James Barney “J. R.” Cobb Jr. (February 5, 1944 – May 4, 2019) was an American guitarist and songwriter, most notable for co-writing “Spooky” and “Stormy”, among others, as a member of the Classics IV, plus “Champagne Jam” and “Do It Or Die”, among others, as a member of the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Cobb was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944. His family later moved to Jacksonville, Florida. In 1953, at the age of nine, he and his two siblings were placed in the Baptist Children’s Home in Jacksonville, after his father left the family and his mother needed assistance. Cobb regarded the experience as positive, on balance, describing it as “the best and worst thing that could have happened to me. The best thing, because we would not have had anything at the time. The worst, it was scary not being a family anymore.” He regarded the experience as providing him with a strong work ethic, and remained in the home until the age of 16, graduating from Paxon High School in Jacksonville. One of Cobb’s fellow graduates was drummer Robert Nix, who would later join with Cobb in forming the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Following graduation from high school, Cobb became a welder. Co-workers had started a band called The Emeralds, and invited Cobb to join the band as a guitarist. The Emeralds evolved into The Classics, which then became The Classics IV, with lead singer Dennis Yost. The band was discovered by Paul Cochran, an associate of Atlanta music publisher Bill Lowery, who invited the band to Atlanta to record. Lowery also became the band’s advisor.
It was at his first recording sessions in Atlanta that Cobb met Buddy Buie, a producer and songwriter, who had been the former manager of Roy Orbison. Cobb and Buie developed a songwriting partnership, writing a number of their songs in a trailer owned by Buie’s uncle near Lake Eufaula, bordering Georgia and Alabama. The two would fish during the day, and write at night. Their first hit was “I Take It Back”, recorded by Sandy Posey. They then added lyrics to a local jazz song, which became the hit “Spooky”, for the Classics IV, of which both Buie and Cobb were members.
Cobb and Buie eventually co-wrote most of the hits for what became Dennis Yost & the Classics IV, including the 1968 gold single “Stormy.” Cobb later wrote or co-wrote a number of hits for the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
In 1970, Cobb became a session guitarist in Doraville, Georgia at Studio One, playing in a session band with members of the Classics IV and The Candymen, which had been the backing band for Roy Orbison. The group became the Atlanta Rhythm Section, as named by Bill Lowery, and commenced recording as such as of 1972. Cobb left the group in 1987. He wished to concentrate on songwriting, as well as to work with Chips Moman, with whom he had first worked in Memphis, at Moman’s American Sound Studio, which existed from 1967 to 1972. As of the mid-1970s, Moman had moved to Nashville. Subsequent to leaving the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Cobb worked with Moman as a session guitarist, as well as reviewing songs being sent to the studio.
Cobb was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1997, where he received the Music Creator’s Award.
Cobb resided in Monticello, Georgia, the county seat of Jasper County, where he and his family have resided for over thirty years.
Photo: Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1977. From left to right: J.R. Cobb, Ronnie Hammond, Barry Bailey, Paul Goddard, Robert Nix, Dean Daughtry. (From Wikipedia)
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
8: Dominique Lawalrée, 64, Belgian composer and keyboard player; Yevgeny Krylatov, 85, Russian composer, pneumonia.
7: Georg Katzer, 84, German composer; Subir Nandi, 66, Bangladeshi musician and playback singer (Shuvoda, Megher Pore Megh), multiple organ failure.
6: Pekka Airaksinen, 73, Finnish composer and musician; Jürgen Bräuninger, 63, South African composer, cancer.
4: J. R. Cobb, 75, American musician (Atlanta Rhythm Section, Classics IV), heart attack; Adam Sky, 42, Australian DJ, severed artery from broken glass.
3: Mose Se Sengo, 73, Congolese musician.
2: John Starling, 79, American bluegrass musician (The Seldom Scene), Grammy winner (1992), heart failure; Juan Vicente Torrealba, 102, Venezuelan harpist and composer.
1: Vladimír Poštulka, 76, Czech lyricist, author and food critic, Josef Škvorecký Award recipient (2015), complications from a fall.