Further into rock territory: Rediscovering the Dillards’ blazing ‘Roots and Branches’ 1972 album

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Rodney Dillard and Dean Webb recall the bluegrass outfit’s ballsy mainstream rock bid with “Roots and Branches,” produced by Three Dog Night-Steppenwolf-Alice Cooper collaborator Richard Podolor. The Dillards also opened for Elton John on his fourth American tour and had first crack at cutting Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” until Stevens’ A&M record label halted the proceedings. In the accompanying still a green branch protrudes from a tree root on the sepia-toned cover of the fifth studio album unleashed by the Dillards. The rock-influenced LP debuted June 10, 1972, reaching a career Billboard high of No. 79 POP. Standing are mandolinist Dean Webb, banjoist Billy Ray Latham, and drummer Paul York. Seated are lead singer-guitarist Rodney Dillard and doghouse bassist Mitch Jayne. Photography by Ed Caraeff / Universal Music Group
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A junk-ridden trading shop frames frontman-songwriter-guitarist Rodney Dillard, banjoist Billy Ray Latham, mandolinist-harmony singer Dean Webb, emcee-stand up bassist Mitch Jayne, and drummer Paul York of the Dillards as seen in an innersleeve candid taken from their “Roots and Branches” vinyl album, which debuted June 10, 1972, and charted at No. 79 POP, their best chart placement on Billboard. Photography by Ed Caraeff / 45Worlds user Lee Wrecker / Universal Music Group

The Rodney Dillard Interview, Part Three

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With only one Top Ten single to his credit — “Your Song” — Elton John mounted his second American tour in spring 1971. Here he is captured sometime between April 8 and 10 at Bill Graham’s famed Fillmore East venue in New York City. Photography by Amalie R. Rothschild / Morrison Hotel
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Between sets the Dillards watch a bluegrass act at the sixth annual Culpeper-Warrenton Bluegrass Festival in Virginia in June 1971. Left to right are singer-guitarist Rodney Dillard, bassist Mitch Jayne, wife-occasional songwriter Donna Jayne, and mandolinist Dean Webb. Photography by Fred Robbins / FRobbi.org
Watch the Dillards deliver “Redbone Hound,” a jewel written by Rodney Dillard and released in May 1972 on the under-appreciated “Roots and Branches” album. Although built on a bluegrass foundation, the banjo solo is electrified through a fuzz box. Music Credit: Universal Music Group; Video Credit: YouTube user Ali Whitwell
Watch the Dillards tackle “One A.M.,” perhaps their most commercial pop-rock song, from 1972’s “Roots and Branches” album. Esteemed rock producer Richard Podolor, best known for working with Alice Cooper and Three Dog Night, helmed the project. Music Credit: Universal Music Group; Video Credit: Jeremy Roberts
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Mandolinist Dean Webb, banjoist Billy Ray Latham, drummer Paul York, lead singer-guitarist Rodney Dillard, and emcee-doghouse bassist Mitch Jayne are the Dillards in June 1971 during a bluegrass-country rock set at the sixth annual Culpeper-Warrenton Bluegrass Festival in Virginia. Photography by Fred Robbins / FRobbi.org
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In the November 24, 1973, edition of Billboard, a writer opined, “If there is true musical justice, the Dillards should be consistent gold album artists. They have been doing what they do, bluegrass country pop, longer, better, and more entertainingly than anybody else. At last with United Artists, a label committed to progressive country, the Dillards may finally win that hit single they’ve needed so long. Try ‘Carry Me Off.’” Seen above is the cover of the Dillards’ seventh album, “Tribute to the American Duck,” produced by Rodney Dillard and inexplicably barely distributed in November 1973. Photography by Fred Valentine / Universal Music Group
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A photo collage of the Dillards originally featured in the sleeve notes of “Roots and Branches,” the country rock outfit’s most popular album originally distributed in May 1972 on Anthem Records. Pictured are doghouse bassist-emcee Mitch Jayne, frontman-acoustic guitarist Rodney Dillard, mandolinist-harmony singer Dean Webb, banjoist-guitarist Billy Ray Latham, drummer Paul York, and road manager Irv Dugan.
Photography by Barbara Harris / BGO Records / Universal Music Group
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Singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam, better known as Cat Stevens to ’70s folk pop aficionados, is pictured strumming a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar in 1975. Photography by George Wilkes /Hulton Archive / Getty Images
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Mandolinist Dean Webb, banjoist Billy Ray Latham, and frontman-guitarist Rodney Dillard of the Dillards are captured during a European tour stop circa 1973. The progressive country rockers were knee deep in their “Roots and Branches” / “Tribute to the American Duck” electric phase. Photography by David Redfern / Getty Images
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Dillards leader Rodney Dillard and Three Dog Night producer Richie Podolor examine what appears to be a tall glass inside Podolor’s American Recording Company studio in Studio City, California, while the progressive country rock group was cutting the “Roots and Branches” album. Image Credit: American Recording Company
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Dillards lead singer-guitarist Rodney Dillard, producer-electric guitarist Richie Podolor, drummer Paul York, stand-up bassist Mitch Jayne, mandolinist Dean Webb, and banjoist-rhythm guitarist Billy Ray Latham converge in a circle inside American Recording Studio in Studio City, California, during the sessions for “Roots and Branches,” spring 1972. Image Credit: American Recording Company
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Dillards lead singer-guitarist Rodney Dillard and banjoist Billy Ray Latham observe producer-Telecaster wizard Richie Podolor sitting inside American Recording Studio in Studio City, California, during the sessions for “Roots and Branches,” spring 1972. Image Credit: American Recording Company
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A 1996 CD reissue autographed by Rodney Dillard featuring the Dillards’ 1972 album “Roots and Branches” paired with its 1973 follow-up, “Tribute to the American Duck.” Image Credit: BGO Records / Universal Music Group / The Jeremy Roberts Collection
Click to play the entire 34-minute “Roots and Branches” 1972 album unleashed by the Dillards. Video Credit: Take’s Bluegrass Album Channel

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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