You Can Bet That Ain't Hollywood Sings Degarmo & Key
In the world of Christian rock, the initials D&K are immediately recognizable. They belong to Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key, the co-leaders of one of the genre's most popular bands from the late 70s to the mid 90s. During their career, they released 14 original band albums, 5 band compilation LPs, and Eddie and Dana recorded two solo albums each, so there is no shortage of D&K music. The album we are focusing on this week here on Vinyl Revival, is the band's third LP, 1981's This Ain't Hollywood. On a personal note, this album is very special to me, because it was the very first Christian rock album that I ever purchased, but I recently discovered that this particular DeGarmo and Key recording was intentionally meant to sound different from the band's previous two albums.
For those who may not be familiar with DeGarmo and Key's rise through the ranks, it goes something like this...Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key were best buddies from their elementary school days, and they were later bandmates as well in a local rock band in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. They were not playing Christian rock yet, but they were unknowingly building the foundation that define a large portion of their adult lives. Now sometimes, things would get rocky (see what I did there?) between the two friends when it came to the subject of solos. For the younger folks, rock bands back in the day would sometime feature instrumental solos that were meant to give the musicians a chance to show off their talents, and while most of them went to guitar players, they would also give the nod to bass players, keyboardists, and drummers from time to time. In this case, Dana (guitars) would play the lion's share of Globe's solos, while Eddie (keyboards) wanted to see some more time given to him for the same purpose. Even though it caused a few problems occasionally for the two best friends, they continued on, eventually securing a record contract.
That's when things began to change...not long after signing the contract, Eddie DeGarmo gave his heart and life to Jesus, and then began to actively witness to his longtime friend Dana Key as well. Not long after, Dana also accepted Christ as his personal savior, and the two friends left rock and roll behind. After leaving the mainstream music scene, the two friends sat their instruments and music aside for awhile...Dana attended Bible college, while Eddie went into the workforce. But after some time had passed, the Holy Spirit began to deal with Dana's heart, convicting him of putting his talent away, and not using it for the glory of God. Dana contacted Eddie, and The DeGarmo And Key Band (as they were originally known) was born. Since rock and roll had been their musical lives up to that point, they decided to play Jesus Rock, and sat out to once again secure a recording contract, this time with a Christian label.
After sending out tapes and speaking to several different labels, Pat Boone's Lamb & Lion records decided to sign the band, and in 1978, the longtime bandmates released their first album called This Time Thru. Commercial success however, was not easy to come by in the late 70s...the Christian rock industry of the next decade had not been born yet, and with only a limited number of Contemporary Christian stations at the time, Jesus Rock music was not played in heavy rotation. The following year, The DeGarmo and Key Band would release their second album, the iconic Straight On, which in my opinion is still one of the finest Christian Rock LPs ever made, but we'll cover that at a later date. By now, D&K were starting to catch the ears of industry people around the country, including a young manager from Nashville by the name of Mike Blanton. When Blanton heard DeGarmo and Key, he decided to pay the guys a visit on their home turf, and so he took a trip to Memphis. He liked what he saw and heard, and so he and his management partner Dan Harrell signed on to become the executive producers for DeGarmo and Key's upcoming third album.
By this time, Eddie and Dana had went through several band members between their first two studio albums, and the bad news was that they did not have a full time drummer or bass player, and the band officially had just two members. To take care of that snafu, they hired John Hampton and Joe Hardy, both of whom were constant fixtures at Ardent Studios in Memphis, to fill out the band, with Hampton, a well known engineer, on drums, and Hardy, a local producer, on bass. With a full band now ready to go, several other studio musicians were brought in to handle other musical duties. Two of the most notable names were a pair of background vocalists, including Southern Gospel and classic rock legend Mylon LeFevre, and a gentleman by the name of Jimi Jameson, who would take the lead vocalist reins of the popular AOR band Survivor just three years later. As executive producer, Mike Blanton brought in some ideas to solve DeGarmo and Key's biggest problem, which was lack of radio airplay. The new album, would shift musical directions away from the previous two D&K offerings. While the prior efforts had an almost prog rock feel to them (especially Straight On), Hollywood would feature a more straight forward, organic rock sound. Hampton's fantastic drum work would be featured more predominantly in the album's final mix, and more importantly, the guys had songs that were more radio friendly to record for the album. Songs like When He Comes Back and You Gave Me All were slated to become radio singles, giving the band more exposure, and hopefully more sales.
