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Little River Band (LRB) are a soft rock band originally formed in Melbourne, Australia, in March 1975. The band achieved commercial success, not only in Australia but also in the United States. They have sold more than 30 million records; six studio albums reached the top 10 on the Australian Kent Music Report albums chart including Diamantina Cocktail (April 1977) and First Under the Wire (July 1979), which both peaked at No. 2. Nine singles appeared in the top 20 on the related singles chart, with "Help Is on Its Way" (1977) as their only number-one hit. Ten singles reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Reminiscing" their highest peaking at No. 3. Only First Under the Wire appeared in the top 10 on the Billboard 200.
Early members were Beeb Birtles, Ric Formosa, Graeham Goble, Roger McLachlan, Derek Pellicci and Glenn Shorrock. Most of the group's 1970s and 1980s material was written by Goble and/or Shorrock, with contributions from Birtles, David Briggs (who replaced Formosa) and Pellicci.
Little River Band have received many music awards in Australia. In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations, named "Cool Change", written by Shorrock, as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. The 1976 line-up of Birtles, Briggs, Goble, Pellicci, Shorrock and George McArdle (who replaced McLachlan), were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame at the 18th Annual ARIA Music Awards of 2004.
Little River Band have undergone numerous personnel changes, with over 30 members since their formation. In the 1980s members included John Farnham, David Hirschfelder, Stephen Housden, Wayne Nelson and Steve Prestwich. As of March 2015 the line-up is Nelson with Rich Herring, Greg Hind, Chris Marion and Ryan Ricks. Two former members have subsequently died: Barry Sullivan in October 2003 (aged 57) and Prestwich in January 2011 (aged 56).
Early years : 1970s:
Little River Band were formed in March 1975 in Melbourne as a harmony rock group with Beeb Birtles on guitar and vocals, Graham Davidge on lead guitar, Graeham Goble on guitar and vocals, Dave Orams on bass guitar, Derek Pellicci on drums and Glenn Shorrock on lead vocals. Upon formation they were an Australian super group with Birtles, Goble, Pellicci and Shorrock each from prominent local bands. Birtles had been the bass guitarist in the 1960s pop-rock band Zoot (which launched the career of singer-guitarist Rick Springfield). Goble had led Adelaide-formed folk rock group Allison Gros before forming the harmony country rock band Mississippi (joined by Birtles and Pellicci), which had chart success in Australia and built up a strong following on the concert and festival circuit. During 1971-72 the original members of Mississippi also recorded as a studio band under the pseudonym Drummond. They achieved a number-one hit, for eight consecutive weeks, on the Go-Set National Top 40, with a novelty cover version of the Rays' song "Daddy Cool". Shorrock had been the lead singer of a 1960s pop band, the Twilights, and an early 1970s country rock group, Axiom (alongside singer-songwriter Brian Cadd).
Both Axiom and Mississippi had tried to break into the United Kingdom record market without success. Axiom disbanded after moving to the UK, and Shorrock sang for a short period with a more progressive rock outfit, Esperanto. In 1974 Birtles, Goble, Pellicci and Shorrock met in London with Glenn Wheatley (ex-The Masters Apprentices). With Wheatley as manager, they agreed to reconvene in Melbourne in early 1975. Due to the indifferent reception they had each received in the UK, they decided their new band would establish themselves in the United States. Wheatley's first-hand experiences of the rip-offs in the 1960s music scene, combined with his experience working in music management in the UK and the US in the early 1970s, allowed him to help the Little River Band become the first Australian group to enjoy consistent commercial and chart success in the US.
After their return to Australia, the members began rehearsing in February 1975, still using the name of Mississippi. In Wheatley's autobiography, Paper Paradise (1999), he described how they obtained their name: "It was now time to get out of the rehearsal room and play to a live audience - somewhere without any fanfare, somewhere out of the way. I booked the Golfview Hotel in Geelong for the Saturday night of 1 March 1975. While travelling to the venue down the Geelong Road from Melbourne, we passed the turn-off for Little River. From the back of the truck Glenn Shorrock shouted, 'What about the Little River Band'? And so, that night the Golfview Hotel witnessed the first performance of the Little River Band, albeit advertised on the marquee as Mississippi." On 20 March 1975 they played their first official gig under their new name at Martini's Hotel in Carlton. They played a return gig at the Golfview Hotel five days later.
