1975-1976 - Paying Dues and Going Gold

"Dog Days" was ARS's fourth album and their first true masterpiece - an album that still stands as one of their best. It showcases a band that has found its groove and is taking its music to a new level. Featuring another fine collection of songs about themselves and the South, the band displays a growing array of musical styles and approaches that are very different from where the rest of Southern Rock was headed. Overall, it's a faster paced album that what had come before, featuring six up-tempo songs and two beautiful ballads-all originals.

Despite the great material, there were no breakout singles or large increases in national attention. The band continued touring to refined their live sound, and fairly quickly went back into the studio to record their next album-one that would capture their evolution in a new way.

"Red Tape" - An Early Classic

Another early classic that is among their best work, Red Tape is quite different from the previous album or anything that had come before. As the band had played more live shows, they had developed an ensemble sound, and there was an effort to capture that sound on record. The result was like an ARS gig from the mid-70's-with a strong emphasis on their appreciation for the blues. The band had previously been combining pop and rock stylings. For this album they went with predominantly shorter, pop length songs-with one notable exception. The performances featured a harder rock approach than they had recorded before, with a sharp edged guitar sound prominently featured.

Local Hits Followed by Pressure from the Record Company to Produce More

Red Tape was released in April 1976. The first single from the album, Jukin, was a regional hit and was followed by a second single, Free Spirit. While these songs got airplay in the South, the album didn't produce the sales Polydor was looking. They continued to expand their live performances, including a memorable show in the spring of 1976 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta's Chastain Park.

ARS faced increasing pressure for sales and chart success, and this came to a head in 1976. They had been taking 3 months to record each album, but now got an ultimatum from their record company-deliver the next album in 45 days or else. While road weary from touring non-stop for most of the year, they went back to Studio One and wrote, recorded, and produced the next album in 30 days. Whether it was the deadline pressure or the natural evolution of the group, they created a rock and roll alternative that would carry them to new heights.


The band attained a new level of critical acclaim and popular appeal with this album released in December 1976. It is another eight song set, including seven originals and a cover of a blues classic previously recorded by the Yardbirds. While a few songs feature shorter arrangements similar to the last album, most of the songs go back to the longer format of previous albums. And while several of the songs rock hard, overall the production returns to the smoother, pop feel the band had used to record in the past. This is another great record-one that seems to be a culmination of all that ARS had done up to this time. The twin signatures of the ARS sound - Ronnie Hammond's voice and Barry Bailey's guitar - have never sounded better, but the record's great strength is the breadth and scope of the songs themselves.

With A Rock and Roll Alternative, ARS needed a hit record to keep going-and they got it. The first single, Neon Nites, got close to the top 40. It was the next single, So Into You, that proved to be the breakthrough. It rose to number seven on the charts and was a staple of rock radio during the summer of 1977. The album made it to the top 10 on the charts and went gold. Popularity carried them out of the clubs and into stadiums. On Sept. 4, 1977 ARS played their biggest show yet, the Dog Day Rockfest at Atlanta's Grant Field on the campus of Georgia Tech University. Heart and Foreigner were the opening acts and Bob Seger co-headlined. For a period of several years, ARS was on the road for 250+ shows a year.

When they came off the road, they were right back in the studio working 5 days a week. For the first time, the band had popular success to build on-but this also meant increased expectations to top themselves. They worked to produce a focused, concept album that would show they were up to the challenge-and had their greatest commercial success.


Next: 1977-1979 The Pinnacle of Success

ARS Historical Timeline

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