While some classic rock-era bands have been able to carve out a comfortable touring niche on the strength of a couple of hits, others face an opposite dilemma in trying to cram all or most of their most popular material in a show.
In the '70s, America notched up a number of success with tracks including "A Horse With No Name," "Sister Golden Hair," "I Need You," "Ventura Highway," and "Tin Man." They scored a couple of more in the '80s with "You Can Do Magic," and "The Border."
But, as singer/guitarist and founding member Dewey Bunnell says, it's good to change things up a bit to appeal to both a "greatest hits" fan and a listener of deeper tracks.
"We actually have discussed beginning to spotlight one of our albums by playing three deeper cuts from it. And now we do songs like 'Indian Summer,' 'Wednesday Morning,' and 'Never Be Lonely.' Also things from the soundtrack to the [cult animated film] The Last Unicorn," he says. "But yes, the core of the set has to be songs that people know. That's what they come to hear."
Some of those more familiar tracks were written and sung by Dan Peek who -- along with Bunnell and Gerry Beckley -- founded the band. Peek left in 1977 to pursue his interest in Christian music. His most recognizable tunes include "Lonely People," "Don't Cross the River," "Everyone I Meet is From California," and "Woman Tonight."
Peek died in 2011 and -- aside from joining Bunnell and Beckley onstage for one song a couple of years after he left -- the original trio has never performed again onstage. And now, of course, it's too late. Still, Bunnell is surprisingly nonchalant about any missed opportunity in that area.
"The three of us were never close to having a reunion," he says. "It would be brought up -- mostly by the fans, who were passionate about it. But between [the three of] us, it would go back and forth and sputter out. It was never a serious concept."
He adds that any planned reunion -- even a one-off show -- would require a lot of rehearsal. And after Bunnell and Beckley contributed to one of Peek's solo records, they never saw him again. Producers would sometimes approach the trio about a new record, but no serious monetary offers came through.
"Gerry and I just felt...well, Dan never pursued it [a reunion] either. We were all resigned to our respective paths after he left. But, of course, the finality of his death quashed any idea," Bunnell says. "But I don't have any terrible regret about it."
In fact, he says that the years they spent together as a trio seem like "a dream" that's hard to remember, and only seeing old photos and video clips bring it back.
"But we bring Dan to life every single night we're onstage, his contributions," he sums up. "His voice is what we're reproducing in our harmonies."
When America come to the Stafford Centre, they're likely to touch base with a Houstonian and personal friend, famed lawyer Mark Lanier.
Lanier and his wife Becky are famous for throwing huge private parties on their 25-acre property for thousands of guests and hiring big name entertainers like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Diana Ross, Johnny Cash, and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw to play.
And when that last duo performed, Bunnell and Beckley -- who have also done a show for the Laniers -- got to join the party, but as guests with their wives.
"Mark's a great guy!" Bunnell says. "Can you mention him in the article?"
America plays Saturday night at Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd. in Stafford. Doors open at 8 p.m.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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