Little River Band recorded their first track, a cover version of the Everly Brothers' song, "When Will I Be Loved", at Armstrong Studios, but Linda Ronstadt's version appeared in March 1975 - so LRB did not release theirs. Before the group began playing concerts, Davidge was replaced by Ric Formosa on guitar, and Orams by Roger McLachlan on bass guitar and backing vocals. In May 1975 they signed with EMI Records and started recording their debut self-titled album (November 1975) at Armstrong Studios in June. The album was co-produced by Birtles, Goble, Shorrock and Wheatley. Tony Catterall of The Canberra Times described it as "one of those flawed creations that inevitably draws a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger response."Little River Band peaked at No. 17 on the Kent Music Report Albums Chart. Their debut single, "Curiosity (Killed the Cat)", had appeared in September, reaching No. 15 on the related Kent Music Report Singles Chart. Two more singles followed, "Emma" (January 1976) and "It's a Long Way There" (November 1976).
Wheatley had travelled to Los Angeles in December 1975 and touted the group to various record companies until Rupert Perry of Capitol Records signed them on Christmas Eve. Little River Band issued their second album, After Hours, in May 1976 on EMI. It was produced by the band and was not issued in the US until 1980 and then first as a CD in 1997 on One Way Records, with three bonus tracks.After Hours peaked at No. 5 and provided the single, "Everyday of My Life", in May, which reached the top 30. During August of that year both Formosa and McLachlan were replaced: David Briggs joined on guitar (ex-Cycle, The Avengers, Ram Band) and George McArdle on bass guitar (also ex-Ram Band). Formosa worked as a session musician and as a composer and arranger; McLachlan joined the Australian country rock group, Stars Formosa remained in touch with LRB: he conducted and wrote string parts for several tracks on subsequent albums.
Encouraged by their Australian success, the band undertook their first international tour. They flew to the UK on 17 September 1976 to play a show in London's Hyde Park supporting Queen. They then opened shows in the rest of Europe for the Hollies during September and October. Birtles advised fellow Australian bands that "It's so much easier when you have a product to sell... And the money you make on the club circuit in Australia while establishing yourself is better than anything you can make in Britain, where there is so much competition." In November 1976 they performed their first US concert, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, as the opening act for Average White Band. Due to their US appearances and support from FM stations, "It's a Long Way There" reached No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. This galvanised the commitment of the band members to tackle the US record market.
Success and changes of personnel:
Little River Band's second album, After Hours, was passed over in the US by Capitol. The label selected tracks from it and from their third Australian one, Diamantina Cocktail (April 1977), to create Capitol's second US album, also titled Diamantina Cocktail (June 1977). The Australian version was co-produced by the group with John Boylan - who stayed on to co-produce their next two studio albums. During the recording there were "frictions and competition between the band members" such that Birtles, Goble and Shorrock each "recorded separately in the studio... as much as possible."
The Canberra Times' Julie Meldrum caught their performance in May 1977, which "moved along at a rapid pace and slowed down only once with a few laid-back tracks towards the middle of the set" and they were "tightly disciplined musicians. All the instruments were played clearly and it was obvious that collectively or individually there was nothing that was not world class." Meldrum also reviewed the album, which had "no references to Australia and it is obvious that the band is trying to ensconce itself in the Los Angeles scene... its most dominating influences are David Crosby and Graham Nash, and Little Feat."Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic felt the US release was "laidback, sweet country-rock, the album has a similar sound to the band's debut, but the melodies are a little sharper and catchier, making the album a better, more fully-rounded collection."
