Bobby's One Hit Wonders, Volume 21: The Remingtons - A Long Time Ago

In this week's rendition of Bobby's One Hit Wonders, he digs deep to discuss country vocal group The Remingtons, a trio of veteran pop-rock band members. Read on to learn more about the band that delivered the Top 10 hit "A Long Time Ago" and two albums before seemingly disappearing.

One such band was The Remingtons, a short-lived trio composed of Jimmy Griffin, Rick Yancey, and Richard Mainegra. All three had their roots in soft-rock bands: Griffin was a member of Bread, while Yancey and Mainegra hailed from Cymarron, who achieved one-hit wonder status with "Rings" in 1971. Mainegra also co-wrote Elvis Presley's "Separate Ways" and a handful of country hits: "Homemade Love" by Tom Bresh, "Here's Some Love" by Tanya Tucker, and "I Don't Think Love Ought to Be That Way" by Reba McEntire. (I'm sensing a pattern.) Yancey, meanwhile, got his foot in the door with "Feel the Fire," a minor hit for Canadian act Family Brown. The Griffin/Mainegra/Yancey trifecta first appears as the writers of "Who's Gonna Know" on Conway Twitty's 1989 disc House on Old Lonesome Road. (Interestingly, this was not Griffin's first fling as a member of a country group. In 1990, he paired up with former Eagles member Randy Meisner and Billy Swan of "I Can Help" Fame to record one album as the group Black Tie, which produced a #59 country single in a cover of Buddy Holly's "Learning the Game.")

Late in 1991, the Remingtons made their first bow with what, coincidentally, was their only Top 10 hit, "A Long Time Ago." The song had it all: a run time of only 2:23; a solid hook; a memorable melody; a breezy lead vocal; tight harmonies; and a clear undercurrent of country, with plenty of fiddle, banjo, and even a Dobro solo before the last chorus. But underneath that shiny exterior was a mildly sarcastic look back at the Cymarron days ("Things looked good a time or two / I made a little noise / Rode around in the back of a limousine / With some wide-eyed country boys / But here and there along the way, I lost my pot of gold...") that lent substance. All in all, it was clearly destined to be a hit — not just for this new group, but also for the newly-established BNA Records, to which they were the first act signed. Said label would later lock itself in through the likes of John Anderson (freshly recovered from his mid-late 80s nadir) and Lorrie Morgan (transferred from RCA, of which BNA served as a sister label) before truly peaking in the late 90s-early 2000s with the likes of Lonestar and Kenny Chesney. (BNA closed in 2012 after many years of diminishing returns.)

As I said, few bands really achieved hit-maker status in the early 90s. Not that there was a shortage of them. In fact, the 1991 charts show the likes of McBride & the Ride, whose twangy frontman Terry McBride alone was enough to make them lean more country than The Remingtons; Pirates of the Mississippi, who were a bit smarter and edgier; Sawyer Brown, who were undergoing a metamorphosis from forgettable 80s country-pop to memorable, intelligent, acoustic numbers; Confederate Railroad, who was a lot edgier, but only sometimes smarter; and Shenandoah, who, as the countriest of the batch, were able to pick up the slack from the aforementioned Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In addition, Alabama was running on auto-pilot with a slicker, less adventurous sound than they had in the 1980s, thanks to producer/guitarist Josh Leo (who, coincidentally, also produced for The Remingtons). But perhaps the biggest showing in 1991 as far as groups are concerned was Brooks & Dunn, an eclectic duo that brought honky-tonk influences with enough of an edge to please the masses (not to mention utterly monopolize the Duo of the Year awards) until riding off into the sunset 20 years later. 

"I Could Love You (With My Eyes Closed)," The Remingtons' second single, only peaked at #33, but "Two-Timin' Me" closed off the album at a respectable enough #18. Both of these songs were fine on their own — catchy, breezy, smooth, neither overly country nor overly pop — but in a crowded field, they didn't really seem to have much to make them stand out. In fact, I didn't even notice that Griffin and Yancey did some of the lead vocals on the album cuts! But if you couldn't get enough of the Remingtons, they also sang backup on Lorrie Morgan's first BNA disc, Watch Me, on which Mainegra and Yancey also wrote "She's Takin' Him Back Again." 

Shortly after "Two-Timin' Me," Yancey was replaced by Denny Henson, a former member of Dan Fogelberg's backing band Fool's Gold (which also had a minor pop hit in 1976 with "Rain, Oh Rain"). The trio's second and final album, Aim for the Heart, included two covers: Bread's "Everything I Own" and Paul Davis' "Ride 'Em Cowboy." Neither single — the delightful shuffle "Nobody Loves You When You're Free" or "Wall Around Her Heart", both of which had Henson singing lead for a change — came within a mile of the Top 40, and that was the end of that.

Following the breakup, Griffin dabbled in a few other groups. The first, called Toast and later Radio Dixie, included fellow Bread alumnus Robb Royer and songwriter Todd Cerney ("I'll Still Be Loving You," "Good Morning Beautiful"). Later, in 2003, he briefly reunited with Yancey and Ronnie Guilbeau, the son of Flying Burrito Brothers member Gib Guilbeau, before Griffin died of cancer in 2005. (Coincidentally, Ronnie fronted the short-lived 90s country band Palomino Road, which also introduced now-prominent session guitarist J. T. Corenflos to the world.) Mainegra, Yancey, and Henson all appear to have given up on the music biz almost immediately afterward, although Henson at least stuck around long enough to write McBride & the Ride's "Hurry Sundown." 

I'm a bit surprised at how well The Remingtons stuck in my head — so much, in fact, that I distinctly recall hearing "Two-Timin' Me" in our local Subway not long after it opened. While by no means bad, and certainly possessing a credible musical legacy, they generally seemed to lack that "it" factor that would've made them truly distinctive. Beyond the reminiscence of "A Long Time Ago" and the more muscular, complex production of "Wall Around Her Heart," they seemed much like a decaffeinated Restless Heart, relying on little more than pretty harmonies in an era when that kind of sound was dying off. (Although I think that Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly was way too harsh in calling The Remingtons "three of the blandest pretenders to the country music throne" in her review of their second album.)

Perhaps a producer with a heavier touch and experience in producing for a group (Paul Worley comes to mind) could've given them a little more muscle without compromising their fine vocal prowess. Perhaps a few more outside cuts would've shaken things up, too — they wrote everything on Blue Frontier with only two outside co-writers, one of whom was Ronnie Caldwell of the R&B group The Bar-Kays. That said, The Remingtons were by no means without merit, and at least in my mind, they remain one of many interesting curios from the period of major overhaul that country music underwent in the early 90s.