Exile (American band)

Infobox musical artist
Name = Exile

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Alias = The Exiles
Origin = Richmond, Kentucky, USA
Genre = Country, Rock
Years_active = 1963–Present
Label = Warner Bros., Epic, Arista, Columbia, SSS International, Date, Curb, Wooden Nickel, Atco
Associated_acts =Burnin' Daylight, Southern Pacific, Ronnie and the Fascinations, The Digits, Jimmy Stokley and the Exiles
Current_members = J.P. Pennington Les Taylor Sonny LeMaire Marlon Hargis Steve Goetzman
Past_members = Jimmy Stokley Ronnie 'Mac' Davenport Ronnie Hall Paul Smith Buzz Cornelison Mike Howard Larry Jackson Billy Luxon

Exile, originally known as The Exiles, is an American band. They originally began as a pop rock group, hitting the peak of their success in 1978 with the rock pop ballad hit "Kiss You All Over". Soon thereafter, they reinvented themselves as a country music band and have since had a string of number one country singles to their credit.


The country music version of the band included J.P. Pennington (guitar, lead vocals), Les Taylor (guitar, vocals), Sonny LeMaire (bass, vocals), Marlon Hargis (keyboards) and Steve Goetzman (drums). Their biggest hits, spanning from 1978 through 1987, included "Kiss You All Over", "Woke Up in Love", "She's a Miracle" and "Give Me One More Chance".

Pennington wrote many of the group's songs (often with LeMaire) and several were covered by other artists, including "The Closer You Get" and "Take Me Down", both covered by Alabama, "It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy" covered by Janie Fricke and "Just In Case" by the Forester Sisters. "Kiss You All Over" was used in the 1996 Adam Sandler movie "Happy Gilmore".

1960s --- the early Rock and Roll years

In 1963, a group of high school students started a rock and roll band in Richmond, Kentucky. They called themselves the Exiles. Those original Richmond Exiles were Jimmy Stokley, Ronnie 'Mac' Davenport, Ronnie Hall, Paul Smith, J. P. Pennington, and Buzz Cornelison. Their chosen name may have resulted from the influx of Cubans into the United States after the Fidel Castro takeover in 1959. According to original Exile Pennington, “There were a lot of Cuban exiles coming across...the word was in the news and we felt we were also somewhat ostracized from the local society. We had long hair back then...”

Richmond natives Mike Howard, Larry Jackson, and Billy Luxon were also members of the Exiles in the 1960s. Most of the Exiles were students at Madison Central and Madison High School in Richmond when the band formed and played together from 1963-65. They were an off-shoot of Ronnie (Hall) and the Fascinations and another Richmond area group, the Digits. They were known in those early years as Jimmy Stokley and the Exiles. Stokley (18 October 1943 - 13 August 1985) was the lead singer of the group and continued in that capacity until 1979. It is Stokley's lead voice that is prominent on Exile's 1978 Billboard pop music chart-topper, "Kiss You All Over".

When the Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars hit the road in 1965, they picked up the Exiles to perform on several dates in and around Kentucky. They continued touring nationally with the Caravan of Stars through to 1968; opening the show and providing back-up for headlining stars like Freddy Cannon, the Young Rascals, B. J. Thomas and others.

In the late 1960s, they recorded for both Date Records and Columbia Records, and in the early 1970s for SSS International, Date, Curb and Wooden Nickel record labels. With the help of Cecil Jones of Lemco Sound Studios in Lexington, the Exiles developed and polished their sound. The band scored regional hits such as "Devil's Bite" and "Church Street Soul Revival" (written and produced by Tommy James).


The band changed musical styles throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. They shortened their name to Exile in 1973 and released their eponymous debut album through Wooden Nickel Records that same year. Singles released from the album proved unsuccessful, and it would be a good five years before the band released a full-length follow-up album.

In 1977, the band released the single "Try it On" on Atco Records, and it became a minor hit. The following year, Mike Chapman, an Australian who had established himself as a record producer in England, came to the United States in search of an experienced group who wrote their own material. Chapman heard an Exile demo and went to their next concert. Chapman evidently enjoyed what he saw. He and Exile decided to collaborate and together they produced the "Mixed Emotions" album on Warner/Curb Records. The first single release from that album was "Kiss You All Over." The single reached Billboard's Top 40 on 5 August, 1978. It remained on the chart for seventeen weeks and was #1 for four weeks in September. It was a best-seller for six months.

Their follow up single, "You Thrill Me," also from the "Mixed Emotions" LP did not fare as well, although it did reach the Top 40 for one week on 3 February, 1979. The band toured with Aerosmith, Heart, Dave Mason, Boston, Seals & Crofts and other hot pop acts of the late seventies throughout the United States, Europe and Africa.