In Australia Diamantina Cocktail became their highest charting album, peaking at No. 2; the US version reached the top 50 on the Billboard 200. In January 1978 it was certified gold by RIAA for sales of 500,000 copies; and they were the first Australian band to do so. The lead single, "Help Is on Its Way" reached No. 1 in Australia. Both it and the fourth single, "Happy Anniversary", peaked in the top 20 on the US Hot 100. During 1977 the group toured consistently, mostly in the US, headlining in smaller venues, and appearing in stadiums on larger multi-billed shows supporting The Doobie Brothers, Supertramp, and America. In August 1977 they co-headlined day two of the Reading Music Festival alongside Thin Lizzy. In November, Little River Band supported Fleetwood Mac and Santana at the Rockarena concerts in Sydney and Melbourne.
Their fourth studio album, Sleeper Catcher (May 1978), peaked at No. 4 in Australia and No. 16 in the US. By May in the following year it was certified platinum by RIAA for sales of 1,000,000 copies, and was the first Australian recorded album to achieve that feat. AllMusic's Mike DeGagne praised Shorrock's vocals, which give the album "the perfect MOR sound, draping the tracks with his cool, breezy style that is much more apparent and effectual here than on the band's earlier efforts."Sleeper Catcher provided four singles with "Shut Down Turn Off" (April 1978) their highest charting in Australia at No. 16, however in the US the highest charting was "Reminiscing" (June 1978), which peaked at No. 3. The album's last single, "Lady" (December 1978), reached No. 10 in the US in early 1979.
After Pellicci was hospitalised, in May 1978, due to severe burns from an exploding gas cylinder, Geoff Cox (ex-Brian Cadd, Bootleg Family Band, Avalanche) substituted on drums, rather than the group cancelling shows for their next US tour. On that tour they supported Boz Scaggs, Jimmy Buffett and the Eagles. Cox remained with the group through mid-1978 and played alongside Pellicci after the latter returned, until he was healed enough to continue on his own. Mal Logan (ex-The Dingoes, Renée Geyer Band) joined on keyboards for another US tour which began in late December 1978.
By February 1978 "frictions inside the band continued to brew, relieved a little by a sideline album".Birtles & Goble was a side project formed as a duo to showcase their tracks rejected for LRB releases. They issued three singles, "Lonely Lives" (March 1978), "I'm Coming Home" (March 1979) and "How I Feel Tonight" (June 1980), and an album, The Last Romance (May 1980). "I'm Coming Home" reached No. 8 in Australia. Shorrock had a solo single with a cover version of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" (April 1979), which reached the Australian top 10.
First Under the Wire was issued as LRB's fifth studio album in July 1979, which reached No. 2 in Australia - equal highest position with Diamantina Cocktail. It was also their highest charting album on the Billboard 200 - reaching No. 10. In November 1979 it was certified by RIAA as a platinum album. AllMusic's Mark Allan described how, with their "mix of harmony-drenched pop tunes and unthreatening rockers, they appealed to a wide audience." Both singles, "Lonesome Loser" (July 1979) and "Cool Change" (October 1979) peaked in the US top 10. Shorrock wrote "Cool Change".
McArdle left in late January 1979 to enrol in a Bible college and became a Christian minister. In July of that year Barry Sullivan (ex-Chain, Renée Geyer Band) took over on bass guitar. He was replaced on bass guitar, in turn, by Wayne Nelson (ex-Jim Messina Band), later LRB's lead singer, who joined in April 1980. Goble was the producer for Australian pop singer, John Farnham's solo album, Uncovered (September 1980). Goble wrote or co-wrote nine of its ten tracks and provided vocals, other LRB alumni used were Briggs, Formosa, Logan, Nelson, Pellicci and Sullivan. Farnham had signed with Wheatley's management company.
The line-up of Birtles, Briggs, Goble, Nelson, Pellicci and Shorrock recorded Little River Band's sixth studio album,Time Exposure (August 1981), in Montserrat with George Martin (The Beatles) producing.The Canberra Times' Garry Raffaele felt that the "essence of it all is that it's easy listening, no demands, easing up, slowing down, getting older." By the time it had appeared, Stephen Housden (ex-Stevie Wright Band, the Imports) replaced Briggs on lead guitar. It reached No .9 in Australia and No. 21 in the US; and in November it was certified gold by RIAA.
