12 Songs, 51 Minutes


About John Townsend

John Townsend is an Alabama-based blues and R&B singer and pianist who, as co-leader of the Sanford-Townsend Band, scored a Top Ten hit in 1976 with the song "Smoke from a Distant Fire." Influenced by classic soul and R&B artists like Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and Wilson Pickett, the Tuscaloosa native began playing in bands while still in high school, eventually forming a seven-piece group called the Rubber Band while attending the University of Alabama. Although their career wouldn't last long, their 1967 single "Let Love Come Between Us" would later become a hit for James & Bobby Purify. He assembled his next group, Heart (no relation to the successful '70s and '80s act of the same name), from the remains of a Montgomery-area band called the Rockin' Gibraltars, which featured keyboardist Ed Sanford. With Heart, Townsend relocated to Los Angeles, where the band scored a record deal, released a number of singles, and even did a tour opening for Jimi Hendrix. When that band eventually fizzled out, Townsend spent bounced around doing studio work and other odd jobs while trying to find a band that would stick.

He eventually found it in the early '70s when he ran into his old friend and former Heart member Ed Sanford. The two began writing songs together with the hope of scoring a publishing deal, which eventually came via Chappell Music. A record deal with Warner Bros. soon followed and the Sanford-Townsend Band headed back to their home state to record their debut album with producer Jerry Wexler at the legendary Muscle Shoals studios. Their single "Smoke from a Distant Fire" rose all the way to number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and, riding this momentum, the group spent the next several years touring the world alongside acts like Fleetwood Mac, the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, and many others. When they eventually disbanded, Townsend found studio work doing jingles and co-writing with the likes of Kenny Loggins, Gregg Allman, and Larry Carlton. In the early '90s he joined the Gregg Allman Band for a spell, touring with them for several years before starting the Toler/Townsend Band with Allman Brothers guitarist Dan Toler and his brother David Toler. The group was together throughout the late '90s and 2000s, eventually releasing their eponymous album in 2008. Townsend also released his first solo album, The Road Leads Home, in 2003. ~ Timothy Monger

    Tuscaloosa, AL



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