1970s group Atlanta Rythm Section co-founder and keyboardist Dean Daughtry dead at 76

 January 28, 2023

An original co-founder and keyboardist for the 1970s soft rock group Atlanta Rythm Section, Dean Daughtry, has passed away, USA Today reported.

The 76-year-old musician died from natural causes in Huntsville, Alabama, on Thursday, according to his friend and fellow bandmate, guitarist Steve Stone.

Praised for his contributions to the band

In a statement posted to Atlanta Rythm Section's official Facebook page, the band said, "We’re sad today to announce the passing of our long time, and original member Dean 'OX' Daughtry."

"While ARS is known to be a guitar centric band, just listen to the recordings and you’ll realize the contribution that Dean brought to the band," the statement continued. "From the first chord of So Into You, and the introduction to Imaginary Lover (both co-written by Dean by the way) he left his imprint on the bands recordings."

"For 49 years he never missed a gig, until his health forced him to retire a couple of years ago, cutting short his goal of 50 years," the band added. "He was like a Bulldog, but his friends knew him as 'OX.' Our hearts go out to his wife Donna, and his family. We’re gonna’ miss you, Ol’ Buddy!"

Original member of ARS

Deadline reported that Atlanta Rythm Section, also known simply as ARS, was first formed in 1971 and that Daughtry, until his retirement in 2020, was the only consistent member amid a constantly revolving lineup over the decades.

Prior to the formation of ARS, Daughtry had been a member of the 1960s bands The Candymen and Classics IV, and it was with various members of those bands -- Rodney Justo, Barry Bailey, and Robert Nix from The Candymen along with J.R. Cobb Jr. from Classics IV -- plus bassist Paul Goddard that ARS was initially brought together in the suburb of Doraville, Georgia.

The band's first album was released in 1972 but it wasn't until 1977's "So Into You" and 1978's "Imaginary Lover" that ARS finally hit it big with songs that ranked in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts.

A standout among southern rock bands

AL.com reported that Daughtry was a native of Kinston, Alabama who learned to play piano as a child and later, as an adult, resided in Huntsville for many years.

Though often lumped in together with other southern classic rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, and ZZ Top -- with whom they often toured -- ARS stood apart in that while the other bands were influenced by blues and country music, they were more influenced by jazz and R&B.

It was a style that worked well for them, though, and ARS was ultimately inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, along with the Wurlitzer electric piano Daughtry played to record "So Into You," in 1996.

Interestingly enough, that top hit song for them seemingly came about by accident, according to Daughtry in a 2012 interview with the outlet, while he and then-drummer Robert Nix had been playing the great B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone" during a jam session.

Band still touring with a revolving lineup

Atlanta Rythm Section found substantial success in the 1970s with charted hits, stadium tours, and even a gig at the White House under President Jimmy Carter, but never quite reached the same heights in the decades since, even as the band has continued to tour with a revolving lineup of musicians in light of the fact that all of the original members except Justo have since died.

Daughtry will certainly be missed by his surviving family and friends and fans of his work, and we share in the offering of condolences for those grieving the loss.

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