somebody as established as Miranda Lambert would have done that, who has the status in the business that she has, is truly a remarkable and privileged experience for us.
And when Shenandoah gets back together, can I introduce you guys before you hit the stage for a live performance?
Josh, you bet, brother; I would be proud and honored to have you do that for us.