When country music lovers talk about the greatest groups in the genre, Shenandoah is always at the forefront of any discussion. Fueled by Marty Raybon’s distinctive vocals and the band’s skilled musicianship, Shenandoah became well known for delivering such hits as “Two Dozen Roses”, “Church on Cumberland Road” and “Next to You, Next to Me” as well as such achingly beautiful classics as “I Want to be Loved Like That” and the Grammy winning “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart” duet with Alison Krauss.
Today that legacy continues as original members Raybon and Mike McGuire reunite to launch a new chapter in Shenandoah’s storied career. It all began when the guys got back together to perform a benefit concert for a friend battling cancer. “We saw how folks reacted,” Raybon says of the response to their reunion. “And then Jerry Phillips, son of legendary Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, said ‘You guys need to make a run at this. People still love what you do. You can tell by the reaction. There’s a lot of excitement in the air.’”
“It’s kind of like riding a bicycle,” McGuire says of the band reigniting that chemistry on stage. “We had done so many shows over the years together, even though we spent 17 years apart, we got back up on the stage and it was like we never stopped. We knew those songs inside out. They were still dear to our hearts. It was great to get back up there and do them together again.”
Raybon and McGuire formed the band in 1984 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with bassist Ralph Ezell, keyboardist Stan Thorn and guitarist Jim Seales. McGuire invited noted producer Robert Byrne out to see the band perform and he was so impressed he recorded a demo on the group and pitched them to Columbia Records. Shenandoah inked a deal with the legendary label and began establishing a national fan base with their self-titled debut in 1987. However, it was the band’s sophomore effort, The Road Not Taken, that spawned their first top ten hits—“She Doesn't Cry Anymore” and “Mama Knows.” Shenandoah followed with three consecutive No. 1 hits—“Church on Cumberland Road,” “Sunday in the South” and “Two Dozen Roses.” “The Church on Cumberland Road” spent two weeks at the top of the chart and made country music history as it marked the first time that a country band's first No. 1 single spent more than one week at the summit. It also helped propel sales of the album to more than half a million units thus giving Shenandoah their first gold album.
Great songs have provided the foundation for Shenandoah’s illustrious career. “We knew a hit song when we heard one,” Raybon says. “We are songwriters and we wrote some of those hits, but we really prided ourselves on having an ear for songs. Mike, in particular, has always been a good song guy. When he played us a song he found, we knew it was going to be special.”