Fifty years ago this week, America‘s self-titled debut album and single “A Horse with No Name” reached #1, respectively, on the Billboard 200 and Billboard Hot 100.
America’s Dewey Bunnell, who wrote “A Horse with No Name,” tells ABC Audio that the song was inspired by his memories the southwestern U.S. when he was young. Bunnell and co-founding band mates Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek were the sons of U.S. military members stationed in the U.K., and formed the group after graduating from the same London high school.
“By the time I wrote that [my family] had been in England about four or five years, so I was really reminiscing about the U.S.,” explains Bunnell. “My dad [was stationed in California] for about a year, [and] we would do day trips into Southern California and over to New Mexico and then Arizona, and [we’d] go through the desert. And I loved the desert.”
Bunnell says the song’s music was influenced by the alternate guitar tunings devised by David Crosby and Joni Mitchell.
“I was playing around with those tunings and came up with one of my own,” Dewey recalls. “[A]nd I found the classic three chords that went together well, and I just started trying to paint a picture of that desert scene.”
Bunnell admits that the success of “A Horse with No Name” caught him off guard. He recalls that during America’s first U.S. tour in early 1972, he was surprised to hear the song all over the radio airwaves.
Shortly after returning to the U.K., the band received word that the single had hit #1 in the U.S.
“I mean, you don’t expect those things,” says Dewey, “and we celebrated accordingly.”
America currently touring the U.S. The band’s next show is Thursday in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
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