Date: 04/03/2012 Print This Post



Hailing From Anniston, Halfway Between
Birmingham and Atlanta, Longtime Musicians
Ted Amberson (Vocals) and Michael Baggett (Guitars)
Discover an Instant Chemistry that—in the
Storied Tradition of Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Atlanta Rhythm Section and the
Marshall Tucker Band—Inspires
“The Greatest Hits of a Band That Never Happened”

Ted Amberson and Michael Baggett are a little too raw and blissfully old school to audition for “American Idol.” But as the fiery Southern Rock group The Amberson-Baggett Band, they’re bound to draw as much excited attention to “Sweet Home Alabama” as fellow Alabamians Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks did in their post-Idol heydays.

Digging into the treasure trove of timeless and edgy rockers penned over the years by Baggett, the Anniston, AL based duo—featuring Amberson on vocals and Baggett on electric guitar and bass—amps up for a set of 11 tunes they facetiously call “The Greatest Hits of a Band That Never Happened.” When folks hear it and start kickin’ up dust and jamming along, no doubt the album title will prove prophetic: That’s Gonna Leave A Mark.

The title of the rollicking closing track says it all. “This is Real” and the others—including the first radio single “Satisfied (Live My Life)” —harken back brilliantly to an era when bands didn’t want or need TV competitions to galvanize audiences hungry for real music. While “Satisfied” and the wistful look back on the good old days “Have You Been There” are focal tracks, it’s the autobiographical “Shoes For My Pillow” (featuring expansive electric guitar passages, including a powerful 75 second intro) that strikes the most intense emotional chord. It’s a piece that shows the value of hard life experience in crafting great songs.

Baggett admits he pursued bad relationships in his life which detracted him from music for way too long; Amberson once passed up the opportunity to study music under a full vocal scholarship. With their colorful, challenging pasts behind them, they make no apologies for making music that neither could have fathomed when they started out.

Baggett, an accomplished instrumentalist, began writing music back when Southern rock greats like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band and Atlanta Rhythm Section could also be pop stars. He made a go of a musical career before, touring Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee extensively from the mid-80s to mid-90s with an original rock outfit. He’s also played hundreds of solo jazz guitar gigs over the years and, tapping into the heritage from his Cherokee mother, recorded a Native American flute project called Ayeli (meaning “in the middle”) that received airplay on the XM New Age and Native American stations.

When Baggett met Amberson, the singer—who had been fronting mainstream rock bands for some 20 years—was trying to take his latest group, My Lucky Number, to the next level, with middling success. He secured airplay for his song “The Other Hand” which got a great response in the month it aired and was subsequently put on iTunes, and the DJ at a local station picked Amberson’s group as the first band he featured on a new rock show. Amberson put a live band together to gain some momentum for his original rock material.

Amberson realized that despite their decade plus age difference, he and Baggett were musical kindred spirits raised on classic and Southern rock. “Michael was doing his jazz thing and I was doing my rock thing when we finally pooled our musical resources and realized we had something cool together,” Amberson says. “I was losing musicians from my band and asked him to sit in on some gigs at places like Nashville, Birmingham, and Fort Payne while I was still pushing ‘The Other Hand’ as a single. Because my needs varied, some nights Michael would play guitar; other nights, bass or drums. He began filling in wherever I needed him. We played several shows and felt an instant chemistry.
“He had started recording some of his older songs and asked me to do the vocals on them,” Amberson adds. “Soon, it made more sense ultimately to focus on what we were doing together. There was something so familiar in the vibe of these songs, as if we had been a band that surfaced then disappeared in the mid-70s and suddenly re-appeared 30 some years later! I think the Amberson-Baggett Band is unique because gritty, real deal Southern Rock is missing from the musical landscape today. There’s a lot of music out there but not a lot of new bands doing this kind of thing at the level it deserves. It’s familiar, yet also new and fresh. It also seems to have the ability to make people feel young again.”

After auditioning several musicians to fill out the band, the lineup finally solidified with the addition of two more from the Baggett clan – Michael’s sons Chris and Luke. “The boys are at least fifth-generation musicians, and multi-instrumentalists. They stepped up and earned their place in the band. We could not have found anyone better to fill these spots.”

One of the most fascinating aspects of That’s Gonna Leave A Mark is the fact that while certain tunes like “High Time” and “Satisfied (Live My Life)” are brand new and written out of the energy the duo brought to the project, others had their origins as far back as 35 years ago. The blistering rocker “Fallen Angel” has evolved over the years, but Baggett wrote it in his teens , and his hypnotic electric guitar line is exactly the way he conceived it back in the late 70s. The fact that it still sounds contemporary speaks volumes about the ability of Southern rock—and this powerhouse band—to bridge generations.

As Baggett sees it, “We’ve got three things going for us: strong songwriting, Ted’s incredible vocals and the fact that my guitar isn’t just something to fill space but an actual character and integral part of the songs. Not long ago, I had the windows down and was playing the CD while waiting in a drive thru line at a fast food joint. A guy walking across the parking lot stuck his head inside my car and said, ‘that dude is really playing that guitar!’ All I could say was, ‘Yes he is.’ That’s what it’s all about for us, connecting with people who want to hear what we do and appreciate it—something that translate’s even better when we’re onstage. If it means something to them, that’s what means something to us.”