Once released, This Ain't Hollywood did not sit well with some of DeGarmo and Key's hardcore fans that had rocked out to the band's previous work. Overall, it was not quite as heavy as either This Time Thru or Straight On, but the gears had been changed out of necessity. The band was looking to take their ministry and career to the next level, and that could not be done without strong record sales. The album by no means is a flop, nor is it devoid of the kind of classic rock that DeGarmo and Key were already known for. The album's title song, which dealt with the fate of an actress who had rejected God for fame and fortune, starts the album off with a nice kick, and after the two radio singles we've mentioned, the album starts rocking again with Never Be The Same and side one's closing track, All Night.
Side two starts off with a song that Eddie and Dana wrote with Mylon LeFevre called Love Is All You Need, and that collaboration would kickstart a long friendship between D&K, and Mylon's band Broken Heart. It is the second song from side two though, that would change a lot of things for DeGarmo and Key. Mike Blanton convinced the guys that he managed a young artist who would be a perfect fit for Dana to sing a duet with on a song called Nobody Loves Me Like You, which was probably the most radio ready song they had. While the two rockers had probably never imagined themselves recording a duet with a female vocalist, they took a chance, and gave Blanton the green light to bring his young singer in to help with the track. It just so happened that this singer wasn't just anyone...her name was Amy Grant, and the history tells that their collaboration would pay big dividends for both artists. As we all know, several months later when Amy needed musicians to play on her first live album, she called Eddie and Dana, and they did in fact, provide the musical spark that made Amy Grant In Concert Volumes 1 and 2 sound terrific. Again, more on that at a later date...
The final three tracks from This Ain't Hollywood, Light Of The World, Over And Over, and One Step Closer finish the album with more mostly guitar driven classic rock (although the saxophone and horns on Over And Over are a really nice touch), closing out a strong set list and a pretty good LP. Okay, it isn't as heavy or progressive as Straight On, but again comparing those two albums is like comparing apples to oranges. The more traditional rock feel of This Ain't Hollywood pales in comparison to the Styx type quality of Straight On, but Hollywood succeeded in one major area that Straight On did not, and that was radio airplay. Three songs from DeGarmo and Key's third album made it onto CCM radio, and gave the band the exposure that they badly needed at that point in their career. After that, the gig with Amy Grant also put the band's name out into the mainstream of Contemporary Christian music, which is how I came to know who Eddie and Dana were, and I'm sure that I am not the only one in that boat. We all know D&K's story from here... they became a huge success in 1983, and stayed such until they called it quits in 1994. They are (rightfully so) inductees in the GMA Hall Of Fame, and their music has touched the lives of many all over the world. Not too bad for a pair of long time friends from Memphis!
1. Stella, This Ain't Hollywood
2., When He Comes Back
3. You Gave Me All (with Popeye intro)
4. Never Be The Same
5. All Night
6. Love Is All You Need
7. Nobody Loves Me (duet with Amy Grant)
8. Light Of The World
9. Over And Over
10. One Step Closer
One final note...if you are a DeGarmo and Key fan, I strongly encourage you to pick up Eddie DeGarmo's new autobiography entitled Rebel For God. It takes the historical element that we have given here, and fills in all the details. From their boyhood friendship, to their longtime musical collaboration, to Eddie's thoughts on Dana's untimely passing in 2010, this is a book that you DO NOT want to miss if you are a fan of classic Christian rock. So check it out, you won't be sorry!
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