Country Grammy winners set for Monroeville
Shenandoah tapped for St. Rose of Lima School's annual fundraising show
Shenandoah aren’t always on the road, but when called upon, they’re here to entertain.
“Our only real tour we’ve been on was with Randy Travis in 1990, and that ended up being 75 dates,” lead singer Marty Raybon said in a telephone interview.
“Some people have referred to us as being mercenaries when it comes to shows,” he said. “We work in January, we work in December, we work in November, we just stay at it, and we’re always doing something.”
The six-member band popular for No. 1 hits “Two Dozen Roses,” The Church on Cumberland Road,” “Sunday in the South,” “If Bubba Can Dance,” and “Next To You, Next To Me” will be doing something Friday, Aug. 19: playing a show at the Monroeville Community Park with local opening act High Noon as part of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School’s annual fundraiser.
Dealing with success
Formed in 1984 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with Raybon, Mike McGuire, Ralph Ezell, Stan Thorn, and Jim Seales, Shenandoah has recorded nine studio albums, with 26 singles reaching Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Their compilation with Alison Krauss, “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart” earned the group a Grammy in 1995, as well as a Country Music Association award for Vocal Event of the Year. Shenandoah was also named the Academy of Country Music’s Vocal Group of the Year in 1991.
Despite all the success in the early to mid-’90s due to gold albums The Road Not Taken and Extra Mile, Raybon looks back at that time with mixed feelings.
“It was kind of like a whirlwind,” he said with a welcoming Southern drawl. “If that thing hadn’t been going so fast, it would have been nice to slow down and look at everything that was happening. But when it’s happening, there’s a record label shoving you out there, you have management, and you have booking agents saying, ‘Look, I’m filling the calendar.’ Every time you turn around, you’re not at home to the point that your kids go, ‘Hey, mom, that guy’s here again.’ ”
The “whirlwind” might have played into Raybon leaving the band in 1997 in pursue a solo career. The group disbanded at the end of that year, but was reformed in 2000 with Seales, McGuire, Rocky Thacker, Curtis Wright, Stan Munsey, and Brent Lamb on vocals.
Faces have come and gone over the years, and Raybon returned in 2014, while also taking time as a soloist.
“To be blatantly honest, I think sometimes you do the same thing over and over and over and over again, you long to do something a little different, to keep you from being stagnant,” Raybon said, pointing out that he wanted to get back to his bluegrass roots, while also cutting a gospel album. “It kind of gives you a different perspective, so when you come back to it, it hasn’t worn you out, and it’s not like, ‘Oh man, I have to sing that again?’ I don’t ever wanna feel that way.”
According to Raybon, it’s the crowds that make him enthusiastic to play songs on Shenandoah’s 35th Anniversary.
“There’s times when I’m amazed that we’ve been blessed by the Lord as much as we have,” he said. “It’s not that I limit what He can do, because I know that there’s no limit, but I’m just really humbled about what all that has happened to us, especially this ’90s resurgence. It’s given us a second chance.”
The resurgence has included the band joining Billy Dean and Wade Hayes on the Country Comeback Tour. Raybon credits the resurgence of bands like his to people discovering their music while being stuck in their homes the past few years.
“I know in 2020, our Facebook and socials went through the roof,” Raybon said of peopling viewing their content. “You’d look at it, and see 108,000 people looked at it, like, ‘What!? You mean there’s 321,000 people that looked at it this week!?’ We’ve even seen the crowds at the shows pick up since we headed back out.”
And when they get to the shows, the band wants to make them a part of the show.
“We still try to continue to be high energy, and of course we have to do the ballads: ‘Loved Like That’ and ‘Ghost in This House,’” Raybon said. “Our shows are really based around a high-energy method, which is to keep people entertained, and we love to have people sing along, and hoot and holler, and clap. If we can get them there to do that, and a lot of times people come ready to do that, at the end of the evening, then what we realized is that on their ways home, they’ll realize that didn’t just witness a show, but they were part of it.”
No matter how long he’s been at it, Raybon hasn’t taken Shenandoah fans for granted.
“Believing and thinking that people would still want us to come and perform for them, that means the world to us,” he said. “I’m just proud that all of us love it like we do. I’m just grateful for that.
“We love their friendships and camaraderie,” he added. “To believe that 35 years ago that this would be possible, I would have said it wouldn’t be.”
Raybon and McGuire are the only founding members still with the band, as Ezell died in 2007 and Seales retired in 2014.
Seales suffered a stroke in 2017, but had an opportunity to perform with Shenandoah on July 21 in Colorado Springs and July 22 in McCook, Iowa. The performances marked the first time that Raybon, McGuire, and Seales had performed together since 1997.
“Mike said, ‘I think I’m gonna call Jim,’” Raybon said of the move to fill in for a guitarist that was away for his brother’s wedding. “I said, ‘Go ahead, and tell him if he doesn’t agree, then I’m gonna call him.’ Mike called him up and said, ‘He’s in.’”
While the shows with Seales where only temporary, the bands plays on, and while continue to do so as long as there are fans requesting them.