Dean Daughtry, the keyboardist and co-founder of Atlanta Rhythm Section, has died. He was 76.
The musician’s death was confirmed by the band’s guitarist, Steve Stone, who said Daughtry – a native of Kinston, Alabama, died of natural causes Thursday in Huntsville.
The soft-rock Southern band, a regular presence on radio in the late-‘70s with hits “So Into You” and “Imaginary Lover” – both of which Daughtry co-wrote – paid tribute to their friend on Facebook.
“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 band’s recordings,” the group wrote. “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.'”
Prior to forming ARS in 1971, where he remained the band’s sole consistent member until retiring in 2020, Daughtry played keyboards in the bands Classics IV and The Candymen, the latter which had hits in 1967 and 1968 with “Georgia Pines” and “Ways,” respectively, and often played as the backing band for Roy Orbison.
Daughtry and fellow Candymen bandmates Rodney Justo, Barry Bailey and Robert Nix, as well as former Classics IV member J.R. Cobb Jr., joined with journeyman bassist Paul Goddard to form ARS in the Atlanta suburb of Doraville.
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The band struggled to find chart success with its initial series of albums, starting with their eponymous 1972 debut.
It wasn’t until ARS’ sixth album, 1977’s “A Rock and Roll Alternative,” that the band celebrated their first hit, “So Into You,” recognizable by its pulsing opening chords. The song climbed into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
The following year, ARS’ slinky “Imaginary Lover” also landed in the top 10, the breakout hit from their “Champagne Jam” album.
In subsequent years, ARS remained visible on radio with “Do It Or Die” and “Spooky,” a song originally recorded by Classics IV in the late-’60s. The rerecorded ARS version hit No. 17 on the Hot 100.
Though their chart presence dwindled, ARS remained a steady touring act and still regularly plays theaters and festivals around the country with Justo – the remaining original member – joined by Stone, David Anderson, Lee Shealy (Daughtry’s official replacement after his retirement), Justin Senker and Rodger Stephan.
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