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The James Gang: “Walk Away” and “Funk 49”

The James Gang was in the second tier of rock acts from the perspectives of popularity and record sales. However, the James Gang had their moments, their fans and the acknowledgement of those who made it bigger.

“Walk Away” was the band’s big hit. The first 40 seconds of the clip above is probably as good an example of pure 1970s garage band rock as there is.

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The James Gang

The James Gang was formed in 1966 in Cleveland. The most famous alumni is Joe Walsh, who went on to greater fame as a member of The Eagles and has had a successful solo act. Walsh joined the James Gang in 1968. Things quickly got interesting:

One night in May, 1968, on the way to Detroit for a show at the Grande Ballroom opening for Cream, half the band quit. Needing the money to pay for gas to get home, the James Gang took the stage as a trio, and Joe was forced to learn on the fly how to carry rhythm and lead duties simultaneously. It proved a revelation.

The band therefore after was a trio. It developed a following and got a record deal. Its 1969 debut album was cleverly titled “Yer Album.”

The bio notes that legendary guitarists — Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend – at various times expressed admiration for Walsh’s style.

A lesser known alum of the James Gang is Tommy Bolin. Bolin was quite a musician. Most notably – and least surprisingly – Bolin was a member of Deep Purple. But he clearly was a fine musician whose skills went far beyond rock. Before joining the James Gang, Bolin played with legendary jazz drummer Billy Cobham on an album called Spectrum, according to Wikipedia. It was the big leagues: Cobham and others on the album were members of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Bolin also was an established session man who played with a long list of well-known musicians. He indeed was versatile: In addition to hard rock and cutting edge jazz, Bolin recorded a song, “Owed to G,” which Wikipedia says is a tribute to George Gershwin. Unfortunately, Bolin died in 1969. The cause of death was a drug overdose.

Another hit by The James Gang was “Funk 49.” The video below features Bolin and seems as much an odd dream sequence as a rock video.

Photo: JazzFusionMaster

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