In August, Nelson provided lead vocals for Time Exposure's lead single, "The Night Owls", which peaked at No. 18 in Australia and No. 6 in the US. Raffaele described the track as "the punchiest thing LRB has done for some time but it's still middle-of-the-road pap, hummable." Nelson also shared vocal duties with Shorrock on the third single, "Take It Easy on Me" (November 1981). According to Australian music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, Nelson's presence was "adding to the problems within" the band; Nimmervoll opined that Goble "agitated within the band to replace Glenn Shorrock with Farnham."
John Farnham years: 1982-1986:
In February 1982 Shorrock left Little River Band and resumed his solo career but did not achieve chart success in the US. Farnham replaced Shorrock on lead vocals and "Man on Your Mind", the third single from Time Exposure (with Shorrock's vocals), reached No. 14 in the US. In September Farnham told Susan Moore of The Australian Women's Weekly, "Fitting in with the guys hasn't been hard, they have made it so easy for me... But recording and on stage things are quite different from what I've been used to." On covering the previous LRB repertoire he said, "We've had to change the key with a lot of things because Glenn sang in a different register from me."
The first single with Farnham as lead vocalist, "The Other Guy" (one of two new offerings on their Greatest Hits album), was released in November 1982, which reached No. 18 in Australia and No. 11 in the US. The other track, "Down on the Border", peaked at No. 7 in Australia. The next single, "We Two", from their seventh studio album, The Net (May 1983), reached No. 22 in the US. It had been co-produced by the group and Ernie Rose (Mississippi, Rénee Geyer, Stars). DeGagne reviewed the album, which "failed to capture the same success they experienced with Shorrock at the helm. The same type of soft rock fluidity and laid-back charm has been replaced with a sound that seems forced and somewhat strained."
In 1983 "You're Driving Me Out of My Mind" became the group's last single to reach the US Top 40. The band moved towards a more 1980s style sound and added a keyboardist, David Hirschfelder (ex-Peter Cupples Band), in September 1983. The pressures of success and constant touring took their toll on the band as line-up changes continued. Birtles left in October because he did not like the harder, more progressive musical path that Goble was taking the group and because he had preferred Shorrock's vocals. Birtles contributed to soundtracks for feature films, From Something Great (1985) and Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1988); he also worked as a session musician. Pellicci left in February 1984 for similar reasons and Steve Prestwich (ex-Cold Chisel) was his replacement on drums. Pellicci became a session musician: including working for Brian Cadd.
Their eighth studio album, Playing to Win, was released in January 1985, which delivered a harder sound with producer Spencer Proffer. The change in sound, along with the unofficial shortening of their name to LRB, confused fans and radio programmers. Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, felt it was "a strong album but it failed to halt the band's slide in popularity." It reached No. 38 in Australia and No. 75 on the US charts. It is the group's last charting album on the Billboard 200. The title track made No. 59 on the Australian singles chart, No. 15 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and No. 60 on Hot 100. The second single, "Blind Eyes", failed to enter the charts.
In July 1985 Little River Band performed for the Oz for Africa benefit concert (part of the global Live Aid program) including: "Don't Blame Me", "Full Circle", "Night Owls", and "Playing to Win". They were broadcast in Australia (on both Seven Network and Nine Network) and on MTV in the US. American Broadcasting Company broadcast "Don't Blame Me" and "Night Owls" during their Live Aid telecast ("Night Owls" was only partially transmitted). Farnham left the group following the completion of their short Australian tour in April 1986, which had Malcolm Wakeford drumming in Prestwich's place. Their ninth studio album, No Reins, recorded when Farnham was aboard, appeared in May 1986 and was produced by Richard Dodd. It reached the Kent Music Report top 100.
