Dean Daughtry, a co-founder of Atlanta Rhythm Section, has died at age 76. The news was confirmed in a Facebook post on the band’s official page.
“We’re sad to announce the passing of our longtime and original member Dean ‘OX’ Daughtry,” read the post. “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. 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.”
Daughtry was born in Kinston, Ala., on Sept. 8, 1946. “I started taking piano lessons when I was 5, and my mother liked gospel songs, so I learned things like ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,'” he told AL.com in 2020. Before long, he was playing in local juke joints.
He eventually landed a steady gig as the keyboard player for the Candymen, a pop quintet that often performed as Roy Orbison‘s backing band. He then spent a short stint as the keyboardist for the Classics IV, who hit the Top 10 in 1965 with “Spooky.”
In 1970, Atlanta Rhythm Section began to take shape with two other former members of the Candymen: Rodney Justo and Robert Nix, plus James B. Cobb Jr. from the Classics IV. Barry Bailey and Paul Goddard, who had also backed up Orbison, joined, too.
The group signed with Decca Records, releasing their first, self-titled album in January 1972. It didn’t fare well commercially, and neither did their next two albums, so the band focused attention on performing, opening for artists like the Who and the Rolling Stones, among others.
Then their most successful album arrived in 1976. A Rock and Roll Alternative included the No. 7 hit “So Into You.” Another No. 7 hit came in 1978, “Imaginary Lover.” Daughtry earned co-writing credits on both songs, which became staples of the band’s live show and have continued to receive airplay over the years. “That is the ultimate goal for a musician, a recording musician,” Daughtry said in 2020. “It feels good.”
Watch Atlanta Rhythm Section Perform ‘So Into You’ Live in 1977
“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 new Facebook post said. “From the first chord of ‘So Into You’ and the introduction to ‘Imaginary Lover’ … he left his imprint on the band’s recordings.”
Even though Atlanta Rhythm Section’s lineup changed over the decades, Daughtry remained the band’s sole constant member. (They are currently scheduled to play several concerts across the U.S. this year.)
In 2020, Daughtry was asked if there was anything he wished he had gotten to do in his career. “Tour with the Beatles!” he joked. ”But I was really [lucky] to get my start with Roy Orbison. It was great. We had a lot of good times.”
Watch Atlanta Rhythm Section Perform ‘Imaginary Lover’ Live in 1979
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