Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 4, 2014

Exile to share years of hits at Summer Motion

Founder J.P. Pennington still loves to perform with original lineup

ASHLAND — Even if you somehow managed to never hear the song “Kiss You All Over,” odds are you are still familiar with tunes written by members of the band Exile.

With millions of miles and countless thousands of stages behind the band since it was formed in the 1960s in Richmond as The Exiles, singer and guitarist J.P. Pennington says he remains fascinated by the evolution of the music business, and audiences alike.

“I have more appreciation for the business and the fans than I ever have, really,” Pennington said last week as the band prepared for its 2014 Summer Motion show in Ashland. “When you can look back and realize you’ve accomplished things you dreamed of doing as a kid, and you continue to receive positive feedback from old fans and new fans ... I don’t know what more a person could ask for in life than to be rewarded that way. There was probably a time when I took that for granted.”

The band is currently touring with original members including Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny Lemaire, Steve Goetzman and Marlon Hargis, who the founding member described as “the five guys who were responsible for 95 percent of our success on a national level — the lineup that really put us on the map.” Despite the 20-year break since the five stood on stage together, Pennington said the old chemistry was immediately in place when they resumed playing together in 2008. The reunited band recorded a five-song EP titled “People Get Ready” including their acappella cover of the Curtis Mayfield title song and four new original songs, Pennington said, although audiences seem to want the bands classic hits.

“We noticed that when we play the other new songs, people start getting up and going to the bathroom,” he said with a laugh.

Pennington chuckles as he explains the band began in 1963 “with all the high school kids,” and hit it big with “Kiss You All Over” in 1978 to become “a 15-year overnight success.” Following the success of the single, however, Pennington said the band hit unexpected obstacles. “We couldn’t get any success after Kiss You All Over,” he said, explaining people expected the band to reproduce the single’s sound and feel, “and it wasn’t our style to copy our own song.”

The band members made a choice to leave the road and the record companies behind, booked themselves into a club at a Lexington bowling alley and set out to redefine themselves as a country music group, ultimately leading to some of their most successful songs for themselves as well as others. After making the conversion to country, the band racked up hits with No. 1 songs including “Woke Up in Love,” “I Don’t Want to Be a Memory”, “Give Me One More Chance”, “Crazy For Your Love,” “She’s a Miracle,” “Hang On to Your Heart,” “I Could Get Used to You,” “It’ll Be Me,” “She’s Too Good to Be True” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough.” Several of the bands other songs were covered by other artists, including “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy” covered by Janie Fricke, and “Just In Case” by the Forester Sisters, and Pennington co-wrote “The Closer You Get” and “Take Me Down,” both rerecorded and made No. 1 hits by Alabama.

The band’s show in Ashland will include a medley of songs that were written by band members, but were number one songs made famous by other artists, Pennington said.

Guitar lovers will appreciate the fact that Pennington will almost certainly be playing the hot-rodded and well-worn Fender Stratocaster he has been using on stage and in the studio since shortly after the band’s “Kiss You All Over” days.

“It is a 1964 model, but there’s not a whole lot left on that guitar that’s original — basically the body and knobs,” he said. “I’ve had newer guitars and I’ve tried to retire it, but I’ve just never been able to.”

Exile will take the Summer Motion stage at 8 p.m. today. For more information, visit summermotion.com.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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