In 1963, J.P. Pennington and several of his friends started Exile. Catching the wave of the sixties, they grew long hair, wore out-of-the-ordinary clothing and played rock ‘n roll music. The hometown folks of Richmond, KY turned a cold shoulder to their radical ways and the boys felt shunned. They called themselves THE EXILES. Fortunately for the future of pop and country music, not everyone minded their rebellion.
The Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars hit the road in 1965 and picked up THE EXILES to perform on several dates in and around Kentucky. The band opened the shows and provided backup for headlining superstars like Freddie Cannon, B.J. Thomas and others. Clark bought the band again, for the 1966 “Caravan…” tour and gave them, as an added bonus, a piece of advice:” Don’t ever forget your audience,” Clark preached. The boys adopted Dick Clark’s advice as their creed.
The band changed musical styles throughout the mid-sixties and, in 1968, changed their base of operations to Lexington, KY. They shortened the name to EXILE. Regional hit records such as Devil’s Bite and Church Street Soul Revival came easily as the band became a Kentucky tradition. Finally, in fall of 1978, EXILE hit pay dirt with the #1 pop smash, Kiss You All Over, and hit the road touring with Aerosmith, Heart, Dave Mason, Boston, Seals & Crofts and other hot pop acts of the late seventies. The backdrop changed, but the band never lost sight of its commitment to its audience.
Devoting themselves to a killer combination of great music and showmanship, EXILE set standards for other Kentucky acts. A young singer, Les Taylor, watched the progress of the group while building his own fan base in central Kentucky. EXILE watched Les, too. And, when original singer, Jimmy Stokley, left EXILE in 1980, Les Taylor accepted an invitation to join the group and share lead vocal duties with J.P. In the years following, Les and J.P. delivered lead vocal performances on ten #1 hit records, all of them written or co-written by J.P Pennington.
In 1980 and 1981, Alabama and Janie Fricke scored hits with EXILE songs: Take Me Down and The Closer You Get — Alabama, It Ain‘t Easy Bein’ Easy — Janie Fricke. Kenny Rogers followed the trend and recorded Take This Heart. EXILE switched musical styles again, and exploded in 1983 with their second #1 hit, Woke Up In Love, playing on country radio. Their string of country hits to follow won them an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and eleven nominations for Vocal and/or Instrumental Group Of The Year from the Academy Of Country Music and the Country Music Association. The group was on a roll, but the stresses and strains of success were taking their toll.
Both Les and J.P. left EXILE in 1988 to pursue solo careers. J.P. signed with MCA Records and landed a top-30 hit with Whatever It Takes. Les inked a deal with Epic Records and took a song he’d written, Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, into the top 20. EXILE signed a new deal with Arista Records and eyed more hits with a J.P. Pennington tune called Keep It In The Middle Of The Road, Nobody’s Talkin’, Even Now and Yet. But the rigors of the road and family commitments finally prompted Les, J.P. and EXILE to lay down its legacy. Many of the band’s former members (twenty-one in all) gathered onstage for a farewell concert in Lexington, KY. EXILE played another farewell concert at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville and 30 years of great music paused on the country music stage of stages.
Les and J.P. continued writing songs and performing solo. Les sang national jingles and J.P. produced and developed new talent. Finally, one night, the two of them performed together, impromptu, on a night club stage in Lexington. Later, they talked of putting the group back together. More local appearances followed and crowds jammed wherever they played. Les and J.P. hand-picked several of the finest musicians Kentucky had to offer and resurrected the EXILE name. Reunited, this trend setting band maintains its commitment to a high-energy delivery of hit songs like I Don’t Want To Be A Memory, Give Me One More Chance, It’ll Be Me, She’s Too Good To Be True, Superlove and more.
It’s thirty something years now, since J.P. founded Exile and Les saw his first EXILE concert. Still, they remember their contributions to the history of the group and their sacrifices for the group’s success. Once again, out of exile, the torch is passed back to singer/songwriter/guitarist, J.P. Pennington and singer/songwriter/guitarist, Les Taylor.