The legendary pop and country group, Exile, will be bringing their 50th anniversary tour to the Performing Arts Center (PAC) on the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi campus, Friday, Jan. 31.
Exile has had many transformations over the years, with nearly 30 members being a part of the group since their founding in 1963. The group that will perform in Corpus Christi on Friday, the country rock version of Exile, is arguably the most recognizable, with 13 top-10 singles and 11 number-one hits - including "Kiss Me All Over."
From their lows to their staggering highs, longtime band member Marlon Hargis recalls his journeys with Exile.
"I joined the band in the early 70's. I was playing with other bands in the region; Exile was considered the top band in that part of the country and had a number of regionally successful albums and singles," Hargis said. "I knew all of the band members, and I was delighted to be asked to join. However, until the success of "Kiss" in 1978, we often struggled to get by financially, because we insisted on doing our own material, instead of cover songs."
Hargis recalls his first performance with Exile in the early 1970's as being the start of several years of stagnancy.
"I do remember that my first gig with the band was at a club in Richmond, Kentucky. It was crowded, hot, smokey, and loud," said Hargis. "We continued those kind of gigs for years."
The stagnancy ended abruptly though, as their first major hit sky-rocketed to number-one on the pop charts in 1978, "Kiss Me All Over." After the rise of their first hit single, the band was shocked to find themselves playing in front of 15 to 20,000 people per night, and on the bill with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, Heart and The Doobie Brothers.
After a string of under performing singles in the States, the band decided to make a natural transition from pop rock to country in the early 80's. Due to their songs already being recorded and performed by the likes of Alabama and Janie Fricke, the transition would be met with greater success than they had ever known.
"It seemed like a logical move. Because of our writing, we had credibility in the country field," said Hargis of the transition. "To be totally honest, we didn't really change our sound that much; it fit perfectly in the country format of that time."
Exile's new sound found its way to the top of the country charts throughout the 80s, sending the band on long tours, long hours in the studio, leaving not much time to themselves. Eventually, all of this took its toll on this version of Exile, and in the late 80's, Hargis (along with several of the other members) left the band.
For his part, Hargis continued playing music; recording with bands throughout the late 80's and 90's, worked with Jerry Reed; Hargis even ran a music store for a few years.
"The five original members from the 80's had not performed together for 23 years. We had started to communicate with each other again in recent years, and decided to do a "one time only" charity reunion show in Lexington (Kentucky) in 2008," reminisced Hargis about that period of time. "During rehearsals for this show, we realized how much we'd missed being onstage together; it was as if we'd never left."
Of course, their "one time only" show turned into hundreds. Now, 2014 has arrived and they are in the midst of their 50th anniversary tour, bringing their ever-evolving sound, and their legendary Exile brand to thousands of fans who still adore the music for what it is - music.
"I think our sound is a mix of R&B, Gospel, and Country-Rock. It's never really changed, but just evolved over the years. We do have a distinct "Exile" sound, but we gave up trying to analyze it years ago- it just happens."
Hargis doesn't attribute their continued success as of late to relevance in today's country music landscape. He attributes it, instead, to the fans; not just fans of Exile, but fans of music. "There is a huge silent majority of Rock and Country fans who still like real music, and real musicians, and songs with feeling and emotion."
In the end, the highs and lows of Exile has brought them closer together, and closer to their fans, as they continue to explore the boundaries and the joys of country rock music.
"The driving force for the band for 50 years has been the love of music, and of each other. A band is a family, for better or worse," said Hargis. "Money or fame shouldn't even be a factor; the odds of either happening aren't likely anyway. Be prepared for rejection and hardship- but if you believe in what you do, you'll survive."
Their performance will begin on Friday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's Performance Art Center. Single tickets start at $25; ticket packages begin at $50. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.corpuschristilive.com