User:Dave Cornutt/Royal Court of China
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Singer/guitarist/songwriter Joe Blanton and drummer Chris Mekow had been two members of a punk band named The Enemy, along with lead guitarist Eric Hubner and bassist Lee A. Carr. In 1985, Oscar Rice Jr. replaced and Robert Pogue replaced Hubner and Carr respectively.
In 1986, with the band's sound evolving, they sought a new name. Blanton saw the phrase "Royal Court of China" mentioned in a Jimmy Page interview as having been a name that Page had thought of but rejected for the band he was then forming (which eventually became The Firm). Blanton appropriated the phrase, and the Royal Court of China was born. That year, the band recorded and self-released a seven-song EP, Off the Beat'n Path, and signed Grace Reinbold as its manager. In December of that year, David Anderle of A&M Records saw one of the band's shows and subsequently signed the band to the label.
The following year, the band recorded its self-titled major-label debut. Using their manager Reinbold's connections with Led Zeppelin, the band contacted Page to see about producing the album. Page turned it down but passed the reference along to John Paul Jones, who expressed interest, although the band turned him down. Blanton later said that that decision was "probably the biggest mistake we ever made. We were young and thought we knew everything." After interviewing several other producers with unsatisfactory results, the band persuaded A&M to let them try self-producing one song. The result of that experiment was "It's All Changed", which became one of the band's best-known songs (and is still featured in its live sets). Based on that song's success, A&M allowed the band to self-produce the album.
In an odd way, the resulting album predicted the alternative rock trend in rock music that would take hold a year or so later. The songs blended the blues and folk influences brought to the band by Rice and Pogue with the punk and glam roots of Blanton and Mekow. The eponymous album was not quite representative of the band's live shows; by Blanton's own admission, Rice and Pogue did the bulk of the production work and the resulting album was more "produced" than Blanton and Mekow would have preferred. To this day, fans are divided on the result; some view it as an aberration, but others regard it as the band's best work. (needs ref) The band taped a video for "It's All Changed" and spent the rest of the year touring.
As 1988 began, the tensions in the band between Rice and Pogue's blues/folk influences and Blanton and Mekow's desire to do "a harder style" led to a spilt. Rice and Pogue left to form the alternative-folk band The Shakers. Once again, Blanton and Mekow were faced with the task of finding a new lead guitarist and a new bassist. They solved the latter problem quickly and effectively by recruiting long-time band acquaintance Drew Cornutt from rockabilly singer Jerry Dale McFadden's band. This paid immediate dividends thanks to Cornutt's training in production and sound engineering; he also began contributing to the songwriting. Finding a new lead guitarist proved problematic, and would continue to be so for the remainder of the band's tenure as a major-label band.
Preparing for its second album with A&M, the band wisely decided to recruit an outside producer rather than attempting to self-produce again. They signed on Vic Maile and relocated to Los Angeles to record the album Geared and Primed. Josh Weinberg signed on to play lead guitar, but he was dismissed near the end of the sessions and replaced by another longtime band acquaintance, Jeff Mayes. Mayes' guitar can be heard on "Dragon Park", although he was not credited on the album. The album was released at the end of the year, with "Half the Truth" as the first single and video from the album.
1989 proved to be a year of drastic ups and downs for the band. Geared and Primed sold far better than its predecessor, and the band embarked on very successful tours supporting Joan Jett and Cheap Trick. In addition, that summer, the band was hired to produce songs for the movie Lost Angels. However, Maile, whom the band were counting on to produce the next album, died in July. As A&M set itself up to be purchased by Polygram, record producer David Anderle was transferred to Polygram's movie division, depriving the band of its label contact. And the release of Lost Angels was delayed; it was eventually released in a drastically re-edited version, to which audiences were indifferent. At the end of the year, the band and A&M parted ways.
The band attempted to struggle on for the next two years, with no label and a succession of lead guitarists. Blanton's odd talent for choosing band names that more famous musicians find desirable helped for a while; in 1991 the band changed its name to Rockhead, and almost immediately after, producer Bob Rock contacted the band about using the name for a project he was doing. The band reached a financial settlement with Rock and changed its name back to Royal Court of China. However, in 1992, the band discovered that the state of its bank accounts had been vastly overstated by its management. (need ref) The resulting immediate financial crisis broke up the band.
Blanton and Mekow returned to Nashville to do a short-lived reunion of the earlier version of the band with Pogue and Rice. They scored a local coup by arranging a reunion of The Jordanaires, Elvis Presley's original band, and the two bands combined to record a Christmas single, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town". This earned the band several appearances on country music TV shows. But Blanton was dissatisfied; it wasn't the style of music he was interested in. Cornutt had relocated to Atlanta and was out of the music industry, and Mekow was also losing interest. Blanton relocated to Pensacola, FL where he opened a recording studio and formed a new hard-rock trio called Door No. 2.
In 1986, Blanton began contacting the other band members about a reunion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band's formation. Mekow and Cornutt were both employed outside of the music industry, but they readily agreed to do it on a part-time basis. After some discussion, the three decided to offer Mayes the lead guitar position, and he accepted, again with the condition that it be a part-time deal. With Cornutt and Mayes living in Atlanta and Mekow living in western Tennessee, Blanton offered to relocate his studio and himself to Nashville to be more centrally located.