Rodney Justo Reflects on Music Career from Childhood Radio Singer to Atlanta Rhythm Section Frontman

In His Own Words: Rodney Justo on Life Before, During, and After Atlanta Rhythm Section...

Interview by: DJ

Rodney Justo is a celebrated American vocalist, renowned for his versatile contributions to rock, soul, and pop music. Born on June 2, 1943, in Tampa, Florida, he launched his career in the 1960s as the lead singer of several bands. Justo rose to prominence as a founding member and frontman of the Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS), a pivotal southern rock band formed in the early 1970s. His distinctive voice and charismatic stage presence played a crucial role in defining the band’s signature sound and enduring appeal. With a career marked by collaborations with diverse musicians, Rodney Justo remains a revered figure in the music industry, celebrated for his enduring influence and musical legacy.

Catch ARS on tour from the link below:

https://www.atlantarhythmsection.com/arsNews.php

 

 

MGM: All right, so listen, I want to thank you for your time. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

Rodney Justo: My pleasure.

MGM: We’re talking with Rodney Justo, the original singer from the Atlanta Rhythm Section. We have a varied audience, some younger fans who listen to our stuff and read our articles, and also the older generation of fans who will definitely remember the band and the hits you had in the ’70s.

Rodney Justo: Certainly, the older ones, yes.

MGM: Right. We’re going to talk about the band’s history, your entry into the band, and even before that. I’ve heard you have some really interesting stories from your years in the industry. So, could you enlighten us on how you got into the music industry, your influences, and how it all came together before you joined the Atlanta Rhythm Section and recorded that first album?

Rodney Justo: Sure, my life’s an open book. I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. I sang as a kid on the radio. Back then, there was no television, so that tells you how old I am. I was in sixth grade, and we were singing a song called “Cool Water.” They asked me to sing, and all the other kids were like, “Wow, you can sing.” That was it for a while. Fast forward to the tenth grade, I was given a snare drum. My father was a very typical Spaniard who liked quiet, so it was a sacrifice for him to get me a drum. I thought I was going to be a drummer, but I ended up being a singer and putting a band together.

MGM: So, how did you transition from playing in bands to getting into the professional music scene?

Rodney Justo: Well, my band backed up a lot of artists who came into the West Coast of Florida. We got to know many people in the business, including Roy Orbison. Later, Roy wanted to have his own band that could work even when he wasn’t touring. I took Bobby Goldsboro’s place with Orbison’s band, and at 20 years old, I was traveling all over the world with Roy. It was a great experience.

MGM: That’s incredible. So, how did the Atlanta Rhythm Section come together?

Rodney Justo: Buddy Buie, who was building Studio One, wanted to entice artists to record there by having a reliable band in-house. He called me up and asked if I would participate in forming this band. Initially, we were session musicians, and that’s how the Atlanta Rhythm Section came about.

MGM: Reading about Studio One, I know a lot of great records came out of there. It’s interesting that you guys helped build the actual studio.

Rodney Justo: Yes, we pitched in, laying tiles, putting soundproofing on the walls, doing everything except working with glass. We helped build the studio, and many famous bands recorded there, like Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special.

MGM: That’s amazing. Let’s talk a bit about your background. You mentioned your last name and that your family is from Spain. Can you tell us more about that?

Rodney Justo: Yes, my whole family’s from Spain. My mother’s family is from Asturias, and my father’s family is from Galicia. I visit occasionally to see family.

MGM: That’s fascinating. Now, going back to your career, you have some memorable stories from your time with Roy Orbison. Can you share one with us?

Rodney Justo: Sure, Roy was a great guy with an unbelievable sense of humor. We used to mess with him a bit. For instance, in Scotland, we got him drunk on something called Pick Me Up Charlie’s, and he was laughing so hard. He appreciated the humor and was very generous with his time.

MGM: That sounds like a great experience. After your time with Roy Orbison, you had a solo record. How did that come about?

Rodney Justo: Roy wanted to produce me as an artist. My recording session was right after the Beatles debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show. The songs I sang were written by Fred Carter. Even though I knew the record had no chance against the Beatles’ popularity, it was a great learning experience.

MGM: Fast forward to when you joined the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Do you have any memorable stories from recording the first album?

Rodney Justo: It took two years to make that record because we were recording other acts. I remember singing “Baby No Lie” and looking up in the control booth where Buddy Buie and others were carrying on. I started singing like Jerry Lewis, and still, nobody noticed. Rodney Mills, our engineer, remembered it, though.

MGM: You left the band after that first album. Do you have any regrets about that decision?

Rodney Justo: No, I don’t have regrets. I moved to New York to pursue better opportunities for my career and to support my family. At that time, the band didn’t have the hits yet, and Buddy Buie understood that.

MGM: How did Ronnie Hammond come into the band?

Rodney Justo: Ronnie was managed by Rodney Mills, our engineer. Buddy heard Ronnie sing and decided he was the new singer for the Atlanta Rhythm Section.

MGM: The Atlanta Rhythm Section had many hits later on. Do you think those songs have stood the test of time?

Rodney Justo: Absolutely. Songs like “So Into You” have a lasting impact. The songs are everything, and they continue to resonate with audiences.

MGM: You’re currently on tour with the band. How do you feel about performing these days?

Rodney Justo: I enjoy performing and meeting people. It’s all about the connections you make. We play the songs with integrity and have a great time on stage.

MGM: That’s fantastic. You’re coming to Huntsville on June 28th. What can fans expect from the show?

Rodney Justo: Fans can expect a great time. We leave everything on the stage, playing the songs as they are supposed to be done. We respect the audience and love meeting them after the show.

MGM: Rodney, thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to seeing you perform.

Rodney Justo: Thank you. I look forward to seeing you too. Be good to yourself.

 

https://www.atlantarhythmsection.com/arsNews.php

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