I was born on December 7, 1972 in Arlington Heights, Illinois --the same week "Ventura Highway" hit the Top Ten. I've been enjoying America's songs as long as I can remember listening to music, thanks to the many America 8-tracks that my parents kept playing over the years. Growing up in the suburbs around Chicago, I would imagine what these magical deserts and fanciful highways looked like, and wonder what exactly an alligator lizard was. I longed to visit the Tropic of Sir Gallahad. During the 1980s, I lost touch with the band that had created the magical hits "A Horse With No Name," "I Need You", "Ventura Highway", and "Tin Man". I figured they were another one of those great '70s bands that just fallen of the world, so to speak -- another Seals & Crofts or Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds confined to the obscure dustbin of '70s trivia. > In the mid-1980s, my family moved to Thousand Oaks, California, northwest of Los Angeles. All of a sudden, I found myself driving down the Ventura "Highway", and off into the deserts around the Southland. Strolling through a record shop in July 1991, I came across a cassette tape of America's Greatest Hits. I hadn't heard most of those songs in years, but the time and the place were right for rediscovering their magic. I became an instant junkie, an addiction I haven't been able (or willing) to shake yet. Back at that time, Encore had just been released, but other than that, only the first album, the first Greatest Hits, and rarified copies of the 1985 live album for Capitol were available on CD. I began researching what albums were out there, and over the next few months I went on a hunt that covered every record shop around Southern California, and parts of Northern California as well. I got every America record that had ever been put out to that point. My friends became annoyed with the increasing numbers of America tapes I was wearing down in my Honda's tape deck. > I loved America's new material on Encore, but somehow I felt that was the last I would hear of them for a long time. I wrote letters to Warner and Capitol demanding the release of their LPs on CD, and another letter was fired off to Rhino asking if another album was in the works. I got a short response saying that Rhino had no further projects planned for America, which put me at a dead end for the time being. That was back in 1992. > What a decade it turned out to be!! All of America's remaining albums trickled out on to CD, and new then came Hourglass and Human Nature, not to mention Gerry's gem Van Go Gan, and Dan's return to the music business. Since the internet came around in 1994, first Rick Wahlgren's site and now Steve Lowry's fan page ensure that every fan who wants to can know everything about the band, from their albums and tour schedule to upcoming projects and fellow fans. It's hard to imagine a few years back when people had to send off letters to get what little information they could. In 1994, I found out about the Hourglass album while walking through a record shop and finding it on the rack. In 1998, we knew about Human Nature months in advance, and could even download clips of the tracks and chat with other fans about them. Years ago, I was upset when I read Rhino's letter that they had no further projects with America planned... I had no way of knowing that in 2000 that same record company would issue a three-disc boxed set of America's well-known and obscure material from the past thirty years. Happily, America's music has withstood the test of time. In the face of rabid critics and a fickle recording industry, America has endured.
While I was a student at UC Santa Barbara, I wrote an article about how the music industry has been historically critical of America. Steve Lowry posted it to his site in 1997. The next year I rewrote it and expanded upon it as a comprehensive history of the group from 1970 to the present. I always consider it a work in progress and welcome and additional information, recollections, and insights that anyone may have to share.
Currently I live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, just south of Denver, although I have plans to return back to Santa Barbara to resume my schoolwork in the near future. I work for a major cellular phone company researching billing and taxes -- at least when I'm not playing my latest America CDs.
Feel free to send your comments or questions to John.
Written: 23 April 1997
Last Revised: 23 October 2000