The James Gang Biography
The door was opened up for other hard-rocking “trios” in the late 1960s with the rise of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The James Gang was arguably the best of the subsequent American crop to appear. The James Gang ultimately fell short of their initial promise because of repeated band changes, while writing some of classic rock radio’s most enduring tunes.
The Gang’s beginnings date back to 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio, when drummer Jim Fox, guitarist Glenn Schwartz, and bassist Tom Kriss joined together to form the band. Fox and Kriss decided to continue with new singer/guitarist Joe Walsh after Schwartz left to join Pacific Gas & Electric. The James Gang’s first album, Yer’ Album, was released in 1969, and although it wasn’t a commercial success, it laid the groundwork for their subsequent albums. Bill Szymczyk, a renowned producer, contributed to the album for the first time. Prior to the group’s second album’s recording sessions, Dale Peters took Kriss’ position, giving the James Gang its final line-up. Peters quickly proved to be the missing link, as proven by the band’s follow-up album, the legendary Rides Again from the 1970s, which gave birth to the rock classic “Funk #49.” Although the song didn’t quite reach the top of the singles charts when it was first released, it went on to become one of rock’s most instantly recognizable songs and demonstrated Walsh’s skill at writing outstanding guitar riffs. Pete Townshend began to speak out in favor of Walsh’s guitar prowess, while the Who simultaneously embarked on a European tour with the James Gang.
Walsh was growing less interested in the James Gang even though it seemed like they were just finding their footing; he was eager to start a solo career. He was able to persevere for another excellent studio album, Thirds from 1971, which gave rise to “Walk Away,” another great rock radio staple. Walsh left the group at the same time as the release of a live album later that year (Live in Concert), first concentrating on solo work before joining one of the biggest bands of the ’70s, the Eagles. Fox decided to continue the band’s existence once again and added Roy Kenner (vocals) and Domenic Troiano as new band members (guitar). Although Straight Shooter and Passin’ Thru, two subpar albums released back-to-back in 1972, proved unsuccessful in growing the group’s fan base, Walsh’s shoes remained difficult to replace.
In order to join the Guess Who, Troiano left the group, leaving the James Gang’s guitar position open once more. Troiano’s resignation turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, as Tommy Bolin, the guitarist who took over for him (reportedly on Walsh’s advice), immediately gave the band new energy. Two excellent but underappreciated albums followed: 1973’s Bang! and 1974’s Miami. Bolin’s fiery and diverse guitar playing (as well as compositional abilities; he and songwriting partner John Tesar penned the majority of the songs) helped the group regain its mojo. Bolin left the James Gang in 1974, but like the guitarists who came before him, he rapidly lost interest. He then started his own solo career, following in Walsh’s footsteps, before making a brief appearance with Deep Purple. Bolin tragically passed dead in 1976 from an unnecessary drug overdose.
After Bolin left, the James Gang decided to dissolve, albeit only temporarily. In 1975, Fox and Peters reformed the group, adding Bubba Keith (vocals, guitar) and Richard Shack as new members (guitar). Predictably, the James Gang’s most recent incarnation only survived for two unappreciated albums, 1975’s Newborn and 1976’s Jesse Come Home, before calling it quits for good. Apart from the group’s appearances on a few best-of compilations (such as 2000’s Greatest Hits), not much else was heard from them after that. By the late 1990s, the trio (with Walsh) had come back together for infrequent performances. These performances included a set at the Cleveland State University Convocation Center’s 1996 election rally for then-President Bill Clinton as well as an appearance on The Drew Carey Show. The James Gang played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in February 2001. The following week, they played two sold-out performances at the Allen Theater.
The James Gang Discography
Frequently Asked Questions
The James Gang?
The James Gang was an American rock band formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1966. The band went through several lineup changes throughout its career, with guitarist Joe Walsh being the only constant member. The James Gang achieved success with their first two albums, Yer’ Album (1970) and Funk #49 (1970), which both reached the top 40 of the Billboard 200 chart. The band’s next album, Thirds (1971), was their commercial peak, reaching the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart and spawning the hit singles “Walk Away” and “Tend My Garden”. After the release of the live album James Gang Live in Concert (1972), bassist Dale Peters left the band and was replaced by Phil Kaufmann. The band’s next two albums, Bang (1973) and Miami (1974), were commercial failures, leading to the James Gang’s disbandment in 1974.
Vwhat Was The James Gang Most Popular Song?
The James Gang’s most popular song was “Walk Away.” The song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1971.
Who Were The Original Members Of The James Gang?
The original members of the James Gang were Jesse James, his brother Frank James, and their cousin Cole Younger. The gang was later joined by other members, including Bob Ford, who famously killed Jesse James.