Chattanooga Now Overland Express is back on track

Chattanooga Now Overland Express is back on track

June 13th, 2018 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Music

Newly re-formed and energized, Overland Express features Rick Williams, Kris Phillips, Tom Lifsey, Michael Welch and Randy Clark, from left.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Rick Williams can't remember exactly how many times he has played at Riverbend with Overland Express, or the shortened Overland as it became for awhile, and he really struggles to come up with a number when he considers the other bands he has played with such as Sherman Williams or Cowjazz.

"I'd say about a dozen with Overland, including the first one in 1982," he says. "I have no idea if you want to talk about the others."

He will be onstage again Thursday, June 14, at 7:45 p.m. with Overland Express on Riverbend's Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Stage. What is significant about this show is what it represents for the band and its fans: The band is back together and even looking to record a third Overland album.

For the last several years, Overland got together only occasionally for special events, and Williams announced a couple of years ago that he needed a break.

He said after four decades and the death of friend and colleague Keith Sherman, he was tired.

"After Sherman died and 43 years of doing this, I needed to take some time off," Williams said. "I needed time."

Then the band performed during a celebration of life for Denny Hennen (the former co-owner of Yesterday's, where Overland played for many years) and the flame was reignited for Williams and the band.

"That show for Denny, and then playing a couple of the shows at Songbirds, got everybody into it again. Everybody was wanting to play so bad, that I felt a responsibility to them. We now play every now and then, instead of five nights a week, and it's a whole lot of fun."

Joining Williams, who sings and plays bass in the band, are original members Randy Clark and Michael Welch, drummer Tom Lifsey, who was with the band during most of the '70s and early '80s, and new guitar player Kris Phillips.

Over their history, Overland Express has remained one of the city's most popular bands, drawing large crowds every time they play their blend of guitar- and harmony-driven Southern rock. Williams admits to being a little surprised that even after 40 years, the band draws so well, even attracting new fans.

"I was really surprised at how many young people were at the Songbirds show. I looked out at all these 20- and 21-year-olds. There were a ton of them."

Overland flirted with record deals on several occasions, though Williams said he remains philosophical about such things.

"We put in a whole lot of time and effort. We should have been called Road Warriors. The way I looked at it, I never got depressed or down. If it happens, it happens."

For now, the band is back together and having fun playing music again.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.