Exile (American band)

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Also known asJimmy Stokley and the Exiles, The Exiles
OriginRichmond, Kentucky, United States
GenresCountry rock, soft rock[1]
Years active1963 (1963)–1993, 1995–present
Past members
  • Jimmy Stokley (deceased)
  • Ronnie "Mac" Davenport
  • Mark Gray (deceased)
  • Bobby Johns
  • Bernie Faulkner
  • Ronnie Hall
  • Paul Smith
  • Buzz Cornelison
  • Mike Howard
  • Larry Jackson
  • Billy Luxon
  • Billy Kennon
  • Lee Carroll
  • Paul Martin
  • Mark Jones
  • Steve Conger
  • Ronnie Stone
  • Tim Copher
  • Steve Richmond
  • Jason Witt
  • Jody Conley
  • Ray Salyer
  • Kenny Weir
  • Denny Williams
  • Clyde Thomas
  • Mike Smith
  • Randy Rickman
Gary Freeman

Exile is an American band originally formed in 1963. In the 1970s, they were known as a rock band that had a major hit single with "Kiss You All Over" in 1978. After several lineup changes, the band was re-launched as a country act that achieved additional success in the 1980s and '90s. J.P. Pennington is the only current member of the band remaining from its early days.


Early years[edit]

The origins of Exile were with a high school band in Richmond, Kentucky, called the Fascinations, which featured singer Jimmy Stokley.[2] In 1963, the Fascinations merged with another local band and became Jimmy Stokley and the Exiles, with singer/guitarist J.P. Pennington, then age 14, joining a short time later.[3][4] They toured regionally with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars in 1965.[5] Their name was later shortened to The Exiles, apparently to show support for Cuban refugees.[2]

After high school, the band moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and recorded several singles for small labels between 1968 and 1973.[3] In 1973 the name was shortened again to Exile,[5] with Stokley on lead vocals, Pennington on vocals and guitar, Buzz Cornelison on keyboards, Kenny Weir on bass, and Bobby Johns on drums.[6] This version of the band released a self-titled album on Wooden Nickel Records in 1973. They toured regionally for the next several years and had a minor pop hit with "Try It On" in 1977.[3][5]

Late 1970s pop success[edit]

In 1978, Exile consisted of Stokley, Pennington, and Cornelison, plus second keyboardist Marlon Hargis, bassist Sonny LeMaire, and drummer Steve Goetzman. This lineup signed with Warner Brothers and released the album Mixed Emotions.[3] The disco-influenced single "Kiss You All Over", written by the album's producer Mike Chapman and his songwriting partner Nicky Chinn, topped the American singles chart for four weeks and also reached the top ten in a dozen European countries.[7][8] The song attracted some controversy for its risqué lyrics,[9][10] while Stokley gained media attention as a flamboyant and charismatic frontman.[11]

The success of "Kiss You All Over" resulted in invitations for Exile to tour with Heart, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, and other leading rock acts of the period.[12][13] The follow-up album All There Is yielded the minor hit single "The Part of Me That Needs You Most", which reached the top ten in South Africa and New Zealand in 1979.

Transition to country music[edit]

Jimmy Stokley left the band in 1980 and was replaced by Les Taylor prior to recording sessions for the band's next album, Don't Leave Me this Way.[3] Stokley died at age 41 on August 13, 1985 due to complications from hepatitis,[14][15] and was later inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame with a speech by J.P. Pennington.[16] Another longtime member, keyboardist Buzz Cornelison, also departed in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, in 1981, the band released their final album under the Warner Brothers label, Heart and Soul, featuring their original recording of the Chapman/Chinn-penned title track, which would become a big hit for Huey Lewis and the News several years later. Exile's version was released as a single but failed to crack the Hot 100.

