To reminisce

Little River Band at Versailles’ BMI Speedway

By Tim Smith

Play the opening strains of “Reminiscing” to anyone who listened to Top 40 radio in the late ’70s and you’ll likely get a smile of recognition. It was the American breakthrough song for the Australian soft rock group Little River Band (or LRB as it’s known to fans).

LRB has been active since 1975, having sold 30 million records and collecting many international awards. The current band lineup includes Wayne Nelson, Greg Hind, Chris Marion, Rich Herring and Ryan Ricks.

Bassist Wayne Nelson has a pretty good idea why the band has such staying power.

“Two things: Good songs that continue to relate to fans of all ages, and a very strong live show,” he says. “All five of us sing, and we never take for granted the memories and expectations that audiences bring with them when they buy a ticket to our show.”

He noted their core audience is made up of a widely diverse group.

“Our audience covers at least three generations,” Nelson explains. “The folks that were listening to the radio in the late ’70s and early ’80s when the music was new, their kids who grew up with that music and then their kids who are discovering the strength of great songs and great vocals in a live setting. There are very few young bands that present vocals like LRB.”

The band tours extensively, averaging 80 concerts a year. “Reminiscing” is recognized as one of the most frequently played songs in the history of American radio. The LRB scored more lasting popularity with “Lonesome Loser” and “Lady,” which has also accumulated more than three million plays. “Lonesome Loser” was nominated for a Grammy as Best Song in 1979.

“Most all of the hits are ‘required’ plays at the show,” Nelson says. “What usually happens is people come for three or four favorites … maybe ‘Cool Change,’ or ‘Reminiscing,’ or ‘Night Owls,’ or ‘Happy Anniversary,’ but then hear four more that they didn’t realize or forgot were ours. They all have significance and memories attached to someone.”

In addition to frequent airplay, “Reminiscing” is rumored to be one of the favorite songs of the late John Lennon.

“That quote from Lennon is accurate,” Nelson confirms. “There’s a section in his book devoted to the song. He had a 45 and would constantly come back to the record and drop the needle to hear it again.”

The LRB made its debut in Melbourne, Australia, with an unusual beginning.

“The band was named for an exit off an Australian freeway on the way to the first show in 1975,” Nelson recalls. “Little River is a small town outside Melbourne. The name was to be a temporary one for that night, but it stuck.”

Despite initial enthusiasm in their homeland, they found that breaking into the American market was tough.

“Airplay on U.S. radio has always been hard to come by, especially for an unknown band from Australia,” Nelson says. “Late night FM radio in Jacksonville, Florida, was where LRB first got airplay and attention. From there it was a steady climb up the charts and into people’s lives.”

Nelson notes that while fans expect to hear the band’s standards, there has been acceptance of newer material.

“Fans enjoy both,” he says. “After a long hiatus, we started creating new music again in 2000. It all falls within the style of LRB, so new songs fit seamlessly into the set alongside the hits. Our latest CD, Cuts Like a Diamond, has some great songs on it. ‘The Lost and The Lonely’ consistently receives a standing ovation due to its subject matter and the power of the message it conveys.”

Along with devoted fans, LRB has amassed its share of awards and honors.

“Gold and Platinum Albums have been awarded to us in Germany, Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia,” Nelson says. “All of those were a result of sales, but the announcements of those awards were always part of marketing efforts that kept the band’s name in industry headlines. Since then, the most prestigious award was the induction into the Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

As with any working band that tours extensively, stories from the road are plentiful, and Nelson shares a couple of them.

“We were at Epcot recently, playing ‘Lady.’ In walked a bride with her white mouse ears on, followed by her whole bridal party dressed in pink. They had a whole dance routine put together and were hanging outside waiting for the song to start.”

He recalls another memorable experience from the band’s earlier years.

“We were at a rainy, cold festival in Germany, playing with Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley and other European acts,” he says. “We took the stage and the clouds parted, full sun streaming onto about 125,000 people. We finished our hour and the rain set back in and didn’t let up for the rest of the day.”

Nelson predicts that the audience will have a great experience at the show.

“People are consistently blown away by the power of our vocal and harmonized guitar arrangements,” he says. “The show is fun for everyone. We get people clapping and singing along every night. Good songs and a great live show with big vocals have always been the hallmarks of LRB.”

The Little River Band plays April 16 at BMI Speedway, 791 E. Main St. in Versailles. The doors open at 5 p.m. and show time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, please call 937.526.9544 or visit littleriverband.com. 

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com.
 

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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