Southern Pacific Biography

When the Doobie Brothers broke up in 1982, guitarist/fiddler John McFee (9 September 1950, Santa Cruz, California, USA) and drummer Keith Knudsen (b. 18 February 1948, LeMars, Iowa, USA, d. 8 February 2005, Kentfield, California, USA) went into session work. Both of them featured on Emmylou Harris’ 1983 recording White Shoes, and McFee played both lead and steel guitar on Elvis Costello’s foray into country music, Almost Blue. With vocalist Tim Goodman and two of Elvis Presley’s musicians, Jerry Scheff and Glen D. Hardin, they made some demos and were signed to Warner Brothers Records by Jim Ed Norman. The unit originally thought of calling themselves the Tex Pistols but decided on Southern Pacific. Their 1985 debut album was a continuation of the mix of soft rock and country that had been popularised by the Eagles. Emmylou Harris guested on the album’s version of Tom Petty’s ‘Thing About You’. Both this track and ‘Perfect Stranger’ reached the US country Top 20, while the b-side of the former, ‘Reno Bound’, reached the Top 10 when it was released as a single in its own right.

Scheff and Hardin were subsequently replaced by Stu Cook (b. 25 April 1945, Oakland, California, USA) from Creedence Clearwater Revival and session musician Kurt Howell. The new line-up recorded Southern Pacific’s best album, Killbilly Hill, which featured a popular version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Pink Cadillac’ and the touching Harris tribute ‘A Girl Like Emmylou’. Following the album’s release Tim Goodman was replaced by David Jenkins, the former lead singer from Pablo Cruise. This line-up recorded Zuma, which included the band’s biggest country hit ‘New Shade Of Blue’, and a further Top 5 success with ‘Honey I Dare You’. The permanence of Southern Pacific was put into question with the departure of Jenkins and the news that the Doobie Brothers had decided to re-form, but one further album was recorded in 1989. It included a revival of ‘G.T.O.’ recorded with the Beach Boys, in addition to the soundtrack hit ‘Any Way The Wind Blows’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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