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National News / Entertainment

Sunday, 22 April, 2012 9:53 PM

'80's country/rock band The Unforgiven to reunite for Stagecoach show

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The Unforgiven will rock the 2012 Stagecoach Festival on April 29 in Indio, Calif.


by Jason Rzucidlo



INDIO, Calif. -- The Unforgiven were a country/rock band made up of six members from the inland empire area of southern California. They had a two-record deal with Elektra Records and existed from 1985 to 1988. Band members include Steve Jones on lead vocals and guitar while Johnny Hickman does guitar and vocals, Mike Jones on guitar and vocals, Jay Lansford on guitar and vocals, Larry Lee Lerma on bass and vocals and Alan Waddington on drums and vocals. The Unforgiven are getting back together for one show only -- April 29 -- at Stagecoach.

"The band actually started recording as The Choir Boys," said Steve Jones, who uses the stagename John Henry Jones. "Then, when our image developed the way it was there was another band in Australia called The Choir Boys. We started looking for names. Essentially, we got a big book of western movies and we went down the list. We considered The Professionals, The Wild Bunch and at one point we considered Once Upon A Time in the West, very lame I'm so glad that didn't go. When we hit on The Unforgiven, which was a film I was very familiar with, I saw it as a kid. My dad had a lot of cherokee blood in him. That film, which was a John Huston film, really dealt with racial intolerance. Not only did it have a great ring to it, The Unforgiven, it also spoke to me on a heart level from the time I was really young. We all just sort of looked at each other and that was it."

How did you guys get started in the music business back in the 1980's?

"Jay and I started in the punk rock world when we were very young--we were teenagers," the lead vocalist explained. "I played in a few bands and eventually formed a band called The Stepmothers. Although Jay didn't start that band with me. He was in a band called The Simple Tones. We played together at the Hong Kong Cafe in L.A., which is a big punk-rock club and really appreciated each others bands and liked each other personally. Eventually, we joined forces at The Stepmothers and we recorded that record together."

Lansford added: "I had met Steve and seen The Stepmothers when we were playing together. I read about them in flash magazines and everything. He gave me a cassette tape and was kind of persistent. Come on Jay, we've got to do something. We were trying to do some Judas Priest-AC/DC type of music. He was persistent and said, 'Come on down and let's play a gig with The Stepmothers in San Diego, travel with the band.' I got in and I liked it. Ironically, we started to develop a little bit of a Spaghetti Western look and a little bit of this Spaghetti Western sound. We focused not only on Hollywood, but also on the inland empire with doing gigs and meeting fans. When our paths split and I left the band in 1981, Steve just forged on with it and developed this Unforgiven idea."

"At that point, I formed this new band The Unforgiven with all new people," Jones continued. "I never played with anybody in that band before--all inland empire guys. The Unforgiven became the toast of the town for a couple of years. It's still the biggest bidding war of all time. Jay was watching it from outside the band before he came into the band."

Lansford added: "You guys were great. You destroyed every audience. Every guy in every band was immediately jealous and said look at them with their so many guitar players. Why do they have so many? Look at that image and oh, my goodness. Man, look at all of those chicks and that full house. Geese, they're kicking ass every night. Yeah, I was envious and proud. The second time he asked, I didn't say no."

Who are some of the bands that The Unforgiven sounds like?

"We're like Lynyrd Skynyrd a little bit," the guitarist and vocalist said.

"Jay and I definitely drift into The Outlaws," Jones replied. "I think that there's a lot of Americana in The Unforgiven. Although there's a very heavy aspect to the band, we drift into very Bad Company-style playing. There's also a '80s Springsteen thing in there, an 80's Tom Petty thing in there. All of that drift into what we do and also the country stuff. Not only were we influenced by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, the irony is for a bunch of punk rockers from Los Angeles, we ended up playing with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, which was a thrill beyond what you can imagine."

The Stagecoach festival will be The Unforgiven's first performance in 25 years.

"The Unforgiven songs have always kind of remained with us," Lansford said. "Steve and I had met intermittently over the years and we'd always kind of sit around. When I sit around in Germany with my buddies, eventually I end up playing these songs. I was thinking one day it's going to happen again. I think it was more like the Stagecoach festival gave me the opportunity and that was the final kick. Once there was an opportunity there, we said we must seize this and go there and have a blast."

Jones added: "I've got to say it has been healing for us to get together at this age and do something that we were actually doing. A lot of what country music has become is actually a cross between country music and arena rock. That's really what it has become. We didn't necessarily sound like Kenny Chesney or Tim McGraw. There were a lot of elements of that we were doing five or six years before that really happened in Nashville. In a way it's a full circle thing. For as heavy of a band as we were, we were also a band that could play with Willie Nelson and the next day play with Mötley Crüe. That's happened."

Can you give me a preview of what the fans can expect to see at the show on April 29?

"A lot of guitars -- three guitar players maybe a couple of special guests that will come up there with us," the guitarist and vocalist answered. "A lot of sing-a-long vocals, a lot of great songs. Some danceable rock music, some great storytelling and some great lyrics and a good time."

Since you guys are reuniting for this special show, what are the chances of a new record?

"It remains to be seen," the lead vocalist responded. "We're solely focused on surviving this gig first. If that goes well, we'll see what else can maybe happen. We have been writing new songs. We will be playing new songs. Who knows? I don't think anybody is looking beyond this gig. This reunion was put together by Paul Tollet, a great guy who has become another inland empire guy done good. We're focused on doing the very best job we can for the Stagecoach festival. If anything happens after that, we'll see. No predictions at this point."

For more information about The Unforgiven, visit their official website at

Related Story: New alternative group Bears Eat Me attacks SoCal music scene



Logo credit: Stagecoach Festival

For more information about Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival, visit




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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.