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Johnny Townsend


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Last year I decided to try and contact Johnny Townsend of the Sanford Townsend Band when I heard "Smoke From A Distant Fire" on the radio. The DJ mentioned he was starting a new band called the Renegades so I checked out the website that was mentioned. I found there was a link to contact them and I gave it a try. Johnny replied right away with one reply, and later on with a follow-up story on how they wrote that song. Very interesting story, so I thought I would share this with all of you. I have not had a PC at home now for the last year, so I completely forgot about contacting him again. He said to keep in touch, so maybe I'll get a chance now to see how his new group "The Renegades" are doing. I'll get back to you with a follow-up on that if he replies again. Here is what he replied back with:


Thanks for the kind words and the inquiry. I'll be glad to respond with some "little known facts" about "Smoke....." and the Sanford Townsend Band. I'm dashing out the door but i'll sit down this weekend and give you a Reader's Digest version of the saga.

Meanwhile, check out my new band The Renegades (link below my signature). We've been together since last May and are kicking some major bottom in the concert world and are going in the studio late this month to do our first CD. Along with current members, George McCorkle (Marshall Tucker Band), Danny Toler (Allman Bros, Dicky Betts and Gregg Allman solo bands), Jack Hall (Original Bass Player with Wet Willie), we'll be adding Stever Gorman, drummer from the Black Crowes this coming March. Can't wait to get this group in front of the world.

Anyway, much obliged and I'll follow up this weekend.

Many Blessings,

Johnny Townsend



"I am a citizen of the world. My religion is to do good." - Thomas Paine

And here is his follow-up letter:

02/06/06 07:47 PM - Post#195052


Re: Smoke From A Distant Fire:

In the spring of 1974 Ed Sanford and I had just signed a publishing deal with Chappel Music. They gave us a nice advance and a weekly stipend and for a couple of unknown writers, this was a rare deal. Ed and our friend Steven Stewart (co-writer on Smoke...) were sharing one half of an old duplex in Hollywood at the time. I used to drop by and hang out, write or whatever, almost on a daily basis. Now Steven was and aspiring classical guitarist at the time. He used to stay up 'til the wee hours, sometimes daybreak, bent over his music stand practicing his scales, or some classical peice.

He was driven to become a great player. I was over one morning as Ed was just waking up and Steven hadn't been to bed yet. Ed was complaining about not getting any sleep and barked at Steven "when are you gonna stop wasting your time on that classical crap and write something that will make you some money." Steven picked up his guitar immediately and started playing what I thought was a really cool R&B type rhythm and replied with "Anybody can write that crap:" I said "apparently you just did and went straight to the piano and embellished on his idea. While going through some old song ideas in my notebook I always carried, I found one that actually was the title of a poem that Ed had written while in college. I extracted the Title because it seemed to be a perfect fit for the chorus idea I had and that all sort of amalgamated into "Smoke From A Distant Fire".

Basically, the song started as a joke and that joke is still making us money to this very day.

I love songwriting I guess because I've always enjoyed puzzles, crosswords, anagrams and the like. It's different every time and I still couldn't tell you exactly where they come from. I think many of the great melodies are universal melodies that exist out in the cosmos somewhere and certain people have the knack of reaching out with their minds, hearts or spirits to bring them back to us.

Stay well and in touch,

Johnny Townsend

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