Nantucket: Long Way to the Top (A Rock & Roll Tribute)
Nantucket began in 1969 when Larry Uzzell, Mark Downing and Tommy Redd formed a band called Stacks of Gold. The Jacksonville, NC youths were still in school then and played mostly R&B cover tunes. In 1971, the band's name was changed to Nantucket Sleighride after the popular album by Mountain, but was then shortened to Nantucket or sometimes Nantucket Band. The young band, hungry for the big time, began to book an aggressive schedule of live shows.
Slowly, a dedicated following began to build while the band toured extensively all over the Southeast. Around 1973, in addition to songs from bands like Average White Band and Kool and the Gang, as well as more rock oriented stuff by groups like Wings and the Edgar Winter Group, Nantucket began playing original material mostly culled from music written by Tommy Redd. It was becoming clear this was more than just your ordinary bar band. Nantucket had real talent and a gift for showmanship that brought audiences to their feet wherever they played.
By the summer of 1977, the band was signed to Epic Records and released their first album in 1978. This self-titled debut featured many great songs including "Heartbreaker," "Born In A Honky Tonk" and "Girl, You Blew A Good Thing." While generally being classified as Southern Rock, Nantucket's sound was a mixture of southern fried boogie, traditional R&B and good ol' rock 'n' roll. Their music was fresh, unique and imbued with a sense of humor that added yet another dimension to the band.
There was a buzz about the band and they soon became a regular on rock oriented radio. They had become a national hit and followed their first album with the exceptional Your Face Or Mine in 1979. This album featured more great tunes such as "Is It Wrong To Rock And Roll," "California" and the title track, but failed to generate as much interest at radio as the first album did. The album's more polished sound may have contributed to the cooler fan reaction, but Nantucket was far from headed downhill yet.
Following Your Face Or Mine was perhaps Nantucket's best release -- Long Way To The Top. This album found the band with a new bassist (Pee Wee Watson replacing Mike Uzzell who became the band's full time manager) and in top form with songs such as "Time Bomb," "Rugburn," "Tell Me (Doctor Rhythm Method)," "Rock Of The 80's" and a blistering cover of the AC/DC classic, "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)." The album had more of the rougher edge similar to the first album. But despite its excellence and a 1980 summer tour with AC/DC, Nantucket's momentum was lost and this would be the last album for Epic.
A switch to RCA Records saw the release of No Direction Home and another new bassist (Thumbs Johnson) and a new drummer (Richard Gates) with Pee Wee and Kenny Soule going on to form PKM with Michael Gardner. The album received almost no label support and drew practically no attention other than from Nantucket's die hard fans throughout the Southeast United States. Some great songs like "I Don't Want To Lose You" and "Tennessee Whiskey" filled the record, but without a hit record, RCA dropped the band ending their major label era.
But these guys would not surrender that easily. One final studio album, V, was released by North Carolina-based Executive Records who also released the excellent Maxx Warrior EP, but basically this was a self-released album as Mike Uzzell was the driving force behind Executive. This album was cherished by the fans and featured some solid tracks like "Looking You Up" and "Pretty Legs" but was never even noticed by the nation at large.
Epic issued a budget line The Best Of Nantucket album in 1986 which featured songs from the three Epic releases as well as a couple of songs from V. An excellent live album, Still Live After All These Years, was released in 1995 featuring live versions of the band's most popular tracks.
These days, Nantucket reforms for occasional reunion shows. I saw them play at the sadly departed Ziggy's By The Sea in Atlantic Beach, NC in 2001 and that show was fantastic! Unfortunately, I have not been able to catch any shows since then, but they still pass through eastern North Carolina from time to time and one of these days I will get these old bones in gear and get out to another show. Hey, if these guys can still make the effort to rock, so can I!
In September 2010, they released Original Archives, a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks, including original demos of "Sugar Shack" and "Too Much Wrong in the Past". Featuring performances spanning the band's entire career, it includes several gems such as the amazing ballad, "Ode to a Poor Man".
In addition to his Nantucket duties, Tommy Redd had been playing with the southern rock band Boogie Chillins as well as the band Soul Daddies but I haven't heard anything about either of those bands doing much lately. The best Nantucket site I have found on the Internet is The Official, Unofficial Nantucket Fansite. They have the best info, show dates, tons of photos and more! There is even a section dedicated to PKM. Of the band also has a presence on MySpace and Facebook and various members have their own personal pages. Nantucket may not be at the top anymore, but one thing is certain -- the band is here to stay!
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