Dean Daughtry, the keyboardist and co-writer behind Atlanta Rhythm Section’s two biggest hits, died Thursday of natural causes in Huntsville, AL. He was 76.
Atlanta Rhythm Section was omnipresent on the radio in the 1970s, thanks to its Top 10 soft-rock hits “So Into You” and “Imaginary Lover.” Daughtry co-wrote both.
“While ARS is known to be a guitar centric band, just listen to the recordings and you’ll realize the contribution that Dean brought to the band. From the first chord of ‘So Into You,’ and the introduction to ‘Imaginary Lover,’ he left his imprint on the band’s recordings,” the group wrote on Facebook. “For 49 years he never missed a gig, until his health forced him to retire a couple of years ago, cutting short his goal of 50 years. He was like a Bulldog, but his friends knew him as ‘OX.'”
Daughtry was the sole consistent member from 1971 through 2020, when he retired. Before joining ARS, Daughtry played keyboards in The Candymen and later Classics IV, which had Top 10 pop hits with “Stormy” and “Traces” when he was in the group. He also often played as part of the backing band for Roy Orbison.
Daughtry and fellow Candymen bandmates Rodney Justo, Barry Bailey and Robert Nix, as well as former Classics IV member J.R. Cobb Jr., joined bassist Paul Goddard to form ARS in the Atlanta suburb of Doraville.
The band’s first album came out in 1972, but it took until 1977’s A Rock and Roll Alternative for them to break big. That gold album had “So Into You,” a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
They followed up with the Top 10 “Imaginary Lover” from 1978’s Champagne Jam, which hit No. 7 and was the group’s only million-selling album.
The group had several minor hits after that, including “Spooky,” a remake of the Classics IV song that was recorded before Daughtry joined that band. ARS’ version charted at No. 17 on Billboard.
ARS still plays small theaters and festivals, with Lee Shealy taking Daughtry’s place.
No information on survivors or memorial plans was immediately available.
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