The group won the Grammy for "Best New
Artist of 1976"
"Afternoon Delight" won the Grammy for "Best Arrangement for Voices" and is
in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Starland Vocal Band dominated American airwaves during the Bicentennial
summer of 1976 with their quintessential soft rock chart-topper "Afternoon
Delight." The group emerged from the Washington, D.C. folk scene of the late
'60s, its roots dating back to the formation of the acoustic duo Fat City, which comprised future
husband and wife Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert. Together the
couple wrote a song titled "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado" which was
recorded by John Denver and Mary Travers; with Denver, they also penned the
smash "Take Me Home, Country Roads." In 1969
Fat City recorded their debut
after 1971's Welcome to Fat City the duo began working as simply
Bill and Taffy, regularly
opening for Denver on tour.
On Bill and Taffy's
second album, 1974's Aces, the duo enlisted 18-year-old singer and pianist
Jon Carroll; the couple was so
impressed by Carroll's performance
they decided to form a new group, adding the youngster as well as vocalist
Margot Chapman to become the
Starland Vocal Band. They soon signed to
Denver's Windsong label and in 1976 issued their
self-titled debut LP,
with the lead single "Afternoon Delight" quickly reaching the top of the
charts on its way to helping earn the group five Grammy nominations. (They
won two, including Best New Artist.) "Afternoon Delight" was so enormously
popular that the group even landed their own short-lived CBS variety series
Vocal Band Show, which featured a then-unknown David Letterman.
The second Starland Vocal Band album, Rear View Mirror,
followed in 1977, but failed to match the success of its predecessor;
Late Nite Radio,
issued a year later, also fared poorly by comparison, and after scoring one
last minor chart entry with the single "Loving You with My Eyes" the group
disbanded in the wake of their fourth and final LP, 1980's 4 x 4. In the
wake of Starland Vocal Band's demise
the Danoffs divorced; Carroll
and Chapman, who had also
married at the peak of the group's success, later split up as well. All four
members of the group later went on to mount solo careers, though never again
recapturing the success of "Afternoon Delight."
In 1976 the Starland Vocal Band's song, "Afternoon
Delight" received a Grammy Award for "Best Arrangement for
Voices" and the band also received one for the "Best New
Artist of the Year." They also received 3 other Grammy
nominations and their song is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2001 Bill Danoff was the recipient of the third annual John
Denver Award at the World Folk Music Association.
of Starland Vocal Band, singing "Afternoon Delight"
1. Boulder to
Birmingham (Bill Danoff / Emmylou Harris)
2. Baby, You Look
Good to Me Tonight (Bill Danoff)
3. American Tune (Paul Simon)
5. California Day
6. War Surplus Baby
(Jon Carroll / Bill Danoff)
All Over Again (Bill Danoff)
Delight (Bill Danoff)
Hail! Rock & Roll (Bill Danoff / Taffy Nivert Danoff)
10. Ain't It the
Fall (Bill Danoff)
Delight" was a chart-topping single from the Starland Vocal Band's
eponymously-named debut album in the summer of 1976, which peaked at #20
on the Billboard Hot 200 and remained on the album charts
for 25 weeks.
REVIEW: Though the Starland Vocal Band's debut
album will forever be remembered for the bright piece of fluff that is
"Afternoon Delight," there was much more going on here. Most of the songs on
this album were in more of a country gospel vein, as interpreted by a pop
band. There were some signs of experimentation and a wider horizon — the
multi-part harmonies on the madrigal version of Paul Simon's "American Tune" are
absolutely lovely, and much else here is affecting. Though much of his
writing is schmaltzy, Bill Danoff's
original lyrics can be poetic, as in "Boulder to Birmingham," his
collaboration with Emmylou Harris.
The sheer enthusiasm of "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!" will bring a smile to
anyone who has any affection for '50s rock, and the rest of the album is a
pleasant little joy. — Richard Foss
It is issued by "The Collectables" Series.
It is often available online at usual websites. The biography on this
CD is not entirely correct and contains many errors.
