Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri was a symphonic|hard-rock band from Colorado that existed for twelve years (1971–83). They moved to Canada and released a 1977 self-titled album on Salt Records.

Members: Kurt Smith (vocals, guitar), Jess Redmon (keyboards, vocals), Garth Hannum (bass, vocals, 1975-83), Randy Thompson (drums)


Background

Alpha Centauri sprung from Colorado, a psychedelic rock trio formed in Greeley, Colorado, by guitarist Jess Redmon, drummer Kurt Smith, and keyboardist–singer Randy Thompson. After untold time on the local bar circuit, they welcomed bassist Garth Hannum, an arrival from Wyoming (born in North Dakota).

By 1975, they adopted a new name, Alpha Centauri, named after the bright stars in the southern constellation of Centaurus. They opened regional shows for major hard-rock acts (Styx, Uriah Heep) and Fifties rock legends (Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis). Meanwhile, Redmon auditioned for open guitarist slots in Deep Purple (which instead disbanded after the death of Jess’s friend, Tommy Bolin) and the backing band of Rod Stewart (who chose ex-Blossom Toes|Family guitarist Jim Cregan).

In 1976, Alpha Centauri moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and established themselves as a local draw. That fall, they inked with Salt Records (a division of Salt Audio International) and cut an album at Roade Recording Studios, a Grosvenor Ave facility used for several recent gospel albums.


The Album

Alpha Centauri released their self-titled album in the spring of 1977 on Salt.

Drummer Randy Thompson wrote two epics (“Hard Life,” “Earth In Motion”) which bookend Side A, which includes one song each by bassist Garth Hannum (“One Night at a Time”) and Jess Redmon (“I’m a Rebel”).

Redmond wrote all of Side B apart from Hannum’s “Love Is a Curse.”

A1. “Hard Life” (6:08)
A2. “One Night at a Time” (3:41)
A3. “I’m a Rebel” (3:37)
A4. “Earth In Motion” (5:00)
B1. “Love Is a Curse” (6:26)
B2. “You Shot Me Down” (5:59)
B3. “If I Love You (I Love Only You)” (4:13)
B4. “If I Don’t Make It at Rock & Roll (I Don’t Make It at All)” (2:29)

Illustrator Mike Saunders designed the Alpha Centauri logo: a comet-circled nameplate with slanted letters. Hannum took the member portraits on the back-cover, where each poses in Seventies stage attire.

Alpha Centauri remained Salt’s only LP release. Despite the lack of proper singles, both “One Night at a Time” and “I’m a Rebel” received generous FM airplay in multiple Canadian markets.

The attention they received fuelled some more concerts, including some dates with BTO and Badfinger, and a series of shows in England. Some radio and TV appearances at home and abroad culminated in their own CBC-TV special called “Alpha Centauri In Concert” in ’78, showcasing a concert done earlier that year in Toronto, along with bio material and behind the scenes footage.

The band had aspirations of making it big in the UK, but after returning home, things began falling apart. Problems with management coupled with the rigors of touring caused a temporary break, and everyone except Redmon moved back to Colorado. He worked for about a year with Chad Allan, but by 1979 he too moved back to Colorado. They regrouped and tried to duplicate their success back in the US. But although they were one of the featured acts at Denver’s Rock and Roll America Festival, they were unable to get a new recording contract, so they finally called it quits in 1983.

Following the breakup, Redmon started the Jess Redmon Band, and has toured with Buddy Guy, Rick Derringer, Johnny Winter, Mountain, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others. He also started up his own recording studio and label called Blue Zephyr, recording over 200 albums. In 1988 he received a Best Songwriter of the Year award from the Colorado Song Writers Association (CSWA) for the song “Caught In The Middle,” as well as the Best Guitarist award for his song “Yankee Blue.”

Thompson and Smith moved back to Colorado and started up a new group called Eyez. When that run ended a couple of years later, both got out of the business all together, with Thompson pursuing a career in electronics. Smith put down the drumsticks and picked up a suit and tie, and became a businessman in the Denver area. Hannum meanwhile moved to Oklahoma, then Texas, and became a videographer and photographer.

The band’s only album was re-released on CD by Pacemaker Entertainment in 1996

 


Discography:

  • Alpha Centauri (1977)

Sources:

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