Farnham explained to Pollyanna Sutton of The Canberra Times why he left, "I was up front and had to be the most liked. There was a lot of pressure because it wasn't, perhaps, working as it should, although there were other contributing things like the membership changes and perhaps the material." Nimmervoll wrote of the Farnham years, "The experiment had never worked. Whatever John's talents, America longed for Glenn Shorrock. At the end of 1985, while LRB was seriously contemplating its future, Farnham took the initiative to start work on another solo album." Farnham continued to be managed by Wheatley - who had also left LRB - and his solo career took off with his next album, Whispering Jack (October 1986). Hirschfelder, McLachlan, Nelson and Pellicci contributed to the album or the related tour.
Shorrock's return: 1987-1996:
After Farnham's departure, Little River Band were essentially in limbo until 1987 when Pellicci and Shorrock returned at the request of Irving Azoff, the head of MCA Records, who wanted the band on his label. The line-up of Goble, Housden, Nelson, Pellicci and Shorrock established a holding company, We Two Pty. Ltd, with all members as directors in equal share. In July 1988 Pellicci described the albums after he had left LRB: "It was an overstatement to say the response to No Reins and Playing to Win was lukewarm -- there was no response at all." The revamped Little River Band, augmented by keyboardist James Roche, performed at the opening of World Expo 88 in Brisbane on 30 April, where they were joined by the Eagles' Glenn Frey, who accompanied them that year on tour.
The group released their tenth studio album, Monsoon, on MCA in June 1988, which peaked at No. 9 on the Kent Music Report and at No. 13 on the ARIA Albums Chart in Australia. It was co-produced by Boylan and Goble.The Canberra Times' Lisa Wallace was disappointed, "I fear the album may not live up to expectations... I was one of the silly ones who expected something more, something new... Pleasant it is, technically precise and solid-gold Top 40 stuff, but nothing's changed. The band is no better, and no worse, than it was all those years ago." Its lead single, "Love Is a Bridge", co-written by Goble and Housden was released in May and peaked at No. 7 on the Kent Music Report and at No. 11 on the ARIA Singles Chart. It was their second highest charting single in the Australian market, and a moderate Adult Contemporary radio hit in the US.
The eleventh studio album, Get Lucky (February 1990) made the top 60 in Australia - their last charting studio album in Australia. Mike Boehm of Los Angeles Times caught their gig in May, where "Lead singer Glenn Shorrock was stiff and seemed stuck for words between songs. But he knew what to do when the music started, singing in a comfortably husky voice that resembled Phil Collins in tone and easy pop appeal. Wayne Nelson, the group's Californian, generated more heat in his two lead vocal turns. The three-part harmonies behind Shorrock were exemplary, although the CS&N parallels were unmistakable. Lead guitarist Stephen Housden reinforced the emphasis on melody with his clean, lyrical lines." MCA released a compilation album, Worldwide Love, of tracks from the previous two LPs on their Curb Records imprint in 1991. Both Get Lucky and Worldwide Love peaked in the top 40 on the Swiss Hitparade; with the latter album also appearing on the Ö3 Austria Top 40.
Goble had ceased touring with the group in 1989 and left altogether by 1992, he signed away his rights the band's name.Peter Beckett (ex-Player) joined in 1989 to take Goble's place in the line-up. The group went through a series of keyboard players, including Tony Sciuto (1990-1992, 1993-1997) and Richart Bryant (1992-1993, ex-Doobie Brothers). Shorrock left again in 1996; he was offered the option to buy out the remaining members of We Two Pty. Ltd He took a one-third share of the monetary value of the company as he did not want to commit to the band's US touring schedule. Shorrock was replaced on lead vocals by Melbourne singer, Steve Wade (ex-Dolphin Street). Nelson also left in 1996 and New Zealander Hal Tupea came in on bass guitar. This line-up lasted until late 1997, when everyone, except Wade, started to leave, including Pellicci, who left again early in 1998. Housden was then the sole owner of We Two Pty. Ltd and the band's trademark.