1. Boulder to
Birmingham - 4:17
2. Baby, You Look
Good to Me Tonight - 3:10
3. American Tune -
4. Starland - 3:06
5. California Day
6. War Surplus Baby
All Over Again - 3:13
Delight - 3:14
Hail Rock and Roll - 2:46
10. Ain't It the
Fall - 3:43
11. Liberated Woman
12. Mr. Wrong - 3:17
13. The Light of
My Life - 3:04
14. Too Long a
Journey - 3:36
15. Norfolk - 5:33
16. St. Croix
Silent Night - 3:36
17. Rear View Mirror
18. Falling in
a Deep Hole - 3:18
19. Prism - 1:53
20. Don't Say
Forever - 3:11
Reviewer: A music fan from Little Ferry, NJ: This CD is a
compilation of Starland Vocal Band's first two albums. Though critically
panned at the time, the music and the incredible blend of four part harmony
and acoustic accompaniment makes for an enduring listening experience. The
only group to be released on John Denver's "Windsong" label, Starland Vocal
Band brings an infectious joy to their music making. "Hail, Hail, Rock and
Roll" has more references to early Rock (along with fun inuendo) that will
catch your ears; the soaring crystal clear tenor and piano work by Jon
Carroll on "Starland" will melt your heart. "Rear View Mirror" (title cut
from the second album) is a bittersweet song about more than a journey up
the California Coast. "The Light of My Life" will become one of your
favorite family-type love songs, and Taffy Danoff's lead on the song is
perfect for the music! This quartet exudes on the album the same kind of
spirit they brought to their concert show. They're fun, cheery, yet deadly
serious about making special music with their voices. If all you know is
"Afternoon Delight" (named, by the way, after a menu item from a Washington,
DC restaurant, actually what Bill and Taffy Danoff thought that menu item
ought to be), you'll be delighted into the evening, and even in the morning,
with the rest of this CD collection. I just hope the third album also gets
re-released! I've enjoyed S.V.B. since 1976 when they were premiered on John
Denver's summer tour. They still sound just as fresh, just as fun, just as
According to an account in Rolling Stone, Taffy
credited the song's creation to a culinary repast. "Bill wrote this after having
lunch at Clyde's in Washington, D.C.," she explained to an audience before
performing the song. "It seems Clyde's has a menu called 'Afternoon Delight'
with stuff like spiced shrimp and hot Brie with almonds. So Bill ate it -- the
food, that is -- and went home and explained to me what 'Afternoon Delight'
Danoff acknowledged that audiences might find hidden meanings
in the song. "I didn't want to write an all-out sex song," he told Dennis Hunt
of the Los Angeles Times. "I just wanted to write something that
was fun and hinted at sex. It was one of those songs that you could really have
a good time writing."
The Danoffs thought they might have had a problem getting
airplay on "Afternoon Delight," but few stations found it objectionable. "If the
song had been banned it would have been a real injustice," Bill said in the
Times. "The lyrics are subtle and sophisticated and not at all raunchy.
It might have been banned years ago but not today."
The following spring, the Starland Vocal Band was awarded the
Grammy for Best New Artist of 1976. Rear View Mirror, the follow-up
to their 1976 debut album, was released by Windsong in June 1977. It wasn't
nearly as successful as its predecessor, peaking at number 104 on the
Billboard Hot 200 and remaining on the charts for 13 weeks.
A sunny afternoon in The
Clyde's, the popular Georgetown restaurant and bar. It seemed the appropriate
time, and place, to interview the Starland Vocal Band. All four of them.
Here, you might say, is where
it all started for Washington's
most successful young folk-rock group. One day a couple of years ago, Bill
Danoff, the lead guitarist, singer and composer, came in for what turned out to
be a very significant lunch. He looked over the new menu, saw what was listed
under the heading of "Afternoon Delights" and had a flash — “Hey . . . Afternoon
Delight . . . not a bad title for a song.”
About six months later he had
the song, a catchy, raunchy, country-flavored number that had nothing at all to
do with what was printed on the men in The Atrium at
The group recorded it for
their first album early last year. Then it was released as a single. Slow to
take off at first, it then began moving up the Top 40 charts late last spring,
and for five weeks last summer "Afternoon Delight," a musical ode to the
pleasures of day-time dallying, headed the lists. "We had the number one song
in the country on the Fourth of July," Taffy Danoff points out with something
like Bicentennial pride.
Earlier this year the Starland
Vocal Band had something more to be proud about — the won two Grammies (the
recording industry equivalent of the Oscar), one for best vocal arrangement, the
other for best new artists of the year.
