The Desert Rose Band was called by Chris Hillman, the 'highly evolved Burritos' which was a reference to his former band that he fronted 1969-1972 called the Flying Burrito Brothers. Like the FBB, the Desert Rose Band played a mix of older country songs and new material. The Desert Rose Band combined 60s style 'country-rock' with bluegrass, honky-tonk, and the introspective singer-songwriter tradition and were known for their powerful live shows. They toured extensively from 1987 to 1994 in the United States and beyond. John Jorgenson was mainly responsible for the electric arrangements of the songs, and Herb Pedersen was the band's vocal arranger. Herb sang the high tenor part above Chris' tenor, and each Desert Rose Band album featured Herb on one lead vocal. John sang the low harmony and lead vocal on "Just A Memory", "Know you're Gonna Miss Me"' and the rare "All The Difference" which he co-wrote with Chris Hillman, in concert. Before JayDee and Steve joined the DRB in early 1986, John Molo and John Bedazio did a couple of concerts with the rest of the band, but didn't match the DRB format.
The first album, self-titled, featured strong honky-tonk country arrangement reminiscent of the Buckaroos, with trademark Desert Rose bluegrass harmonies. It contained their first hit, "Ashes of Love", which was originally a Johnny and Jack song from the early 50s. It was the second time Chris and Herb recorded Ashes of Love, the first being on Chris' Sugar Hill album, Desert Rose. Their debut also feature a remake of Chris Hillman's "Time Between" which was an early example of the merger of country and rock pioneered by Chris in the Byrds as well as the Flying Burrito Brothers. Chris first recorded "Time Between" with the Byrds on the Younger Than Yesterday album, released in 1967.
Their second album, 1988's Running, featured the hit "She Don't Love Nobody" as well as remake of the Buckaroos' "Hello Trouble" sung by Herb Pedersen with Chris singing the Don Rich part. It also featured "Summer Wind", a Chris Hillman/Steve Hill composition, which was a big hit. This album also contained songs such as "For The Rich Man", "Homeless", and "Our Songs" which were strong social statements in the tradition of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages", and the Byrds. John Jorgenson went to Nashville during the mixing of Running, as well as Pages of Life, to make sure their distinct sound was maintained during that process.
The third album, Pages of Life, featured a remake of "Desert Rose", as well as remake of Herb's beautiful folk song about his daughter, "Our Baby's Gone", which was originally recorded in his 1976 album, Southwest. Pages of Life contains some of the best lead guitar and steel guitar breaks in all of country rock. "Missing You" was a notable song for the bluegrass feel and Herb's soaring vocal harmony, and "Darkness on the Playground" contained an anti-drug message the continued the Desert Rose tradition of writing songs with meaningful and intelligent lyrics. John Jorgenson's lead guitar and mandolin solos are seen as being among the most technical and exciting in all of country-rock. He played a Japanese 1962 Telecaster Custom Reissue which is pictured on the back of their first album, as well as Tele and Strat-style guitars made by G&L. He also played Rickenbacker guitars giving the band a sound that was familiar to long time Byrds fans, as well as six-string basses, one a vintage Danelectro. He played through a VOX AC-30 as well as a custom made AC- 30 style amp.
JayDee Maness left the band in 1990, and he was replaced on pedal steel guitar by Tom Brumley who JayDee replaced in the Buckaroos. JayDee Maness would again play with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen on their post Desert Rose Band duo albums, Bakersfield Bound and Way Out West.
True Love, their fourth album, contained a beautiful song of Chris Hillman's called "You Can Go Home". Tom Brumley's pedal steel guitar greatly complimented the song when they played this in concert, but a session musician played on the album. Herb Pedersen sang and wrote "No One Else" which is one of his finest. "Twilight Is Gone" featured an amazing three part vocal harmony. This album had a different sound overall as it was produced by Tony Brown. Paul Worley and Ed Seay produced all of their other albums.
Life Goes On, their fifth album, was released in Europe in 1993 but not in the United States because of the poor state of commercial country music at the time. Several prominent country and bluegrass musicians made guest appearances on Life Goes On including Sam Bush on fiddle, Tony Rice and Larry Park on guitar, and Al Perkins on dobro. Sierra Records reissued it, and called it one of their finest, rightfully so. John Jorgenson's 12-string guitar on the title track takes you back to the mid 60s folk rock sounds. John also contributed on the song "That's Not The Way".
In 2008,2010 and 2011 the Desert Rose Band reunited for a couple of concerts. All six original members are involved on this reunion.
Special thanks goes to Stephanie Carta.
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