Exile sings “Kiss You All Over”
In 1963, members of two Richmond, Kentucky-based teenage bands, Ronnie and the Fascinations and The Digits together to form a new rock and roll band. They called themselves the Exiles (or “The “). From 1963-65, 7-8 long-haired kids, including Jimmy Stokley, Ronnie ‘Mack’ Davenport, Paul Smith, Mike Howard, Billy Luxon, J.P. Pennington, Buzz Cornelison, and briefly, Danny Williams, who were mostly students at Madison Central and Madison High School, pored themselves into their music, even producing their first 45-record with WEKY Radio disc jockey, Jimmy Kincer—Side A: “The Answer to Her Prayers”; Side B: “Come On.”
In 1965, Dick Clark began the “Caravan of Stars” tour and the Exiles were tapped to perform several dates in the Kentucky area. Thereafter, they joined Clark’s caravan, opening the shows and providing backup for the headlining stars, where they remained until 1968. During this time, they continued to hone their sound, recording for both Date and Columbia Records in the late, as well as SSS International, Date and Curb in the early ‘70s and went through a number of musical changes, including shortening their name to Exile in 1973. Their debut album with Wooden Nickel Records achieved several regional hits, including Todd Rundgren’s “Devil’s Bite,” and a track written produced by Tommy James, “Church Street Soul Revival.” In 1977, Exile released a single, “Try it On,” with Atco that produced a minor hit.
In 1978, Mike Chapman, a record producer in the UK, rediscovered Exile, and collaborated to produce their first major album, Mixed Emotions, on Warner/Curb. The first single, “Kiss You All Over,” went No. 1 on the Billboard Top 40 for four weeks, remaining on the chart for a total of 17 weeks and dominating the stacks as a best-seller for over six months. They hit the road touring with Aerosmith, Heart, Seals & Crofts, Boston and other hot pop acts of the era. Despite this success, their follow-up album did not fare well, and the road had taken its toll on Stokley, who quit the group the following year citing vocal issues and that he had grown “tired of the business.”
Les Taylor joined the group to fill the vacancy left by Stokley, sharing lead vocals with Pennington, and the group repackaged itself for the country/southern rock format. With Buddy Killen producing, the new solidified band, which included Pennington (lead vocals/guitar), Taylor (vocals/guitar), Marlon Hargis Sonny LeMaire (bass/vocals), Steve Goetzman (drummer), churned out a string of No. 1 Country singles from 1984 – 1987, including “Woke Up In Love,” “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory,” “Give Me One More Chance,” “Crazy For Your Love,” “She’s A Miracle,” “Hang On To Your Heart,” “I Could Get Used To You,” “It’ll Be Me,” “She’s Too Good To Be True” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough,” and received 11 nominations for Vocal as well as Instrumental Group Of The Year from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
Sadly, on August 13, 1985, the band’s co-founder and original lead vocalist, Jimmy Stokley passed away at the age of 41 from complications caused by hepatitis. Additionally, and despite their success, the band would enter the 90’s with a major lineup change as Pennington, Hargis and Taylor exited. The years that followed were dotted with Top-40 minor hits by the remnants of the group, and Pennington as a solo artist on MCA and Epic.
In 1995, Pennington and Taylor began putting Exile back together, but in 2006, Taylor would once again depart to pursue solo interests. Not to be deterred, two years later, in 2008, the band would announce its official (and hopefully, final) reunion. Now, 10 years later, Exile is on the road celebrating their 55th anniversary, as one of the longest-running American bands in history. Additionally, many of the songs performed by the group were written by founder J.P. Pennington, often with the help of LeMaire. Pennington’s songs have been cut by other artists and groups, including Kenny Rogers, Janie Fricke, Forrester Sisters, Sheena Easton, Tracy Lawrence, and Travis Tritt. Alabama #1’s “Take Me Down” and “Closer You Get” were written by J.P. Pennington and were multi-million sellers, earning him numerous awards for his writing, including being named BMI Songwriter of the Year in 1986.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of the group, upcoming tour dates, and more information, please visit https://www.exile.biz.