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Nightcaller - The Journey of Artimus Pyle and A.P.B.

Updated: Apr 15

In 1982, drummer Artimus Pyle inked a five-year, seven-album deal with MCA, marking a significant milestone in what had been a whirlwind career to that point. From struggling in lesser-known bands to surviving Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane crash in 1977, Pyle's life took unexpected turns. The Artimus Pyle Band's debut album, A.P.B., didn't meet commercial expectations, setting the stage for the recording of their sophomore release, Nightcaller, in 1983.


1983

Cover of A.P.B. Nightcaller

Although not from Columbus, his father's career took the family to Columbus when Pyle was a teen. After graduating from Eastmoor High School in 1966, Pyle joined the Marines. He was honorably discharged in 1971 and returned to Columbus after his father died in a plane accident. Playing drums remained Pyle's passion and he connected with Columbus musicians John Boerstler and Darryll Otis Smith in the band Next Voice in 1973. Pyle’s first recording experience came with Next Voice when they went to New York to lay down some tracks at Dick Charles Studios. Check out the rocker “Flyin’ Hopes” from that session to hear how much potential that band had.


Nightcaller marked a new chapter for the band, now simply known as A.P.B. (“All Points Bulletin or Artimus Pyle Band, whichever floats your boat.”). Recorded at the Creative Arts Studio in Spartanburg, SC, with producer Howard Steele, the album introduced Russ (Rusty) Milner and vocalist Karen Blackmon (Caldwell). Milner and Blackmon's songwriting contributions infused a fresh sound without veering too far from the band's initial direction.


Label for "Red Hot Light" 12 inch single.

The album kicks off with the catchy "Red Hot Light," the only single released to radio. Despite not becoming the hoped-for hit, it found its way to the Lynyrd Skynyrd Solo Flytes compilation in 1999. As Blackmon takes the lead vocals on several tracks, including a couple of duets with the late Darryll Smith on “You And Me” and Smith's composition “Charley’s Gone,” Nightcaller showcases a diverse range of musical elements. Session saxman Jerry Peterson is featured with a solo on the Boerstler-Smith co-write “Another Lover” which ends side one. It’s a remarkably catchy tune featuring a Boerstler guitar solo and keyboards providing a steel drum sound.


The rocking "Tight Spot" on side two provides a glimpse into the challenges of life on the road. I gotta say, Darryll O. Smith has a great set of pipes and is one of the great unheralded vocalists from Columbus who should be remembered. The title track's atmospheric blend of guitars and sax gives it a distinct sound, fitting for an '80s pop rock album released on the cusp of the Miami Vice era.


Notable contributions from session musicians David Paich and Steve Porcaro, riding high on the peak of Toto’s popularity at the time, give tracks like “Take A Picture” a sound that was cutting edge at the time, making Nightcaller appeal more to a pop audience.


Despite not conforming to Southern rock expectations, Nightcaller stands as a successful '80s pop rock album. Regrettably, the band didn't get a chance to fulfill the MCA contract, making Nightcaller the last album for the original A.P.B. incarnation.


What sets Artimus Pyle apart is his eclectic taste, drawing inspiration from drumming legends like Gene Krupa and Joe Morello, as well as rock icons Keith Moon and Charlie Watts and listening to Weather Report. Pyle's integrity shone through as he reunited with his talented friends back in Columbus and led the band democratically, not pandering to Skynyrd fans or exploiting the band's name for commercial success (although venues didn't necessarily have any qualms doing so, to Pyle's chagrin).


A.P.B. wouldn't release another album until 2000's Live From Planet Earth. In 2023, Pyle paid tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd with Anthems, featuring guests like Warren Haynes and Dolly Parton. Dolly's rendition of "Free Bird" marked a poignant reunion with Artimus and former Skynyrd bandmate Gary Rossington shortly before his passing in 2023.


After A.P.B., Darryll O. Smith continued singing with Columbus bands like the Velvet King Snakes and the Columbus Jets. John Boerstler, an active guitarist in multiple Columbus bands, remains a cherished figure in the local music scene and one of my favorite guitarists. Rusty Milner joined The Marshall Tucker Band, who would record and release their 1990 album Southern Spirit with Columbus' Sispapa Record Co.


Artimus Pyle's journey, from the highs of rock stardom, to the psychological torment of surviving a plane crash; from starting over again with A.P.B., to a new high point with the release of Anthems, encapsulates the spirit of a musician who stayed true to his roots and left an indelible mark on the music world.

Back cover of A.P.B. Nightcaller

Tracklist

Written-By – Jimmie Mack

Written-By – K. BlackmonR. Milner

Written-By – K. BlackmonS. Brewington

Written-By – R. Milner

Written-By – D. SmithJ. Boerstler


Written-By – D. SmithS. Brewington

Written-By – Sue ShifrinSusan Pomerantz

Written-By – R. Milner

Written-By – D. SmithR. Milner

Written-By – D. Smith


Companies, etc.
Side 1 label from A.P.B. Nightcaller

Credits



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