They may be new artists to the
rest of the country, but not to Washington
music- lovers. They’re practically old-timers here, despite their relative
youth. Bill and Taffy Danoff and Margot Chapman first worked the Georgetown bar
circuit in 1970 in a nine-piece hard-rock band called Fat City. When the group
disbanded, Bill and Taffy kept the name and started performing as a duo, but
switched to a softer, folksier, good-timey sound. They did their own material
mostly, and built up a good following here (at Tammany Hall, Clyde's,
and The Cellar Door, among other places), even if the money didn't quite pay the
rent. Margot Chapman joined another group, Breakfast Again. Jon Carroll wasn't
in the picture yet.
The Danoffs' first big break
came when they appeared with John Denver at The Cellar Door during Christmas,
1970. They had
Denver over to their dank Q Street
basement apartment one night after the show to hear some of their songs. Denver
flipped over one they had not quite completed and worked with them all night to
finish it so he could record it—with them—for his new album. The song, of
course, was "Take Me Home, Country Roads," one of the biggest record hits of
1971, and now a country-pop standard. The song made them headliners at The
Cellar Door ("Our favorite place in the world to perform," Taffy says), a bright
new act on the concert circuit, and got them an RCA recording contract. It
didn't do John Denver's career any harm, either.
It's incredible how one little
song can change your whole life," Danoff says, "but 'Country Roads' changed
ours. It became our calling card, and it brought us our house, our car. People
tell you that all you need is one hit single, and they're right."
It was another five year
before they came up with another one, but not for lack of trying—three more
albums of trying. None of them sold well. Nothing really clicked until Bill
and Taffy decided to expand and become Starland. (The name was Taffy's
inspiration.) The fourth member, Jon Carroll, a talented and versatile young
musician from Fredericksburg, Virginia, had worked with them on keyboard,
arrangements and backup vocals during their last year or so as Bill and Taffy.
"I had a couple of new
songs at the time," says Danoff, a Springfield, Massachusetts native who studied
linguistics at Georgetown University and writes most of Starland's material,
"and it just sort of came to me that a group of four of us would work much
better. Taffy and I weren't really looking for more people, but Jon and Margot
had such beautiful voices and we all got along so well, it just seemed like the
right thing to do."
Physically (as well as
musically) they complement each other, as the pictures accompanying this article
will attest. Their sound is often compared to the Mamas and the Papas, the very
successful soft-rock group of the Sixties—a comparison they don't mind at all.
Unlike a number of other
performers who got their start in Washington,
they have not moved to New York
or L.A. They really like it here and prefer to be based here—the Danoffs in a
14-room, 3-fireplace manor in suburban McLean (Taffy, a civil service brat, grew
up in nearby Falls Church), and John and Margot in the Danoffs' former house on
MacArthur Boulevard. John and Margot are the
godparents of Bill and Taffy's two-year-old daughter, Emma.
"People in show business think
it's so weird that we live in
Washington, D.C.," says John Carroll. "They think we must live in Colorado,
with John Denver."
"I don't know how it is with
other groups, but we really care for each other a lot," says Margot Chapman, an
exotic-looking San Francisco
native who left California
at the height of the flower-child invasion, ten summers ago. "We are close, and
I think it shows in our music."
They don't exactly pass
unnoticed, sitting there this afternoon in the greenery-bedecked Atrium, being
photographed and interviewed, simultaneously, by Capital and The Unicorn Times.
Old friends stop by to say hello, including John Laytham, part owner of
Clyde's, for whom they have a present—a framed gold record of their
million-plus seller, "Afternoon Delight." It's a nice gesture, a nice moment. Laytham
is pleased, and touched. He promises to hang it in a prominent place.
Their new single is a country
reggae number called "Liberated Woman"-from their new album, Rear View Mirror,
now in the record stores. And they would be leaving in a few days for
L.A., to begin taping their six-week summer replacement series of half-hour TV
shows for CBS. They'll also do segments of it in Washington. Then comes a tour—Starland's
first without John Denver, with who they've worked regularly on the road and
on TV.(Denver has also recorde several other Danoff songs, and brought Starland
to his RCA/Windsong record label.) And they’ll appear in concert at Wolf Trap
All in all a very busy summer
– and maybe a crucial national popularity test for
Washington’s own Starland Vocal Band.
