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July 10th- The Rise and the Fall of the Starlight Vocal Band

Posted by hughrandle@gmail.com on July 10, 2013 at 6:50 PM


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On July 10, 1976, a new #1 song hit America," Afternoon Delight", The singers of this syrupy love song were a quartet named The Starland Vocal Band. As is so often the case with so called “overnight successes”, theirs was far from an overnight rise to the top.

The Starland Vocal Band was composed of husband and wife Bill and Tiffany Danoff, who began their career singing folk songs in the late 1960‘s in Washington D.C. and then formed a band called Fat City. Their initial claim to fame is that they wrote a song called "He’d Rather Be in Colorado", which was recorded by John Denver and Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. Additionally, and more substantially, they paired with Denver on the writing of arguably his most famous songs "Take Me Home, Country Roads". The duo released 2 albums, Reincarnation in 1969 and Welcome to Fat City. in 1971. They also regularly opened for John Denver on tour. In 1974, Bill and Tiffany added Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman to form Starland Vocal Band. Again, thanks to John Denver, they were signed to his record label and in 1976 released their self-titled debut album. From this album came the mega hit "Afternoon Delight". Despite, or maybe because of its allusion to afternoon sex and frivolity, the song became the darling of AM radio. In actuality the song refers to a dish on the menu at Clyde’s a Washington D.C. eatery. Composed of shrimp and hot brie, Bill Danoff came home after eating said meal and declared that “this is what afternoon delight should be”. Soon after its debut, it reached number 1 status in the U.S. It’s success was not limited to the states, as it also hit the top twenty in Great Britain and Australia. So huge was the impact of the song, it garnered the band a TV variety show for two short months in 1977. One lasting result of that show was a regular performer named David Letterman, who became quite famous in his own right. The debut album and runaway hit song gained five Grammy nominations and won two, including Best New Artist for 1976 and best voice arrangement on "Afternoon Delight". Following up a gigantic hit is never easy and sure enough, the next three album releases, Rearview Mirror in 1977, Late Nite Radio in 1978 and 4x4 in 1980 failed to generate anywhere near the interest of their debut album. Danoff’s marriage failed and Jon and Margot, who married during the height of their fame, also separated. Years later, after AOL named the song the 26th worst song ever recorded, the song had a rebirth in the movies being satirized by the movie PCU, and Starsky and Hutch, used in Car 54, Where Are You and even on today’s hit show Glee. It has been referenced on countless TV shows and the band shows up as a tattoo on Homer Simpson’s arm on The Simpsons. But it was its use in Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story that catapulted the song back to mock fame and introduced the cheesy song to a whole new generation. Today, the band members have gone their own ways, Bill Danoff still writing and collecting royalty checks from "Afternoon Delight" and "Country Roads" among others, his ex Tiffany writing novels, Jon Carroll performing with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Margot Chapman continuing to write and record. It was a long strange trip in the summer of 76. America celebrated its bicentennial and its love for one another with the best (or worst) song of the year. As Bill Danoff says all these years later, “It was never meant to be “Satisfaction.” But it sold several million records, and people still know it. I make no bones about the fact that I always wanted to be a pop songwriter. I wanted to write hit records. When people say, “What’s your favorite song ever written?” I tell them, “The one that made me the most money.” I like “Afternoon Delight” best because it was the biggest hit. It was a magical record.” Here is the Anchorman version for your enjoyment!!

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