River City Street Band

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1

- Tommy Byrd -- vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion

- Bill 'Fuzz' Foster -- lead guitar, vocals

- Randy Gardner -- drums, percussion, vocals

- Blan Heath (RIP 2000) -- keyboards, vocals

- Ethridge Hill -- trumpet, vocals

- Dick Johnson -- bass, guitar, vocals

- Tom Jones -- trombone, vocals

- Dale Marlow --  trumpet, vocals


  supporting musicians:

- Terry Manning -- synthesizers




- Byrd and Street (Tommy Byrd)

- The Geezinslaw Brothers (Tommy Byrd)

- The Panacea Society (Fuzz Foster)





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  River City Street Band

Company: Enterprise

Catalog: ENS 1024

Country/State: Fayetteville, Arkansas

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened and torn)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6007

Price: $18.00


Like a lot of collectors, there are certain labels where if I see an album on that label, I'll buy it regardless of whether I'm familiar with the band, or not.  Case in point, the Fayetteville, Arkansas-based River City Street Band.  Never heard of them and only bought it because their 1972 album was released on Stax's Enterprise subsidiary.



Enterprise promotional picture 


An eight piece band, River City Street Band became the first all white band signed by Stax (in this case the label's Enterprise subsidiary).  Having located to Memphis the band recorded their debut in the famed Ardent Studios with Tim Riley producing.  (In case anyone cared, Terry Manning was credited with playing Moog synthesizers on the album.)  1971's cleverly-titled "River City Street Band" offered up a somewhat odd mixture of hard rock and horn rock - imagine Chicago with the late Terry Kath calling the shots and you'll get a feel for the overall sound.  Featuring a largely original collection of material penned by singer Tommy Boyd and bassist Dick Johnson, the album wasn't all that bad, especially for a horn rock excursion, but most of the songs would have been even better sans the horns.  That said, for the most part songs such as 'Happy Song' and 'Lamp of Love' exhibited fairy tight and commercial structures that served to keep the horn section (Ethridge Hill, Tom Jones, and  Dale Marlow) in check so this wasn't anywhere near as bad as your typical Blood, Sweat and Tears, or Chase album.  The album also benefited from Byrd's nice voice.  He had one of those instruments that was rugged and tough, but still capable of sounding quite commercial.  The band also had a second lead singer who was featured on a couple of tracks (take a listen to 'People').  Beats me who it was ...  The other surprise weapon came in the form of guitarist Bill 'Fuzz' Foster.  Whenever Foster was given a chance to open up things quickly improved.  Shame he wasn't allowed even more space.


"River City Street Band" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Some Other Man   (Tommy Byrd) - 2:11

The opener served as a nice showcase for Byrd's gruff voice and Fuzz Foster's fuzz lead guitar (guess that's where he got the nickname).  A decent rocker, with a nice bass pattern from Johnson, the track would have been even better had they dropped the horns.   rating: *** stars

2.) So Many Things   (Tommy Byrd) - 2:09

'So Many Things' featured a likeable blue-eyed soul flavor.  Once again the spotlight was on Byrd's double track voice (which was well suited to the genre) and Foster's fuzz guitar.  Because the song was so catchy, the horns weren't as noticeable this time out.   rating: *** stars

3.) People   (Tommy Byrd - Dick Johnson) - 3:58

With the horns upfront and center, to my ears 'People' sounded very much like an early Chicago tune - albeit one of their better rock-oriented numbers (before the decided to become an adult contemporary act).  The combination of horns, Randy Gardner's upfront drums, and strumming acoustic guitars gave the song a definite Chicago-like feel.  Anyone know who handled the second lead vocal ?   rating: *** stars

4.) If You Can   (Tommy Byrd - Dick Johnson) - 2:44

Kicked along by Foster's guitar, 'If You Can' found the band trying on a heavier rock sound.  To be honest, it might have worked except for the friggin' horns.   rating: ** stars  

5.) Love Me Only   (Tommy Byrd - Dick Johnson) - 2:40

Another driving rocker, 'Love Me Only' had a catchy melody and a great vocal from Byrd.  Yeah, the ever present horns were there as well.  Shame.  rating: *** stars