- Richard Lee for “The Capital” – July, 1977
Bill Danoff and the Starland Vocal Band
by Emily M. Parris
A Grammy-winning songwriter, Bill Danoff is best known
as co-writer (along with ex-wife Taffy Nivert and singer,
John Denver) of the song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads." He
also wrote the Starland Vocal Band's 1976 hit "Afternoon
Delight" as well as many songs that were sung by John Denver.
Other familiar Bill Danoff songs include "Potter's Wheel",
"Friends With You", "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado",
"Late Night Radio" and "Boulder to Birmingham" co-written with
Bill Danoff was born May 7, 1946 in Springfield,
Massachusetts. He graduated from Georgetown University with a
degree in Chinese. He formed a duo with Taffy Nivert called
"Fat City." The song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads", was
written when they were doing a gig at the Cellar Door in
Washington, D.C. and John Denver was also playing there.
Bill and Taffy's debut album as "Fat City" came out in 1969
and was called "Reincarnation." Other albums included
"Welcome to Fat City" (1972) and "Aces" (1974). The album,
"Aces" also included Jon Carroll on the vocals and the piano.
The couple regularly toured with John Denver and also the
The Starland Vocal Band was formed in 1976. It was
composed of Bill and Taffy plus Jon Carroll and Margot
Chapman. Their song, "Afternoon Delight" reached the top of
the Billboard Hot 100 on July 10, 1976. When their song
gained national fame they toured throughout the U.S., and
appeared on the Tonight Show and the Merv Griffin Show.
According to the Artist Facts website, the title of the
song, "Afternoon Delight", came from a special dish at a
restaurant called Clyde's in Washington D.C. The Afternoon
Delight was a plate of shrimp with Brie and almonds.
The song "Afternoon Delight" was also included in the movies
"Boogie Nights" and "Good Will Hunting".
In 1977 they appeared on their own show called
The Starland Vocal Band Show. It was on Saturdays on CBS in
the 8:00pm time slot. David Letterman was a writer for the
show and made his first television appearance on their show.
The group made 4 albums: "Starland Vocal Band" (1976),
"Rear View Mirror" (1977), "Late Night Radio" (1978), and
"4x4" (1980) all on the Windsong Label. In 1995 K-Tel came out
with a compilation called "Afternoon Delight: The Best of the
Starland Vocal Band". The group disbanded in 1980, and the
members went on to solo careers.
In 1987 Bill Danoff appeared as a Police Officer in the
movie "Tin Men." Bill's first solo recording called
"Souvenir" was released in 1990, and in 2002 he released a CD
containing a compilation of songs written by him that were also sung by John
Denver. The album was produced by John Carroll and is called
"I Guess He'd Rather Be In Colorado."
In 1976 the Starland Vocal Band's song, "Afternoon Delight" received a Grammy
Award for "Best Arrangement for Voices" and the band also received one for the
"Best New Artist of the Year." They also received 3 other Grammy nominations and
their song is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2001 Bill Danoff was the
recipient of the third annual John Denver Award at the World Folk Music
At the present time, Bill owns the Starland Cafe in
Washington D.C. with his wife Joan. She is always there
running the show and Bill is often there on Friday Nights
for a musical show.
Starland Vocal Band
of Starland Vocal Band brings quickly to mind the 1976 hit "Afternoon Delight"
that earned the band two Grammy Awards for Best Arrangement for Voices and Best
New Artist as well as two other Grammy nominations that same year. The history
of the group dates back to Bill Danoff and his songwriting. Befriending John
Denver in the mid-1960's, Bill collaborated with Denver and Taffy Nivert to
create "Take Me Home, Country Road," which Denver debuted at the Cellar Door in
Georgetown. At that time known as Fat City, Bill and Taffy toured across the
country with John Denver as his opening act. In 1976, Bill and Taffy joined with
Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman to form Starland Vocal Band, their "Afternoon
Delight" hitting the charts fast and furious. The band opened for John Denver at
several major venues, including Madison Square Garden, bringing great publicity
to this instantly successful group. Starland Vocal Band continues to receive
notoriety for their success by being spotlighted in the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame, having two Starland Vocal Band compilations released, one from K-Tel and
one from Collectables that brings together the group's first two albums, and
being included in two recent movies.
