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The Samples Biography

Last updated: 03/26/2002 10:20:27 PM

THE SAMPLES FORMED in early 1987, when Sean Kelly and Andy Sheldon moved to Boulder, Colorado, from Burlington, Vermont, where they had previously played guitar together. In Boulder they decided to start a band, with Andy taking up bass instead of his native guitar. The duo placed an ad for a drummer at the University of Colorado, and Jeep MacNichol answered. They were also joined by a second guitarist, Charles Hambleton. The name "The Samples" originated when the band was practically surviving off of free food samples at local King Soopers supermarkets.

BASED IN BOULDER, the Samples played their first gig there on Easter Sunday, 1987, at local bar Tulagi. They played mainly covers, including songs by the Police, Bob Marley, and Neil Young, but quickly added origninals to their repetoire. Al Laughlin saw the band playing at a frat party, and asked if they needed a keyboard player to round out the band. He was taken up on his offer and the Samples became a five-peice, gaining popularity and expanding their fan base and touring efforts.

AFTER RELEASING a self-titled album on their own label in May, 1989 the band was signed by Arista Records. Due, however, to irreconcilable differences between the band and the label, the Samples left Arista after releasing only one album (a re-release of The Samples). Soon after leaving Arista, the Samples released Underwater People, a collection of live and studio tracks, on their own label and continued to tour.

THE SAMPLES SIGNED with the newly formed label What Are Records? (W.A.R?) in April, 1992, and released No Room. They then hit the road for 18 months of touring. This tour included the band's first annual headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in September, 1992, an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in March 1993, and a feature slot in the H.O.R.D.E. festival tour. At the end of this exhaustive tour, The Samples returned to the studio, and the result was The Last Drag, released on W.A.R? in September, 1993. Touring as hard as ever, the band played to over 120,000 people from January to April, 1994, and performed in front of 50,000 when they highlighted Boston's WBOS Earth Day Festival in April.

AFTER RELAXING over the summer of 1994, the band returned to the studio to record Autopilot, which was released in September, 1994 along with a documentary video, Ten Wheels. Autopilot, the last release in the Samples' contract with W.A.R?, debuted at number one on Billboard's National Heatseekers Chart. Late in the year, Sean recorded and released a solo album, Light House Rocket.

IN EARLY 1995, the band left W.A.R? and signed with MCA records. They also dropped long-time manager Ted Guggenheim in favor of Walt Beery, producer of The Samples and Autopilot. They spent a month in late 1995 in Los Angeles recording their sixth album, their first for MCA. The album, Outpost, was released in July, 1996. The band did not tour extensively between fall 1995 and mid-summer 1996, but Sean staged a solo tour in the midwest. In this time the band also decided to change management again, this time hiring Rob Kos of Metropolitan Entertainment.

IN LATE SUMMER, 1996, the band hit the road to tour in support of Outpost, although they did so as a three-piece, while Al stayed in Colorado to clear up some personal and legal matters. Jeep and Andy also released solo albums during this time. Jeep's With a Fist, and Science Fiction from Andy's band Hazard, were both released on the W.A.R.? label. Al rejoined the band midway their fall tour with Jars of Clay, but the band left the bill after running into problems with Jars' predominantly fundimentalist Christian fans. Shortly thereafter Ted Guggenheim was re-hired to manage the band.

DURING THE WINTER and spring of 1997, the Samples relations with the "new regime" at MCA fell apart, and claims of breach of contract flew both ways as the record company tried to duck its obligation to pay for the Samples to record another album. During the spring tour it was announced that Jeep and Al would be leaving the band in order to pursue other musical interests. Their final shows with the band, in Boulder in May, also featured the return of ex-guitarist Charles Hambleton.

IN JULY of 1997, the Samples debuted their new lineup, with the additions of Kenny James on drums, Alex Matson behind the keyboards and Rob Somers on acoustic guitar. The now five-peice Samples recorded at several of their first shows and rehersals, tracks that would become the September 1997 release Transmissions from the Sea of Tranquility, released as a one-record deal with W.A.R? Ted Guggenheim was re-fired as the Samples manager.

AFTER SUCCESSFUL FALL AND WINTER TOURS, the band returned to the studio during the spring of 1998 to record their next album, Here and Somewhere Else, which was released on W.A.R? in July of the same year. Shortly after the release of that album, Kenny James left the band in order to commit more time to his solo projects. His replacement was Sam Young, former drummer for the Winebottles.

IN THE SUMMER OF 1998 the band reunited with Kim Turner for management (former Manager and Tour Manager to The Police and Sting, as well as Producer of the 1989 Samples "Sigma" album.) After a few short months working with Turner, the band changed management yet again, this time to longtime friend Ted Weinrib of T.N.T. Artist Management took over the job of both band management and tour management. The Samples continued to tour the United States, it was at this time that the now notorious feud with the bands longtime record label started. After spending a year as manager/ tour manager Ted Weinrib left the Samples.

The Samples are currently on tour across the country.