6.) Happy Song   (Tommy Byrd - Dick Johnson) - 2:33

Another Chicago sound-alike, 'Happy Song' was one of the album's most commercial and radio friendly songs.  Easy to see why it was tapped as the leadoff single.   rating: *** stars

7.) Modern Man   (Dick Johnson) - 2:35

On 'Modern Man' Byrd and company actually sounded a bit like David Clayton Thomas and Blood, Sweat and Tears.  The song had a great melody with the horns actually serving to support the melody, rather than distracting from it.  Terry Manning's deft synthesizers were showcased on this one.  One of my favorite selections.   rating: **** stars  


(side 2)
1.) Searchin' Man   (Dick Johnson) - 3:15

Okay, in spite of the horns and the David Clayton Thomas vibe, I'll readily admit to liking 'Searchin' Man'.  So sue me.   rating: *** stars  

2.) Nancy's April Song   (Tommy Byrd ) - 2:39

Another stab at a hard rock song, 'Nancy's April Song' actually came off pretty well, though the shrill horns merely served to distract from the killer melody.   rating *** stars

3.) Two Different People   (Tommy Byrd - Dick Johnson) - 3;20

Normally a sappy ballad such as 'Two Different People' wouldn't have made a much of an impression on me, but this one had a pretty melody and the horns were relegated to a backing role - basically a pair of quick Dale Marlow trumpet solos.  Very nice.   rating: **** stars

4.) Lamp Of Love   (Charlie Roman - Dan Sullivan) - 9:07

Opening up with a nice Johnson bass pattern, 'Lamp Of Love' was one of those tunes that had 1970s stamped all over it ...  Showcasing one of those period 'love will save everything' lyrics and a seemingly endless refrain (the track ran on for over nine minutes),  this one actually sported the album's best melody and some pounding rhythm from Johnson and drummer Gardner.   rating: **** stars

5.) I Wanna Be A Star   (Dick Johnson - Dale Marlow) - 0:15

The album faded out with a brief, fifteen second snippet entitled 'I Wanna Be A Star'.   rating: * star


The album was tapped for a pair of obscure singles:


- 1971's 'Happy Song' b/w 'Lamp Of Love' (Enterprise catalog number ENA 9043) 
- 1971's 'Some Other Man' b/w 'Two Different People' (Enterprise catalog number ENA 9052) 


As you probably figured out, I'm not a big horn rock fan so the fact I could actually sit through this one without fidgeting speaks volume for the quality of the material.








Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Anna Divina

Company: Enterprise

Catalog: ENS 1027

Country/State: Fayetteville, Arkansas

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6070

Price: $15.00



I've never bothered to track it down, but under the abbreviated moniker River City, the band released a second LP and a couple more singles:  


Ha ... naturally a couple of weeks after I wrote that I found a copy of the second album, 1972's "Anna Divina at a yard sale ...


Produced by Tim Riley, the band's sophomore release wasn't a major change in direction.  With Boyd and Johnson again responsible for penning the majority of material, their sound remained firmly entrenched in early-197s horn-rock (think along the lines of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chase, or Chicago).  That said, this time out the horns were actually a bit less prominent and on a couple of tracks ('Statue of Liberty' and 'Marlow's Catfish Song') there were no horns.  So here's the funny thing - they were actually far stronger without the horns ...


"Anna Divina" track listing:  

(side 1)

1.) If You Don't Quit Changing   (Dick Johnson) - 

If You Don't Quit Changing' started the album off with one of their better melodies, but the intrusive horn arrangement sort of took the steam out of the song.    rating: ** stars

2.) Hawkin's Farm   (Dick Johnson) - 

With an uplifting lyric on racial harmony, the pretty acoustic ballad 'Hawkin's Farm' sounded like something off of a Lobo album ...  by the way that was actually meant as a compliment.   rating: *** stars

3.) Sunshine Won't You Help Me   (Dick Johnson) - 

'Sunshine Won't You Help Me' offered up another country-rock flavored track recalling something a band like Firefall, Poco, or Pure Prairie League might have recorded.  The song highlights came in the form of some gorgeous harmony vocals and Heath's always tasteful keyboards.   rating: *** stars

