Sanford-Townsend Band

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The Sanford-Townsend Band
Origin Alabama, United States
Genres Pop rock, blue-eyed soul
Years active 1974-1980
Labels Warner Bros.
Past members Ed Sanford
Johnny Townsend
Roger Johnson
Otis Hale
Jerry Rightmer
Jim Varley

The Sanford-Townsend Band was a rock and roll band from Alabama, United States. They scored a hit single in 1977 with "Smoke from a Distant Fire".


The Sanford-Townsend Band featured keyboardists Ed Sanford (from Montgomery, Alabama) and Johnny Townsend (from Tuscaloosa, Alabama), who previously worked together in a Tuscaloosa-based band called Heart (not to be confused with the band of the same name fronted by Ann and Nancy Wilson from Seattle/Vancouver).

After reuniting in Los Angeles, Sanford and Townsend signed a publishing deal with Chappell Music and began writing songs, most notably "Peacemaker" for Loggins and Messina, which was co-written by Sanford and Townsend with Kenny Loggins.

Their 1976 self-titled album started getting attention when "Smoke from a Distant Fire" reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 in Cash Box, recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. The album was retitled with the name of the hit song and re-released. The band supported the song by opening for Fleetwood Mac on their Rumours tour, as well as concerts with The Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Jimmy Buffett, Foreigner, Heart and others.

The band's follow-up albums, entitled Duo-Glide and Nail Me To The Wall, were significantly less successful. Sanford and Townsend returned to their careers as session musicians and songwriters.

Ed Sanford co-wrote "I Keep Forgettin'" with Michael McDonald, which appeared on McDonald's debut solo album in 1982.

The band's long-time bassist, Jerry Rightmer died in 2007 at the age of 57 from cirrhosis of the liver, brought on by Hepatitis C. He was survived by his wife and four children.[1]

Former lead guitarist Roger Johnson currently works with his wife in publishing, following 25 years working in the film industry as a video technician and editor subsequent to his time in the Sanford-Townsend Band.[2]

In 2008, John Townsend formed the Toler/Townsend Band with Dan Toler. Townsend's tenor voice remains substantially unchanged from thirty years prior.

Principal band members[edit]

  • John Wayne Townsend: lead vocals, keyboards
  • Ed Sanford: keyboards, vocals
  • Roger Johnson: lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Otis Hale: guitar, woodwinds, backing vocals
  • Jerry Rightmer: bass, backing vocals
  • Jim Varley: drums



  • Sanford Townsend Band (1976)
  • Smoke from a Distant Fire (1977) US #57
  • Duo-Glide (1978) US #92
  • Nail Me To The Wall (1979)


Year Single Chart Positions
1977 "Shake It to the Right" - -
"Smoke from a Distant Fire" 9 44
1978 "Eye of My Storm (Oh Woman)" - -


External links[edit]