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McKendree Spring

Named after Connecticut-raised frontman Fran McKendree, the Columbus-based 4-piece McKENDREE SPRING (with Martin Slutsky, Larry Tucker and Michael `Doc’ Dreyfuss) began performing a residency at NY’s Bitter End venue in 1969. A hybrid of country, blues and folk, the group had several years developing their blend on the North American circuit, although their recording successes were somewhat overshadowed by their top-billing cohorts such as The EVERLY BROTHERS and JAMES TAYLOR; subsequent tours alongside FRANK ZAPPA/Mothers Of Invention, BILLY PRESTON and AVERAGE WHITE BAND followed.
The eponymous McKENDREE SPRING (1969) {*6} laid the foundations for their Top 200-breaking sophomore effort, SECOND THOUGHTS (1970) {*6}; cover highlights on the sets included TOM RUSH’s `No Regrets’, BOB DYLAN’s `John Wesley Harding’ and JAMES TAYLOR’s `Fire And Rain’. With much the same formula for McKENDREE SPRING 3 (1971) {*6}, Messrs NEIL YOUNG (`Down By The River’) and ANNA McGARRIGLE (`Heart Like A Wheel’) came in for some retrospection, while easily McK SPRING’s best song came courtesy of `God Bless The Conspiracy’ – virtuoso electric violinist Dreyfuss’s best post-Mahavishnu workout by far; bassist Fred Hollman had also superseded Tucker. A lean but funky/Little Feat-like rock period in 1973 produced a couple of below-par LPs, TRACKS {*4} and the prog-like SPRING SUITE {*4}, but a change of motivation, line-up and outlet (Pye Records) was needed; Hollman was also duly replaced by Chris Bishop and drummer Carson Michaels.
This move came on the self-descriptive GET ME TO THE COUNTRY (1975) {*5}, their best-selling set to date (reaching No.118) and a record that cloned the peaceful, easy feeling of the Eagles. Ditto album number seven, TOO YOUNG TO FEEL THIS OLD (1976) {*3}, by which time the band was on the verge of a split. While individual members of the group found subsequent work for major television companies (ABC, NBC, Fox and Discovery among them), the McKENDREE SPRING trio re-grouped for a one-off show in Cleveland in 2006, which resulted in concert CD LIVE AT THE BEACHLAND BALLROOM (2007).
Adding the returning Bishop, McKENDREE SPRING emerged from the studio with five songs a self-financed EP, `Recording No.9’. This featured covers of The Subdudes’ `One Word’, MARC COHN’s `Ellis Island’ ballad, KEB MO’s `Everything I Need’, TOM RUSH’s `River Song’ and an instrumental climax, `The Jig’s Up’. A few of these pieces and selections from their past endeavours appeared on 2015’s TIME LIKE THESE {*6}, recorded live at Douglas Corner, Nashville, in May 2013 with honorary members Paul Hollowell (keyboards) and Alan Stoker (drums); guest spots from saxophonist Rock Williams and backing singers Sharon Ferrera and Carol Anderson. FRAN McKENDREE has released a handful of sets over the years: `Via Transforma’ (2001), `Listening For The Heart’ (2001), `Cairn’ (2003), `Rise’ (2008) and `Awake’ (2015).
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Sep2015

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