At this point, under the leadership of Pennington, Exile was revamped as a country band with a southern rock flavor.[3] This version of the band signed with Epic Records in 1983 and had a top 40 country single with their first Epic release, "High Cost of Leaving".[5] Some of their songs were covered by other country artists, including Janie Fricke and Alabama,[3] the latter of whom would turn Exile's "The Closer You Get" (from their 1980 album Don't Leave Me This Way) into a #1 Country & Western single in 1983.[17] Starting in 1983, Exile had three consecutive top ten albums on the Billboard Country Albums chart (Exile, Kentucky Hearts, and Hang On to Your Heart, with the second of those reaching number one), and from 1983 to 1987 ten out of eleven singles reached number one on the Billboard Country Singles chart, making them one of the biggest country artists of the decade.[18] They also received thirteen award nominations from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.[19]

Pennington and Taylor left the band in 1990, leaving it with no remaining members from its rock period. A new lineup featuring singer/guitarist Paul Martin signed with Arista Records and scored some more country hit singles, but they were dropped by Arista after the 1991 album Justice and disbanded in 1993.[5] Twenty-one former members gathered for a farewell concert at the Grand Ole Opry.[20]


After leaving Exile in 1990, J.P. Pennington and Les Taylor both signed solo deals and achieved minor hit singles on the U.S. country charts.[21][22] Pennington and Taylor performed together on stage in 1995 and decided to resurrect the Exile name.[5] The new version of the band, led by Pennington and Taylor with a shifting cast of sidemen, continued to tour the nostalgia circuit.[3] Since the 1990s the group has released several live albums, plus the new album Wrapped Up in Your Arms for Christmas in 2016.[23]


Studio albums[edit]

  • Exile (1973)
  • Stage Pass (1978)
  • Mixed Emotions (1978)
  • All There Is (1979)
  • Don't Leave Me This Way / Keeping It Country (1980)
  • Heart and Soul (1981)
  • Exile (1983)
  • Kentucky Hearts (1984)
  • Hang On to Your Heart (1985)
  • Shelter from the Night (1987)
  • Still Standing (1990)
  • Justice (1991)
  • Wrapped Up In Your Arms for Christmas (2016)


  1. ^ Jasen, David A. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 0-415-93700-0.
  2. ^ a b "Music, Not Name, The Key With Exile". Oklahoman.com. 1989-02-17. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Exile | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  4. ^ Life in Exile : a journey home- basic edition, 50 years of music from the band Exile. Eve Nicole LeMaire. 2 July 2013. ISBN 978-1484890875. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 444. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  6. ^ "EXILE Bio | EXILE Career". Cmt.com. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  7. ^ "Exile - Kiss You All Over / There's Been A Change - RAK - UK - RAK 279". 45cat.com. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  8. ^ M. Tye Comer, Mariel Concepcion, Monica Herrera, Jessica Letkemann, Evie Nagy and David J. Prince (February 11, 2010). "The 50 Sexiest Songs Of All Time". Billboard. Retrieved October 13, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Vissman, Donna (2019-02-14). "How a Controversial Song Catapulted this Country Band". Williamson Source. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  10. ^ "The Number Ones: Exile's "Kiss You All Over"". Stereogum. 2020-01-03. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  11. ^ "A Mick Jagger type". The Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky.
  12. ^ RUNNELLS, CHARLES. "Exile get sexy with Kiss You All Over". The News-Press. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  13. ^ Release, Press (2018-09-28). "Exile Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Signature Smash "Kiss You All Over"". The Country Note. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  14. ^ "Stokley survived by parents". The Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky. 15 August 1985. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  15. ^ Exile Lead Rock Singer Jimmy Stokley, 41. August 15, 1985. The Miami Herald, p. 4D
  16. ^ "Jimmy Stokley to be inducted into Kentucky Music Hall of Fame". Lexington Herald Leader. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  17. ^ "Alabama". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  18. ^ Moore, Bobby (2019-11-19). "Exile Talks Country Crossover Success, Signature Tune 'Kiss You All Over'". Wide Open Country. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  19. ^ "Exile". Grand Ole Opry. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  20. ^ "Exile concert at Kentucky Lake Opry". The Southern. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  21. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 321. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  22. ^ "Les Taylor | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  23. ^ Wrapped Up in Your Arms for Christmas - Exile | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 2020-06-12


  • Eve Nicole Lemaire, Life in Exile: A Journey Home, (2013), CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN 1484890876
  • Randy Westbrook, 50 Years of Exile (2013), Acclaim Press. ISBN 1938905229

External links[edit]