Well, friends, here we are. You thought the day would never come. I
know. It’s been rough, hasn’t it, listening to all this Mellow
holiday music? But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it
shines brightly today, as we present The Most Mellow Holiday
Record Of All.
We haven’t talked about Starland Vocal Band on Mellow Gold as of
yet. I’m sure we will at some point. But it means that I haven’t
told you my dirty little secret: I have a Starland Vocal Band bias.
You see, my parents were both big John Denver fans in the ’70s (be
nice, people, they read my website). They saw SVB open for Denver a
number of times and really loved them. They bought their first two
albums, Starland Vocal Band and Rear View Mirror,
and played them all the time. And I mean all the time.
Every road trip we ever took involved Starland Vocal Band. I know all
20 of those songs from the first two albums by heart. I know the
harmony lines. I can play them on piano. The whole thing.
So, for better or for worse, because they were such a part of my
childhood and my musical memories with my parents, I really love those
two albums. I am actually amused by the repeated flak they get for
"Afternoon Delight," because I can’t find anybody that’s ever actually
listened to any of their other songs. Some are actually quite good,
and all feature their best quality: a pristine, four-part harmony
Being a good son, I made it my goal in the late ’90s to get as much
SVB stuff as possible for my dad (who, by the way, had moved on by
then, but I didn’t know what else to get him for Christmas).
Eventually those first two records were
released on CD, so that was an easy one. Finding their last two
original albums, Late Night Radio and 4×4, only came
within my grasp once eBay came around. Those two (mediocre) albums,
lovingly transferred to CD, and maybe an SVB songbook, and I was
pretty much out of ideas.
Then, one year, I came across Christmas At Home on eBay.
I had never heard of it. Most sites that mention Starland Vocal Band
don’t have any record of it, either. In fact, I think the only place
I’ve really found it documented is on founding member
Bill Danoff’s website. So I bought it, had it transferred to CD
(as you’ll be able to tell, there are some clicks and pops I wasn’t
able to remove), and proudly gifted it to my father for Christmas.
And we listened.
And we realized: this album sucks.
And that, my friends, is the story of how Jason ruined Christmas.
But the album IS mellow, and from the right time period as well.
I’ll argue that it’s not as Mellow Gold as Fogelberg, but it’s got the
smooth acoustic guitars and the trademark SVB harmonies (oh, the
harmonies!). It’s as close to a full Mellowmas album as we’re ever
going to get.
I hadn’t listened to it in about five years, and gave it a
re-listen. I sent it to Jeff, too. We opted not to do song-by-song
commentary, because, well, we didn’t want to kill you. But here are
some of my favorite Jefito comments:
Oh Jesus, is this ever square.
Bing Crosby would have laughed at this.
I think I’m going to throw up.
What fresh hell is this? (JH note: this one is my favorite.) It isn’t as bad as REO or Medeiros, certainly.
Actually, it’s probably better than most of the shit we’ve been
But it’s still pretty awful.
It sounds like argyle. (JH note: second favorite.) "What Child is This?" is an urgent plea for gang violence.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Funny guy, that Jefito.
(By the way, from the minute I informed him of this album’s existence,
he claimed it was my moral imperative to share these songs with you,
so he shares in the blame.) Although I admit to being a bit
ill-equipped for snarking on this band, I was able to recognize what
songs were good and what songs sucked. I do recommend listening to
the whole thing - even with 14 songs, it clocks in at under 25
minutes. However, if you want to pick n’ choose, here are my
thoughts on a few:
Best Songs, Seriously: "Angels We Have Heard On
High"; "The First Noel"; "Silent Night"
Worst Songs, Seriously: "Here Comes Santa Claus";
"Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Most Mellow Gold, Mainly Because Of An Overactive Bass
Drum: "Deck The Halls"; "O Holy Night"
Worst Use Of Children’s Voices: "We Wish You A
Merry Christmas" "Rudolph"
Song That Would Have Been Proclaimed "Ironic Genius" Had
Sufjan Stevens Recorded It: "The Two Days Of Christmas"
Biggest Suckers/Best Sports This Mellowmas: You
So there you have it. Enjoy, or don’t enjoy, this final Mellowmas
offering. Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy holiday - and
from both Jeff and I, thanks for indulging us as we reviewed
The 12 Days Of Mellowmas! Now let us never
speak of it again.