ShenandoahWhen country music lovers talk about the greatest groups in the
genre, Shenandoah is always at the forefront of any discussion.
Fueled by Marty Raybon’s distinctive vocals and the band’s skilled
musicianship, Shenandoah became well known for delivering such
hits as “Two Dozen Roses”, “Church on Cumberland Road” and
“Next to You, Next to Me” as well as such achingly beautiful
classics as “I Want to Be Loved Like That” and the Grammy
winning “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart” duet with
Alison Krauss.
Today that legacy continues as original members Raybon and
Mike McGuire reunite to launch a new chapter in Shenandoah’s
storied career. It all began when the guys got back together to
perform a benefit concert for a friend battling cancer. “We saw
how folks reacted,” Raybon says of the response to their reunion.
“And then Jerry Phillips, son of legendary Sun Records producer
Sam Phillips, said ‘You guys need to make a run at this. People
still love what you do. You can tell by the reaction. There’s a lot of
excitement in the air.’”
“It’s kind of like riding a bicycle,” McGuire says of the band
reigniting that chemistry on stage. “We had done so many shows
over the years together, even though we spent 17 years apart, we
got back up on the stage and it was like we never stopped. We
knew those songs inside out. They were still dear to our hearts. It
was great to get back up there and do them together again.”
Raybon and McGuire formed the band in 1984 in Muscle Shoals,
Alabama with bassist Ralph Ezell, keyboardist Stan Thorn and
guitarist Jim Seales. McGuire invited noted producer Robert Byrne
out to see the band perform and he was so impressed he recorded a
demo on the group and pitched them to Columbia Records.
Shenandoah inked a deal with the legendary label and began
establishing a national fan base with their self-titled debut in 1987.
However, it was the band’s sophomore effort, The Road Not
Taken, that spawned their first top ten hits—“She Doesn’t Cry
Anymore” and “Mama Knows.” Shenandoah followed with three
consecutive No. 1 hits—“Church on Cumberland Road,” “Sunday
in the South” and “Two Dozen Roses.” “The Church on
Cumberland Road” spent two weeks at the top of the chart and
made country music history as it marked the first time that a
country band’s first No. 1 single spent more than one week at the
summit. It also helped propel sales of the album to more than half a
million units thus giving Shenandoah their first gold album.
Great songs have provided the foundation for Shenandoah’s
illustrious career. “We knew a hit song when we heard one,”
Raybon says. “We are songwriters and we wrote some of those
hits, but we really prided ourselves on having an ear for songs.
Mike, in particular, has always been a good song guy. When he
played us a song he found, we knew it was going to be special.”
Shenandoah became known for delivering songs that celebrated
the importance of faith and family while reveling in the joys of
small-town life. “Next to You, Next to Me” topped the charts for
three weeks, and “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart,” a
beautiful duet with Alison Krauss, won a Country Music
Association Award for Vocal Event of the year and a Grammy for
Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Shenandoah also won the Academy of Country Music’s Vocal
Group of the Year in 1991.
McGuire credits Raybon’s vocals for providing Shenandoah with
an identifiable sound. “When you hear Marty Raybon sing there’s
nobody that sounds like him,” McGuire says. “There’s nobody
that’s got the same chops that he’s got and he’s singing from his
heart. That’s one of the reasons that everybody wants to hear him
sing. Marty and me, we go way back. We’ve done a lot of things
together and we love each other like brothers.”
Shenandoah recorded nine studio albums and placed 26 singles
on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The boys from Muscle
Shoals have left a potent legacy at country radio with such
enduring hits as “Ghost in This House,” “I Want to Be Loved Like
That”, “Rock My Baby,” “Janie Baker’s Love Slave,” “If Bubba
Can Dance (I Can Too)”, written by Raybon and McGuire and
“Her Leavin’s Been a Long Time Comin,” in which former Dallas
Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman was in the video (also written
by McGuire).
“Today Shenandoah is in the top five recurrents on all the XM
radio shows,” Raybon says. “That’s amazing to know that you are
in the company of Alabama and George Strait. It’s hard to
Though they’ve secured their place in country music history,
Raybon and McGuire aren’t content to rest on their laurels and are
currently working on new Shenandoah music. “I’ve spent the last
15 years looking for hit songs,” McGuire says. “We have access to
really top drawer material, and have found some great songs that
we will be producing ourselves.”
Even as Shenandoah records new music and hits the road on their
upcoming tour, Raybon will still perform select solo dates. In the
years since he exited Shenandoah, he’s established himself as an
award-winning bluegrass artist, a natural home for his soulful
country voice. Though much has happened since Raybon and
Shenandoah parted ways, the band has never been broken. It was
music that brought them together and music that continues to bind
them as they enter this next chapter. “We were fortunate enough to
have songs that seemed to touch a great deal of people and while
doing so it created a lot of memories,” says Raybon. “I truly do
believe that there are seasons in life and I believe that there is a
time and a place when God allows things. We’ve sat down and
talked about reuniting before but it wasn’t the right time for it then,
but I do believe it is time for it now.”
McGuire agrees. “We are really proud of the quality of the
material that we have in our catalog and how it’s touched so many
people’s lives,” McGuire says. “As far as the future goes, I’m
expecting more of the same. We’re still the same guys. Marty still
has the same voice he had back in that day and I still have the same
harmonies that I sung on all those records. I expect the records we
cut in the future are still going to sound like Shenandoah and the
songs are going to be just as good if not better.”

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