Atlanta Rhythm Section Founding Member Dies

Share This:

Dean Daughtry (Photo via Atlanta Rhythm Section)

Dean Daughtry, the keyboardist and a founding member of the Southern rock band the Atlanta Rhythm Section, who evolved from the ’60s group, the Classics IV, died today (Jan. 26, 2023) at age 76. Poor health had forced him to retire in recent years, after 49 years with the band. The news of his passing, from an undisclosed cause, was announced by the band on their Facebook page. Among ARS’ biggest hits were a pair of laid back singles co-written by Daughtry, “So in to You” and “Imaginary Lover,” both of which reached #7, as well as a cover of the Classic IV’s “Spooky.”

Formed in the spring of 1970 by Daughtry, singer Rodney Justo, drummer Robert Nix, guitarist J.R. Cobb, former members of the Candymen and Classics IV, along with guitarist Barry Bailey, the Atlanta Rhythm Section became the session band for the newly opened Studio One recording studio in Doraville, Ga.

After playing on other artists’ recordings, the Atlanta Rhythm Section was formed. The group’s name was conceived by Studio One’s owner Buddy Buie and his two partners in the venture, J.R. Cobb and Bill Lowery.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section in the early ’70s

Originally signed by Decca Records, the band released its first album, Atlanta Rhythm Section, in January 1972, which was followed with Back Up Against the Wall the following year. Several others followed. Though considered a Southern rock band, the addition of Ronnie Hammond as front man (who replaced original lead singer Rodney Justo), led them toward a more laid-back sound, incorporating Barry Bailey’s distinctive lead guitar and bassist Paul Goddard’s use of a flat pick, with Daughtry’s acoustic and electric piano frequently at the forefront.

Related: ARS are featured in our story, 11 great Southern Rock albums

In 1978 they released what would turn out to be their most successful album, Champagne Jam (1978), which led off with the song “Large Time,” a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd, some of whom had lost their lives in a plane crash the previous October.

The album also included “Imaginary Lover.”

The eighth ARS album (and sixth for Polydor), Underdog, was released in 1979 and produced Top 20 U.S. hits “Do It or Die” (#19) and “Spooky” (#17).

Watch the Atlanta Rhythm Section perform their version of “Spooky”

As the band wrote in their tribute to Daughtry, “While ARS is known to be a guitar centric band, just listen to the recordings and you’ll realize the contribution that Dean brought to the band. From the first chord of “So Into You,” and the introduction to “Imaginary Lover,” he left his imprint on the bands recordings.

“For 49 years he never missed a gig, until his health forced him to retire a couple of years ago, cutting short his goal of 50 years. He was like a Bulldog, but his friends knew him as “OX.”

After his years with the Candymen, Daughtry, born Sept. 8, 1946, left to join the Classics IV, founded by vocalist Dennis Yost, in time to record the late ’60s hits, “Stormy” and “Traces.” Their final hit was 1969’s “Every Day With You Girl.”

Listen to the Classics IV’s laid back 1968 hit, “Stormy,” with keyboards courtesy of Daughtry

Best Classic Bands Staff

5 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 27 January, 2023, 00:34

    Loved R&R Alternative. “Don’t Miss the Message” kicked ass.

    Reply this comment
  2. Synclarie
    #2 Synclarie 27 January, 2023, 05:50

    I had been thinking that all of the members had already passed away. I’m glad he was around long. Great band, very unique even from the other southern rock bands of the time.

    Reply this comment
    • gunman
      gunman 27 January, 2023, 10:57

      one of the great southern bands of all time. always love hearing their music.

      Reply this comment
  3. Baybluesman
    #3 Baybluesman 27 January, 2023, 16:35

    “Red clay hills
    Rednecks drinking wine on Sunday
    Behind their field
    Getting down in Doraville

    Touch of country in the city
    It ain’t much, but it’s home”

    Welcome Home, Mr Daughtry, and may you rest peacefully, knowing in your spirit, that your music brought much happiness and pleasure to many listeners, throughout the world.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ron
    #4 Ron 29 January, 2023, 13:08

    Dean…Rest in peace. Thank you and all the Boys from Doraville for all the great music.
    Enjoy a Champagne jam with the boys in heaven…

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.