For a band named after this country, America has plenty of ties to England. The three founding members — Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek — met at London Central High School, a school for children of U.S. armed services personnel. When the three musically inclined graduates formed a band, they didn’t want anyone thinking they were Brits trying to copy the soft-folk stylings popularized by U.S. groups such as Crosby, Stills & Nash, so they named the band after their home country.
Releasing its self-titled debut in 1971, America shot out of the gates with one of classic rock’s most enduring songs, “A Horse With No Name,” mistaken by some at the time as a new Neil Young song. Showcasing the group’s golden, finger-picked guitar style, the tune penned and sung by Bunnell attracted speculation for its curious lyrics and the anonymous beast of the title. “Ventura Highway” came soon after from the 1972 album “Homecoming,” kicking off the tradition of naming their studio albums with the letter H.
In the beginning of 1973, America won the Grammy Award for best new artist of 1972.
By the group’s fourth record, they had attracted the attention of Beatles producer George Martin, who would go on to produce many of America’s most successful albums, spawning several hits including “Tin Man,” “Lonely People” and “Sister Golden Hair.” America scored three platinum and three gold albums between 1971-75, but the band’s popularity and heavy touring schedule took its toll on Peek, who left in 1977, citing his newfound faith in Christianity. While he ventured off to become an important, if reclusive, figure in the contemporary Christian music scene, America forged on as a duo, keeping amicable ties with their former band mate.
Before his death in 2011, Peek released an autobiography, “An American Band: The America Story,” which delved into conflict and drug usage in the act’s history. In 2011, Bunnell and Beckley released the album “Back Pages.”