4.) Magic Country Music Box   (Tommy Byrd) - 

'Magic Country Music Box' was simply a bit too country-tinged for my tastes.   rating: * star

5.) Pimp Song (Come With Me)   (Dick Johnson - Tommy Boyd) - 

'Complete with Bill Foster wah wah guitar solo, the first part of 'Pimp Song (Come With Me)' was side one's most rock oriented effort, making it possible to overlook the Chicago-styled horn arrangement.  Unfortunately, out of the blue the song morphed into a bluesy instrumental designed to showcase Foster and trumpet players Ethridge Hill and Dale Marlow.   rating: *** stars   

6.) Roll Another Joint-Fuzz   (Tim Riley) - 

Penned by producer Riley, 'Roll Another Joint-Fuzz' was a weird little acapella effort.  I'm guessing it was meant to be funny, but apparently hasn't aged all that well.   rating: * star


(side 2)

1.) Statue Of Liberty   (Tommy Byrd) - 

Completely abandoning the horns, Boyd's 'Statue Of Liberty' was a conventional rocker with a great melody and some tasty Foster lead guitar.  Shame they didn't do more stuff in this vein.  Probably my favorite track on the album.   rating: **** stars

2.) All The Sunshine   (Tommy Byrd) - 

In sharp contrast to most of the album, 'All The Sunshine' was a spare, acoustic ballad with one off the album's prettiest melodies.   rating: *** star

3.) My Friends And The Band   (Dick Johnson) - 

Ah life in a band ...   'My Friends And The Band' well for a horn rocker, this one wasn't bad.  I'll leave it at that.   rating: *** star

4.) Seems Like Yesterday   (Tommy Byrd) - 

So 'Seems Like Yesterday' was the song where my anti-horn sentiments took a beating.  Yeah, this rocker had plenty of horns, but the rest of the track was strong enough to overcome that disadvantage.  The song also sported Foster's best guitar solo.   rating: *** star

5.) Sittin' Here On The Porch   (Tommy Byrd) - 

While I've always liked Boyd's craggy voice, it was wasted on country-tinged numbers like 'Sittin' Here On The Porch'.   The scat section didn't do much to save the track.   rating: ** stars

6.) Marlow's Catfish Song (instrumental)  (Dick Johnson - Dale Marlow) - 

The instrumental 'Marlow's Catfish Song' was basically a set up for a Marlow harmonica solo.  It was pretty, but along with the running water sound effects, ultimately sounded like a piece of incidental film music.  rating: ** stars


Elsewhere the album spun off a pair of singles:


- 1973's  'Marlow's Theme (Marlow's Catfish Song)' b/w 'Magic Country Box' (Enterprise catalog number ENA 9064) 
- 1973's 'Hawkins Farm' b/w 'Sunshine Won't You Help Me' (Enterprise catalog number ENA 9078) 
- 1973's 'Wind Me Up' b/w 'Marlow's Theme' (Enterprise catalog number ENA 9097)


Nope, it wasn't a lost classic, but there were a couple of tracks that were worthwhile ...



Keyboardist Blan returned to his hometown of Blytheville, Arkansas and became a farmer.  Sadly he died in July 2000 farming accident. 


A quick check of the internet showed Byrd remained active in music.  After the band called it quits he relocated to Austin where he turned his attention to commercial jingles and then joined the Geezinslaw Brothers for several years.  From there he became a partner in an Austin recording studio before setting up his own studio where he's some solo material, as well as a collection as Byrd and Kathy Ship.  He has a small website at:





Hill also stayed engaged in music playing on a steady stream of albums including Sarah Hickman's 1994 album "Necessary Angels".


And out of the blue, here's an email from Tommy Byrd himself



I saw the information about River City Street Band...thanks.  Well done. 
I wanted to let you know that I'm still very much involved with music as part of Byrd & Street (www.byrdandstreet.com).  I continue to write and recently had one my songs, Let Me Be Your Friend, recorded by Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame).
 Tommy Byrd  September 2010