By Sandra W. Plant
When the group Exile performs at the EKU Center for the Arts on Saturday at 7 p.m., it will be a homecoming of sorts for the band, originally called the Exiles, that formed in Richmond in 1963.
Exile is coming to Richmond on behalf of the Kentucky Riverkeeper, a conservation group headed by local artist and activist Pat Banks.
“We thought this would be a great opportunity to bring Exile back and also to support our mission of advocacy for the Kentucky River,” Banks said. “All profits from the concert are going to support this incredible river.”
Exile’s history is very much a part of the music scene of the 1960s in Richmond. J.P. Pennington, guitarist and vocalist, is the only original member still with Exile. Although Exile played at a Richmond Fourth of July celebration some five years ago, he says he is very much looking forward to coming back again to his old “stomping ground.”
What can the audience expect from Exile on Dec. 8?
“Well, the reason we are still around is we’ve been lucky enough to have a number of radio hits. We try to remain true to the music, so the show will include six or seven of our hit songs,” Pennington said. Local fans will remember their biggest hit was “Kiss You all Over” from 1978, but other hit songs include “Woke Up in Love,” “She’s a Miracle,” and “Hang Onto Your Heart.”
The audience can also expect to hear several a capella gospel numbers.
“We really like to harmonize on those,” he said. And then there will be a medley of Motown music that was a big influence on the musicians as they were growing up.
Exile has a new Extended Play (EP) recording called “People Get Ready,” that will be available at the concert. Pennington describes this as an old Rhythm and Blues song performed a cappela with “just a tiny bit of guitar.” Fans can also purchase a CD featuring 10 of Exile’s Greatest Hits.
Many of Exile’s songs are written by Pennington, often in collaboration with bassist Sonny LeMaire. Quite a few of their songs have been recorded by other artists, including the group Alabama on “The Closer You Get,” and “Take Me Down.”
Pennington and Exile are looking forward to 2013 when the group will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame at Renfro Valley. This is a special honor for Pennington, because his group will be following in the footsteps of his late mother, Lily May Ledford of the original Coon Creek Girls.
In 1965, these homeboys were invited to travel with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, playing shows in and around Kentucky. They continued touring nationally with the Caravan of Stars until 1968, opening shows and playing backup for well known artists of the day. Finally in 1978, Exile made the big time with its hit recording of a rock pop ballad called “Kiss You All Over.” Today, Exile plays at venues large and small all over the country, Pennington said.
Kim Clouse, now an art teacher at Berea Community School, recalls that “we grew up listening to Exile. When I was a little girl, it was the first live music I ever heard. I thought they were fabulous,” she said.
As she got older and all through her college years, Clouse said she and her best friend went everywhere the band played. A fan to this day, she is the proud owner of five Exile albums purchased on eBay.
Michele Thompson Gore recalls that Exile played for Model Laboratory School’s senior prom the year she and Clouse graduated in 1975.
“We were very glad we got Exile. They were very popular regionally and were just becoming successful.”
A check with the box office at EKU Center for the Arts shows that tickets are selling well at $25 each. Pat Banks encourages everyone to come out to hear Exile live and in person while also supporting the mission of the Riverkeeper.