If you were a young adult in the 70’s and lived near Columbus, Ohio, you knew that the best band in the land was McGuffey Lane!
McGuffey Lane is a country/rock band that began in 1972 with two people from Athens, Ohio, on the campus of Ohio University. Steve George Reis, playing bass guitar and vocals hooked up with Terry Efaw who played just about every form of guitar; steel, electric, and string, and sang vocals, began the duo called “Scotch and Soda”. As they became more well known, they added Bobby Gene McNelley playing guitar and singing vocals, and changed their band name to McGuffey Lane, which was based on a street name from Steve’s hometown of Athens.
As their popularity grew, they soon they moved to a new home in Columbus, Ohio. Filling out the band with Dick Smith on drums and Stephen Douglas playing keyboards and harmonica, they started playing in a local Ohio State University bar on High Street called Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon. Soon they became the house band and filled the three-story bar to the rafters. Their opening act, John Schwab, a talented singer/songwriter in his own right, organically joined the band as members of McGuffey Lane began to join him on stage. Within a few months, the band adopted Schwab into the mix, adding another guitar and lead vocals.
The phenom known as McGuffey Lane quickly became the band everyone in Columbus clamored to see.
McGuffey Lane played at Zachariah’s through 1980 and produced their first album. That album quickly topped the charts in Columbus during the fall of 1980. Their sound was influenced by the country/rock artists of the seventies like; Pure Prairie League, Poco, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Eagles. Just a touch of rock n roll and a shot of country and their records echoed through every dorm at Ohio State University, and homes all around Columbus.
One of the first dates my wife and I had was to visit the Red Eye saloon and sing along with McGuffey Lane. The place was packed, the beer flowed, and everyone in the bar sang along with their rousing version of, “Up Against the Wall you Redneck Mothers…”. I won’t add the last word in the chorus that the audience screamed out. I think you can fill in the end of the refrain.
But their unique sound was highlighted by the songs they wrote and captured in their first self-titled album. They have released ten more albums since, included a great “Live” album that captured the enthusiastic crowds singing along.
I Spoke with the lead singer and co-writer of many of their songs, John Schwab. He shared that one of the band’s earliest challenges came about when their new record label insisted, they record their second album with a more rock and roll sound. Quite frankly, it didn’t work. They left that record company and tried to reestablish their unique and terrific sound as a great country/rock band.
After touring as an opening act for many national bands for several years, they aged, added families into the mix, they felt they wanted to stay closer to home. “The road was a great place to be during the early years, but as we became older, the road lost a little of it’s magic.” Their goal was to continue performing within one hundred miles of Columbus.
John shared with me that the music industry has changed so much over the past few years. “It is hard to keep record sales growing. People aren’t buying or downloading music anymore. It is mostly streamed through internet providers like Amazon, Apple iTunes, Spotify to name a few. It is very hard to earn royalties like it used to be when you went to the local record store to buy an album, cassette, or CD.”
Schwab also shared some information about his writing process. He said, “Sometimes an idea comes into your head, but it can take weeks to finish. Others I wrote in a matter of minutes while sitting at my kitchen table where the lyrics and melody just fell out of my head, including one of the concert crowd’s favorite, “Long Time Lovin’ You”.
I also learned some of the artists that were his early inspirations The Beatles and believe it or not, Frank Sinatra. I guess you never know where someone’s roots might be found. But, of course, so were those legendary artists that blended the country and rock trends of the seventies: The Eagles, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
The lyrics of some of their songs are incredible to me, and hopefully soon for you as well.
Sitting on a city park bench, you ought to try a split rail fence, Not as much noise and a whole lot more to see Give me those Green County Mountains, Give that clean country air Ain’t life funny? It’s so funny, I think I’m gonna cry It’s been a longtime loving you, A long time learning to, know exactly how you feel inside, But I knew yesterday what you’re gonna say tomorrow, Let me say it for you, goodbye
Asked if he had a favorite song, he couldn’t put his finger on just one, but their favorite songs to perform live have to be, “People Like You” and “Ain’t No One to Love You Like I Do”. Mostly because they are fan favorites who love to sing along, even when the band lets the crowd take over the choruses!
While they have performed in concerts across the country and even once in England, their true home is Columbus, Ohio. The first album has sold over 300,000 copies and those songs are the image of the band for all us who are now becoming senior citizens! My favorite is “Long Time Lovin’ You”, and yes, I still sing along loudly with them in my living room!
My kids grew up listening to McGuffey Lane and love all their songs too, mostly because they were trapped in grandpa’s car often – my grand-kids love many of their songs as well.
If you love music, I guarantee you’ll love McGuffey Lane, especially that first collection of songs on their first album or their live album.
Music is incredibly important to me. It fills my soul with everything a person could possibly need in life, so I’ll just keep singing along with McGuffey Lane: the “Best Damn Band in the Land”, and one you’ve probably never heard of, McGuffey Lane.”