Pop, Rock Group Birmingham, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


The band Hotel was a power pop group formed in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973 and disbanded in 1982. Although they had a strong regional following and were loaded top to bottom with highly-talented musicians, due to changing musical tastes and lackluster promotion, they failed to achieve stardom.


After various personnel changes marked their early formative years, the group solidified their lineup in 1976 with original members Marc Phillips on lead vocals/piano and Tommy Calton on guitar/vocals. Rounding out the most-popular formation of this group were Lee Bargeron on keyboards/acoustic guitar/vocals, Mike Reid on guitar/vocals, George Creasman on bass/vocals, and Michael Cadenhead on drums/vocals, which is the lineup that recorded their 2 MCA studio albums.

Hotel was a popular favorite on the southeastern United States Rock-n-Roll club scene and played in all the best and largest clubs, as well as fronting concerts for many national acts who toured through the area in the mid-to-late '70's. Their original songs were highly-laced with pop hooks & heavy vocal harmonies, sometimes 6-part. Their sound was relative to power pop groups such as The Rascals and The Raspberries but with a more-polished sound & much-higher musicianship; they routinely peppered their sets with tunes that showed off their musical prowess by covering difficult-to-play songs note-for-note by acts such as Steely Dan. Phillips' lead vocal also gave the group an identifiable trademark that combined a good range with exceptional quality.


In 1978, Hotel released a single for Mercury Records, "You'll Love Again." Although it only reached #71 on the Billboard Hot 100 it was very popular in its regional area where the band toured constantly and built a solid following. In a foreboding sign of things to come, Mercury failed to provide the support needed to push the record, and the group and label mutually agreed to part ways.

In 1979, they signed with MCA Records and released their debut album. Simply entitled "Hotel", the album was a collection of power-pop tunes. MCA released the songs "You've Got Another Thing Coming" which reached #54, becoming the band's highest charting single, and "Hold On To The Night", penned by Phillips & prolific '60's songwriter Barry Mann (co-writer of "On Broadway", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and many more).

It appeared that by 1980, with popular music moving away from Power pop, not to mention Progressive rock, Punk & Disco, these elements would eventually meld themselves into New Wave, which combined elements of all these styles using a combination synthesizer and guitar-based sound. Although Rock purists saw it as a soulless & fleeting style, it became nevertheless a new marketable formula for pop radio success at that time. This style was first captured by acts such as Elvis Costello, The Cars & Blondie in the late `70's, and was the norm for pop-rock artists by the 1980's who were weren't hardcore enough to slip into the Post punk genre or the few true rock artists who followed Van Halen into hair band pop metal a few years later.

Seeing this change in the music environment taking place, Hotel began work on their second album, "Half-Moon Silver", which was released by MCA in 1980. Though this 2nd album contained some strong Power pop tunes and was quite a bit edgier than the debut album, it also lacked proper promotion and sold even less than the debut album, which led MCA to drop the act. Subsequently, the group languished for a while as the perennial star of the club circuit, finally disbanding in 1982.


Not fazed by their failure to land firmly on the national scene, founding members Marc Phillips & Tommy Calton promptly created the aptly-named "Calton-Phillips Group", then after a few incidents in which their name was misspelled on club marquees, the band changed its name to "Split The Dark". This latter formation created a video which won the highly acclaimed "MTV Basement Tapes" competition in 1986, but still no record company was interested in signing the group. With the prospect of playing once again on the club circuit with no promising future in sight, Split The Dark eventually disbanded in 1988.

Notably, one of the final members of Split The Dark was guitarist/vocalist Damon Johnson, who later formed the rock group Brother Cane, which had some national success in the `90's with 3 albums, including their biggest hit "I Lie In The Bed I Make".





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