Atlanta Rhythm Section, or ARS, was formed in Doraville, Georgia in 1970. They are generally considered to be one of the first Southern rock bands to spring up in the wake of the Allman Brothers Band.

Although underrated compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd, ARS released 15 quality albums over their 50-year career and peaked in popularity in the late 70s with hits like “So Into You”, “Champagne Jam” and “Imaginary Lover.

ARS was assembled by songwriter, producer and manager Buddy Buie to be the house session band at Studio One in Atlanta, as well as a kind of supergroup to record their own compositions. ARS featured members of Roy Orbison’s backing band The Candymen, and Classics IV, Buie’s previous band with co-writer JRCobb who recorded hits like “Stormy,” “Traces” and most famously, ” Spooky” which also became a big hit for Dusty Springfield and ARS.

“The reason this band existed was because they wanted a band that would do their songs the way they wanted if they were the singer,” ARS singer Rodney Justo explained. “He was like a director. I did a recording session with Buddy where I did the song once and went to listen to the take. I walked into the control room and the engineers were crying. I thought that would be it, but Buddy said to me, ‘If he can do that in one take, imagine how well he could do it after fifty years!’ So I did about fifty takes.

Justo began his singing career as a teenager, performing in the Candymen and touring the world with Roy Orbison. Orbison even produced Justo’s first songs as a solo artist, “Miss Brown” and “Tell Her You Care.”

“I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about my time with Orbison,” Justo said. “It’s been 50 years, but it was such an experience. I made this record when I was 19.

Justo playfully recalls the sinking feeling he felt when he saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show just days before entering the studio with Orbison.

“I went, ‘Uh oh.’ What I’m going to record has nothing to do with it,” Justo said with a laugh. “It’s like someone pulled the rug out from under me. Everything is different now. Roy thought the record was a success. . I’ll never forget it. He turned to my manager and said ‘Smash’. It was a ‘smash’ indeed. But I was glad it happened and my experience with Roy was remarkable.

ARS spent most of his early years backing other artists on their recordings, but after years in the studio he finally released his debut album in 1972. Justo left the band soon after to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Ronnie Hammond. Justo returned several times over the years until he joined ARS permanently in 2011.

Although ARS is categorized as Southern Rock, Justo and his bandmates never really saw themselves in that light. Their music was more varied and pop-oriented, and as experienced session musicians, their playing was more complex and disciplined.

“I don’t think we’re what people would call a southern rock band,” Justo explained. “We were placed in this genre because we come from the South. But for me, southern rock bands are Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Marshal Tucker. These are the southern rock bands. We don’t sing about pickup trucks and tailgating and Willy and the boys. Our music both lyrically and in chord structure, I think most people would tell you that I hate to use the more sophisticated word, but I think you know where I’m coming from. At the same time, there’s no doubt that as long as you can put one foot in front of the other you can work, because the hits are classic rock hits.

“Some people have called us the Steely Dan of the South, which I think is fair enough when we compare ourselves to other Southern rock bands.”

ARS has several recognizable hits, but their massive song catalog contains plenty of material Justo is thrilled to perform live for dedicated fans like “Crazy” and “Jukin’.”

“It’s very easy to listen to the hits and think that’s who we are, and that’s fair, but the deep cuts are the ones that are really fun to listen to,” Justo said.

ARS has several recognizable hits, but their massive song catalog contains plenty of material Justo is thrilled to perform live for dedicated fans like “Crazy” and “Jukin’.”

“It’s very easy to listen to the hits and think that’s who we are, and that’s fair, but the deep cuts are the ones that are really fun to listen to,” Justo said.

With most of the original band members, as well as Buie, having passed away, Justo is the last original member of ARS, but he continues to tour and entertain fans.

“I’m like a keeper,” Justo said. “I just try to keep it alive for people who want to see it. I left the band and I was gone for a long time, and I came back because I had a job like everyone else. I took my retirement and this band was the vision, the dream of Buddy Buie. When I left the band, I was still friends with everyone in the band. He called me and asked me to come back after all these years. He was a good friend of mine and I know what this band meant to him. I don’t think the band would continue without at least one original member. I had a great life for a long time, so I don’t I don’t need to work, but at the same time, that’s what I do.

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