They’re called One Flew South, but Royal Reed, Chris Roberts and Eddie Bush, whose debut album is aptly titled Last of the Good Guys, actually had to fly north to launch their career.
The Nashville-based trio’s vocal sound fit in perfectly with the progressive thinkers at Decca/Universal Records, in whose New York offices they auditioned. The result was instant signing—both to a recording contract and song publishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
But One Flew South is no overnight success. Rather, the three vocalist-songwriters have been involved in show business for years prior to hitting upon a perfect combination–and actualizing a long-held notion of a band starring three superbly matched vocalists.
Chris Roberts was the first future member of the threesome to test the concept. The New Orleans native, who had moved to New York by way of Montana (he met Royal in New York where both had gravitated in pursuit of a music career), ended up in Nashville, where he was encouraged by legendary country music singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin–who had his own stellar career singing lead in a trio with his brothers.
“We started talking about doing a vocal trio,” said Chris. “I hadn’t heard anything like that since Crosby, Stills & Nash.”
Hailing from El Paso, Royal Reed came from a musical family and played in a top circuit country/western band. After working as a studio and demo singer in Los Angeles, he wended his way to New York.
“We batted around the idea for a trio but never found a third person we liked,” Royal recalls. So he returned to Los Angeles, and Chris to Nashville, But Royal eventually headed to the Music City, too, when a friend enlisted him to play bass in a rock band.
Meanwhile, Chris hooked up with Marcus Hummon, a Nashville-based songwriter whose catalog contained six No. 1 hits from the likes of The Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts’ Grammy-winning “Bless the Broken Road.”
“We started to write together,” Chris continues. “We realized that we had a fairly strong musical connection. He embraced the trio idea and agreed with Larry that it was something that was missing from today’s music scene. We went through three or four different guys before finding Eddie.”
Eddie Bush was a certified guitar hero back in his home state of South Carolina and throughout the Southeast.
“I started playing guitar when I was four years old,” said Eddie. “I played my first professional gig at 16.” After his hero and fellow guitar ace Eric Johnson took him under his wing, he began performing solo acoustic sets throughout the club circuit, and later opened theater shows for the likes of Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Sammy Hagar, Jefferson Starship, REO Speedwagon, Eddie Money and .38 Special. “I was making a country record in Nashville, so I started showcasing—and that’s how I met Marcus Hummon,” said Eddie.
Marcus had attended one of Eddie’s Nashville showcases, and brought him to Chris. Royal, of course, was already in town.
"From the first moment the three of us sang together it felt like home,” said Chris. “There was something about the way that we all came together,” added Royal. “Musically it all just fell into place.” It just felt right.”
The resulting demos quickly led to the Decca signing through a production deal with New York management company DSW Entertainment. The trio then proceeded to record their debut, Last of the Good Guys, with the help of top songwriters–most notably J.D. Souther, who co-wrote such Eagles’ classics as “Best of My Love” and “Heartache Tonight.” “With beautiful echoes of the great harmony groups like Poco, Eagles, even The Beach Boys; One Flew South are the new kids in town,” noted the legendary songwriter. Souther summed it up by saying; “It's been my good fortune to work with excellent writers and singers and these guys are right in that vein of turning good melodies into the harmonic adventures you hope for when you write these kinds of songs.”
Also enlisted were session musicians to provide an instrumental sound as classic as the three-part vocal blend. The key players were drummer John Gardner, bassist Mark Prentice, banjo player Wanda Vick, and of course Eddie on guitars–with added coloring from Bruce Hornsby & The Range guitarist George Marinelli and Marcus Hummon on acoustic guitar and mandolin and piano.
The process, as Eddie notes, was not without its challenges.
“Marcus brought songs to the table and once he heard us sing, had to figure out who sang what part and what our roles were,” he explains. “But when we wrote ‘Makin’ It Rain’ and ‘Sara’ we started growing and developing a sense of who we were as a group. These songs told us who we were, how to record and stack our voices together.”
"There is nothing in the world that gives us more pleasure than singing together,” says Eddie.
One Flew South, Royal, Chris and Eddie agree that through their meeting they’ve been given a chance to follow a shared passion. Their music unites them, their songs inspire them and together their talents, their desire and their artistry give them all the personal nourishment that they need. No studio magic, no bells or whistle; they all sing lead, simultaneously as one, indivisibly and beautifully.
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