Recent years: 1998 to present:
In 1998 Housden re-established Little River Band with Wade and new contracted members Paul Gildea on vocals and guitars; Kevin Murphy on vocals, drums and percussion; and Adrian Scott on vocals and keyboards (ex-Air Supply) and brought back McLachlan, who returned after 22 years, on bass guitar. McLachlan's second tenure was short lived; both he and Scott departed after a year, not accustomed to the band's touring schedule. Nelson returned in early 1999 and Glenn Reither joined on keyboards, sax and backing vocals . Gildea and Wade left next in early 2000 with Australian Greg Hind joining on vocals and guitars and Nelson taking over as lead singer. The line-up of Hind, Housden, Nelson, Murphy and Reither recorded two studio albums, Where We Started From (November 2000) and Test of Time (June 2004).
At the end of 2004 Murphy and Reither left and Chris Marion joined on keyboards, while Kip Raines temporarily took on drumming duties until replaced by Billy Thomas in early 2005. Housden left the touring band in 2006, although he participated in the band's recordings and management. Rich Herring took over lead guitar on tour and Mel Watts replaced Thomas, who had suffered a shoulder injury, on drums in 2007. Ryan Ricks subsequently replaced Watts in 2012. The latter day line-up play tracks written by Birtles, Goble and/or Shorrock as well as newer material.
In March 2002 Birtles Shorrock Goble were formed as a soft rock trio, initially as "The Original Little River Band" or "The Voices of Little River Band"; they undertook a series of reunion concerts performing the group's earlier material. By July 2002 a legal dispute over the use of the name, "Little River Band", was settled out of court with the agreement that Housden had the naming rights due to his ownership of We Two Pty Ltd. A further legal case, which was also settled out of court in mid-2005, allowed the trio to advertise their Little River Band connection but not to perform under that name. Both Birtles and Goble have shared their frustration through song; Goble recorded "Someone's Taken Our History" and Birtles recorded "Revolving Door".
An appearance by Little River Band, scheduled for 12 January 2015 on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, was cancelled after complaints from earlier members concerning its promotion as a 40th anniversary performance. Permission for any songs written by Birtles, Briggs, Goble or Shorrock was refused. In March 2015 an appearance by the group at the Reynolds Auditorium (Winston-Salem) was cancelled after the venue received a cease and desist order from the earlier members regarding the use of their recordings in advertising and the subsequent demands of the present line-up to be paid in full before performing. The venue described this demand as "not only unreasonable, but uncustomary". In September 2015, Little River Band were named as "Casino Musical Entertainer of the year" at the Annual G2E Awards ceremony, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. As of 2015 LRB continues to tour in the US and are scheduled to perform more than 80 concerts in the year.
The Little River Band are considered to be among Australia's most significant bands. As of September 2004 they have sold more than 30 million records and scored 13 American Top 40 hits. In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations, named "Cool Change" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. At that ceremony Goble and Shorrock reconnected after ten years; they proposed a reunion with Birtles to perform their earlier material, which became the trio Birtles Shorrock Goble.
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2004, the 1976 to 1978 line-up of the band - Birtles, Shorrock, Goble, Pellicci, Briggs and McArdle - were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame. They performed "Help Is on Its Way" at the ceremony on 17 October. Shorrock had previously been inducted in 1991 for his work with the Twilights, Axiom and his solo career. Farnham, who had been inducted in 2003 for his solo work, was not included in the 2004 induction of Little River Band.
With more than five million plays, "Reminiscing", written by Goble, was recognised by BMI as one of the most frequently played songs in the history of American radio, the highest achievement of any Australian pop song internationally. "Lady" has also accumulated more than three million plays. According to Albert Goldman's biography, John Lennon named "Reminiscing" as one of his favourite songs. May Pang, Lennon's erstwhile girlfriend, said they considered "Reminiscing" as "our song".
LRB were mentioned in the 2010 film The Other Guys, when the character portrayed by Will Ferrell played "Reminiscing" while driving. The character portrayed by Mark Wahlberg threw the CD out the window, but Ferrell's character played it again later on and said that he always had six identical LRB CDs in his car.