BAND DON DIXON ROBERT KIRKLAND MARTY STOUT
SCOTT DAVISON ROD ABERNETHY
arrogance “one of the architects of the alternative trend of the 1980s”
. . All Music Guide
and Don Dixon
and making music together in an Aycock dorm room at the University of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill, in the fall of 1969. It sounded pretty good so, along with Robert’s roommate, Mike Greer,
and a drummer from East Carolina University, Jimmy Glasgow, they formed a band and began
playing. The first sets included an interesting mix of covers from artists like The Beatles,
Black Sabbath, Muddy Waters, Cream and Mountain. They dubbed the group Arrogance, a concept of
Dixon’s referring to their reputation of upstaging other bands. A few months later at Crescent
City Studios in Greensboro, the band made its first recording -- a 45-rpm single of two original
tunes, “Black Death” and “An Estimation”, that was released in the summer. This rare recording has
since become a collector’s item.
As the artistic partnership between Dixon and Kirkland strengthened, the band personnel changed,
with Mike and Jimmy leaving and being replaced by pianist Marty Stout
and percussionist Ogie
Shaw; with this change the music became more acoustic.
Arrogance’s debut album, the self-released, self-produced LP Give Us a Break
, came out in 1973. A more acoustic folk style had, by then, replaced the early
hard-rock, but the trademark vocals, harmonies and smart lyrics were very much in evidence.
The sound became more upbeat when percussionist Ogie Shaw was replaced by drummer Steve Herbert
and the result was
Arrogance’s second self-labeled LP, Prolepsis
, coming out in 1975. The band’s
wry wit and perspective shows in the record’s title, meaning preparation for anticipated things
to come, and the music reflected a new level of talent and professionalism, not only in the
songs, which were an amalgamation of rock, country and folk, but in the outstanding arrangements
and production values of the recording. Late in 1974, before the release of Prolepsis
Herbert left the band and was replaced by Steve Ball Band drummer, Scott Davison
By now Arrogance was amassing a substantial following of dedicated fans and headlining at
regional clubs like Town Hall, The Pier and The Cat’s Cradle even though they insisted on
playing original music ... unheard of by audiences in those days and unfathomable
to club owners, but Arrogance was good enough to make it work. As one fan said, "They could
knock you down, not with volume but with sheer intelligence and taste and, really, a sense of
Arrogance's strategy of building a regional following and releasing their own music was not
only unparalleled, it was radical, but it finally brought them national attention by the end of 1975 when
the band signed with Vanguard Records.
was released in 1976 but unfortunately Vanguard, then a New
York City independent label, was ill equipped to properly support and promote an up-and-coming
rock band since its roster was primarily folk artists. And it probably didn't help that, early
the following year, Fleetwood Mac released a multi-platinum album using the English spelling of
the same title, “Rumours.” But for whatever reasons, Rumors’
was less than successful.
Arrogance parted from Vanguard after the one release. By this time folk rock was waning in
popularity, so the band changed its focus back to its roots in rock and roll. Rod
, the final member of Arrogance, joined on lead guitar in 1976. "We needed
something to help spice us up a bit," said Scott. And that Rod certainly did, bringing an
electric British pop influence to the music.
The addition of Rod pushed the band to its live-performance peak. As Dixon and Robert matured
as songwriters, the band’s distinctive sound flourished. The harmonies were tight and
sophisticated, the music energetic, original and masterfully arranged. Marty had
developed an inimitable, indefinable style - an amalgamation of classical and early rock & roll
piano with just the right amount of jazz mixed in - that contributed significantly to the
band’s unique sound. Consistent, steady and always interesting, Scott held the beat, drove the
band and kept the rock n’ roll alive, while doubling as Arrogance’s comedian and class clown.
Arrogance had become a truly great live band and the fans were numerous and loyal. Playing to
huge crowds, Arrogance was the most popular band in the region. Describing those days Robert
said, "We were enjoying big crowds at that time and it was quite thrilling to be the center of
attention. Onstage we still kept it interesting because we never wore anything out by
rehearsing it to death." And Dixon agreed, "In the late '70s, we were cranking," adds Dixon.
"I was likely to climb up on my amp and scream 'til I passed out."
In 1980, Arrogance signed a label agreement with Warner Brothers new Curb Records division
and were off to California to record Suddenly
. Again the band’s
tongue-in-cheek humor shows itself in an album title, since it was far from suddenly
that Arrogance was appearing on the national scene. Although this seemed like the long awaited
break, once again the timing was bad. Although the LP was an excellent pop-rock recording with
more than one potential single, the label’s attention had turned to post-punk power pop and
Arrogance was pushed down on their list of priorities (along with the B-52s and the Talking
Arrogance returned to playing for live audiences when the Warner/Curb relationship failed and
recorded a live album documenting their tour on the independent label Moonlight Records in 1981 and
entitled it Lively
. Included was an EP from the band’s alter ego,
Dogbreath, containing an eclectic array of upbeat covers from “Wipe Out” to “Wooly Bully.”
In 1982, still trying to find the proper label for their music, the band recorded a stunning
mix of twelve new wave-flavored rock and bouncy, soulful pop songs. They distributed the demo
under the name of 5’11” (the average of the combined heights of all the members) hoping the
name change might improve their luck, but to no avail.
In October of 1983, the group played its last gigs in the North Carolina Triangle area and
disbanded. But that was not the end of Arrogance.
In spring of 2000 Dixon, now a well respected producer, engineer, songwriter and performer,
decided to re-release the Arrogance recordings on CD for the group’s 30th Anniversary. Two
Reunion Shows were planned, one May 20th for the group to play its folk-rock repertoire at the
Carrboro, N.C., Arts Center, and one June 10th featuring their electric music. Arrogance,
N.C.’s greatest rock n’ roll band, took the stage at the North Carolina Museum of Art in
Raleigh and played to a packed house.
And they didn’t stop there. In August of 2002, then Charlotte-based GAFF Music released the
long overdue 1982 recordings and a compilation of other previously unreleased Arrogance tunes
(including Dixon’s pop anthem “Praying Mantis”) as The 5’11” Record
to critical acclaim.
“After 20 years have passed, it may amaze the first-time listener that they didn't succeed,
since the songwriting quality is so good, with catchy melodies and clever lyrics, the playing
is sterling . . . an excellent overview of an unjustly forgotten regional band that deserved
better,” wrote William Ruhlmann of "All Music Guide".
Or as entertainment critic Godfrey Cheshire, a long time fan and friend of the band said,
"Everybody that gets out there and plays original songs at the Cat's Cradle and puts out their
own records is following in Arrogance's footsteps in North Carolina."
– the greatest band you have never heard of. . . until now.