Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HORNSBY, Bruce, and the Range

Rock group formed '85. Initial lineup: Bruce Hornsby (b 23 Nov. '54, Williamsburg VA), vocals, keyboards, piano-accordion; George Marinelli, guitar, vocals; David Mansfield, violin, mandolin, guitar; John Molo, drums; Joe Puerta, bass and vocals. After attending the U of Miami and the Berklee School of Music, Hornsby attempted unsuccessfully to launch himself as recording artist; he and brother John became house writers for 20th Century-Fox Publishing '80, later describing this as writing 'formula pop songs'. Hornsby joined Sheena Easton's US backing band '83, signed to RCA '85, debut album The Way It Is '86 (prod. in part by Huey Lewis) reached top of the US LP charts, showcasing Hornsby's piano playing, described by Keyboard editor Bob Doerschuk as 'muscular, rhythmic, resonant, with a steely tone drawn from his vision of ''playing through the keys'''. 'Synth- dominated sound' and gimmicks were eschewed while the songs were strong melodically and lyrically. 'Every Little Kiss' from the debut album paraphrased an excerpt from Charles Ives's Concord Sonata; 'Mandolin Rain' went to no. 4 in US singles charts '87. The original edition of the album was replaced after the initial pressing of 150,000 copies by one which featured an alternative version of 'The River Runs Low'. Singles were coupled with live versions of album tracks, such as 'The Way It Is', 'Mandolin Rain' and 'On The Western Skyline'; Japanese RCA anthologized live material from '86--7 from these sources on '89 album Live -- The Way It Is Tour. Huey Lewis and the News took the Hornsby brothers' 'Jacob's Ladder' to no. 1 in the US singles chart in March '87 and Hornsby and Charlie Hadden's 'Nobody There But Me' was covered by Willie Nelson. Hornsby won Grammy for Best New Artist '86; guested on albums by Clannad and Tom Wopat (actor turned singer from TV series Dukes Of Hazzard). Mansfield had previously worked as a session musician and on soundtracks such as The Long Riders and Heaven's Gate; he left '86 replaced by Peter Harris in the Range. Hornsby and the Range toured with the Grateful Dead and Ry Cooder on the West Coast and took to performing the traditional blues 'I Know You Rider' as a tribute to the Dead. Scenes From The Southside '88 was an examination of their Southern roots and included their own version of 'Jacob's Ladder', reaching top 20 both US/UK. Hornsby appeared on albums by Patti Austin (The Real Me), Kim Carnes (View From The House) and Huey Lewis (Small World) '88 and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (Will The Circle Be Unbroken) '89; the latter incl. a cover of brothers' 'Valley Road' from Southside. Contributed to Rainbow Warriors anthology '89, released to raise funds for Greenpeace. The next Range album A Night On The Town '90 found them branching out musically, reduced to a quartet with the departure of Harris, augmented by guests Shawn Colvin, Bela Fleck, Jerry Garcia, David Mansfield and Wayne Shorter among others. Hornsby became increasingly in demand as a session player, for acts incl. Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, Cheap Trick and Willie Nelson, and also collaborated as a songwriter with Leon Russell. Stepped into the Grateful Dead as a temporary member for European dates '90 after the death of Dead's keyboardist Brent Mydland. The group contributed a reading of 'Jack Straw' to the Grateful Dead covers album, Deadicated on Arista '91. Harbor Lights on RCA '93 was billed under Hornsby's name alone; the rhythm section of Jimmy Haslip on bass and Molo on drums was augmented by guests incl. Phil Collins, Garcia, Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny and Raitt. Hot House on RCA '95 was accurately summed up by the Guardian in Aug. '95 as lacking 'the hymn-like quality of his work with his band the Range', a peculiarly pale, bloodless product; Pat Metheny and Garcia were guests. He was among the invited guests for the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio '95, and in that star-studded company it might have been said that Hornsby's piano lessons had paid for themselves.