"All There Is", the group's second Warner Bros. Records album, recorded a year later with a distinct disco beat, yielded a foreign hit, "The Part Of Me That Needs You Most." This single did particularly well in Europe and South Africa. "Don't Leave Me This Way", their third album, produced by Peter Coleman, yielded two more singles, "Take Me Down" and "Smooth Sailing." Once again, it did well in Europe and South Africa although their popularity in the United States waned.

Numerous personnel changes took place in 1979. Perhaps most significantly, Stokley would leave the group that year, forcing remaining members guitarist/vocalist J.P. Pennington, keyboardist Buzz Cornelison, keyboardist/vocalist Marlon Hargis, bassist/vocalist Sonny Lemaire and drummer Steve Goetzman to search for a new lead singer. A young singer, Les Taylor, accepted an invitation to join the group and shared lead vocal duties with Pennington. By the early `80's, other lineup changes took place, including the exit of original member Buzz Cornelison, plus keyboardist Mark Gray, who co-wrote "The Closer You Get" & "Take Me Down", both of which became hits for the group Alabama, played a short stint from 1980-82.

1980s and move to country music

Solidified with the lineup of Pennington, Taylor, Lemaire, Goetzman and Hargis, Exile saw a number of their songs become hits for other country acts, and followed that success to Nashville themselves. In 1983, they released their first country chart single, "High Cost Of Leaving" produced by legendary Nashville starmaker Buddy Killen, reaching the Top 40 at a respectable #27 on the country chart, then followed by a flurry of four successive #1 country singles in 1984, namely "Woke Up In Love," "I Don't Want To Be A Memory," "Give Me One More Chance" and "Crazy For Your Love". There were six more #1 country singles by 1987: "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 numerous minor hits. Exile received 11 nominations for Vocal as well as Instrumental Group Of The Year from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

Death of Jimmy Stokley

Meanwhile, original lead singer and band co-founder Jimmy Stokley died on August 14, 1985. An Associated Press obituary published in "The Miami Herald" on August 15, 1985 attributed his death at Pattie A. Clay Hospital in Richmond to complications from hepatitis. Some comments for one of Exile's videos on YouTube (the short version of "Kiss You All Over") seem to indicate that he had been experiencing liver problems for quite a while prior to his passing. According to these comments, the then-current members of Exile even performed a benefit concert for him at Eastern Kentucky University just a few months before he died of liver failure. [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJJQpSzDgC0 YouTube - Exile - I Wanna Kiss You All Over (1978) ] ]


Exile didn't weather the change of the decade well as a major lineup change occurred in 1990 with the release of the CD "Still Standing". Pennington, Taylor and Hargis all exited, replaced by newcomers Paul Martin on guitar and vocals and Lee Carroll on keyboards. The songs were still strong, but a more country-pop oriented sound emerged which didn't find as big a reception as the earlier hits, though "Yet" and "Nobody's Talking" were Top 10 Country hits, while "Keep It In The Middle Of The Road" and "There You Go" reached the Top 40. 1991's "Justice" brought Mark Jones on guitar, essentially to help cover Les Taylor's parts, but though the single "Even Now" was released and charted as a minor Top 20 hit from this CD, the momentum was obviously lost; the stresses and strains of success and the continual loss of members, especially the core of Pennington and Taylor, finally brought the group down and the group disbanded in 1993. Many of the band’s former members (21 in all) gathered onstage for a farewell concert in Lexington. Exile played another farewell concert at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

Afterlife & Reunion

Pennington signed with MCA Records and landed a Top 30 hit with "Whatever It Takes". Taylor inked a deal with Epic Records and released two singles, including "Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda Loved You" which peaked at #46. They continued to write songs and perform solo. Taylor sang national jingles and Pennington produced. LeMaire eventually formed a group called Burnin' Daylight, which also included a former member of Southern Pacific.

In 1995, Pennington & Taylor met up and performed together one night in Lexington at a nightclub. Their impromptu meeting caused them to seriously discuss putting Exile back together. More local shows followed and crowds flocked to their appearances. Taylor and Pennington resurrected the Exile name that same year. The group has since continued to perform on a regular basis and appeared at the Kentucky State Fair with Dwight Yoakam in August 2006.

All told, there have been 35 members of Exile. The most recent line-up consisted of J. P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Ray Salyer, Steve Richmond, and Jason Witt. However, on October 19, 2006, Taylor announced that he would once again leave Exile to pursue solo interests.





Exile Lead Rock singer Jimmy Stokley, 41. (1985, August 15). The Miami Herald, p. 4D


* [http://www.exileband.com/ Exile Official Web Site]

External links

* [http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/exile_1_/artist.jhtml CMT.com: Exile]

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