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Full Band Bio (Continued)
Morey recalls his “a-ha” moment of discovery in late ’78. "I was on the road driving in a Hertz car somewhere and I heard 'I Want to Kiss You All Over.' I pulled the car over to hear the song turned up loud. Since there were no cell phones in those days I quickly found a pay phone, called my office and said.......’find out who they are, I want to manage them.’ As it turned out my friend Dick Clark had the information I needed. I flew to Lexington and we made a deal. It’s a signing that I am still very proud of today."
The dark lining to the silver cloud was that the internal conflict had never been worse. There is an inverse relationship between success and happiness they don’t tell you about in Rock Star School.
The fourth album, All There Is (Warner/Curb Records), was completely recorded and then lead singer Jimmy Stokley decided he’d had enough. That ensured no singles being released from the album so the record company advances hit drought mode. The live show money stayed mean-and-green abroad but not so much at home. A three-month-and-out tenure for new lead singer, Randy Rickman, opened the door for the hiring of Mark Gray and Les Taylor, both in the course of one day in 1979. A new & enduring career path was also minted after this album: make record, release record, have little success, beg Curb Records’ executive Dick Whitehouse to get off the label, get request denied then repeat cycle.
A fifth album was made called Don’t Leave Me This Way (Warner/Curb Records) and yielded one single in “Take Me Down” that was a career record …years later for trailblazing country super group, Alabama. For Exile it was top-80 track. Although something they would be aggravated at the time but very happy about later, there was another career record for Alabama on this album in the presence of “The Closer You Get.” Aggravating because it was not the stuff Exile’s career would be made of.
With gnashed teeth and bloodshot eyes on the horizon they were absolutely certain they had a smash follow-up in the track from their sixth album called “Heart and Soul” which was also the LP title. And they were absolutely right; it was a huge hit…for Huey Lewis and The News several years later. A side-by-side comparison would convince the most discerning musicologist that Chinnichap had just put Huey’s voice on the Exile track. Why records don’t work first time out of the gate with an act who’d had a hit and did with another act a short time later is a mystery of life. One that was devastating to the band.
What were they going to do now? Go country? The unflappable Mr. Morey shrewdly saw the logic and lodged the suggestion. Robin Williams never got the laughs Jim did when he proposed the country conversion to these heart-proud rockers. Nonetheless, they thought enough of the idea once the laughter subsided to start listening to country radio. Turns out, country wasn’t as bad as it first sounded. There was even connection between the songs they were writing and what was beginning to work in country. When they began to hear their songs on country radio performed by others, the verdict was in. Perhaps most importantly, Morey was able to finally get the band released from Warner/Curb Records which freed the bird to fly.
Delving deep into their own creative soul they took themselves out to the woodshed for what turned into two years of top-to-bottom reinvention. The game plan was a new musical direction, new songs, a new vocal group sound to soup up the strong-as-steel band chassis and a new industry home as the target in Nashville. Now they were good to go country.
Another crucial move Morey made was to put the band in the arms & ears of producer/publisher Buddy Killen. Aside from playing bass for Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys and co-founding Nashville publishing juggernaut Tree Music Publishing, Buddy was a prolific and successful producer. From Dolly Parton to Joe Tex with Roger Miller squeezed in between, Buddy was as diverse as a happening producer can get. It was love at first cut.
Then, with the new direction neatly folded into hot new recordings, the band only had to go to Nashville to showcase for labels twice before being snatched up by CBS’ Epic Records. They got off to a roaring start by Exile standards. The first single, “The High Cost of Leaving” clawed its way to #14. But the second single, previously the bane of their musical existence, shot to #1 in early ‘83. “Woke Up In Love” woke up the career-in-waiting like a marching band stomping into their bed and you can bet they were never happier to see that bunch of tuba players.
This opened the floodgates on nine consecutive #1 singles: “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory”, “Give Me One More Chance”, “She’s A Miracle”, “Crazy For Your Love”, “Hang On To Your Heart”, “I Could Get Used To You”, “It’ll Be Me”, “She’s Too Good To be True” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough”. The record sales and award recognition that had eluded them for more than 20 years was finally in their hands. Points in fact include three gold albums, two Greatest Hits CDs, several multi-platinum singles and thirteen award nominations from the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and the Country Music Association (CMA). All totaled they notched 11 number ones and a respectable host of top 10’s in the Epic years. The discography here on the website has all the album titles for you to check out.1 2 3 4 5 6