Now, 30 years have passed and many things have changed. There were a couple of reunions, in 1992 and 2000. Uncle Walt’s Band reformed in Austin and made two more albums as they cemented their place in acoustic music history. David Ball has a successful career as a country singer. Walter Hyatt found critical acclaim as a solo artist with two CDs to his credit but lost his life in the ValuJet crash in 1996. Steve Runkle remained in Nashville writing beautiful songs and playing out when he felt like it, but died in August, 2001 after a nine-week bout with lung cancer. Champ Hood stayed in Texas and became a beloved figure in the Austin music scene but also succumbed to lung cancer the November after Steve’s passing. Jimbeau Walsh played in a number of situations including a stint, along with Steve, as an original member of Dave Olney and the X-Rays. He now lives in Hawaii. Tommy Goldsmith continued as a musician and started a journalism career which included a long stint at the Tennessean in Nashville. He has since returned to Raleigh with his family and now writes for the News & Observer there. Tommy served as producer for the Gadfly CD reissue of the original Contenders LP.

"That Old Chain of Emotion," Armadillo World HQ, Austin,TX, 1977
photo by Keith Dannemiller
The Contenders were always good and when they were really “on” it could be transcendental. They could rock you and make you cry. They were funny as all get out but could pull the heartstrings of the most jaded listener. They told stories you could dance to and boy, how the people danced. It was obvious that they loved and respected each other. The thing, though, was the singing; Contenders music was sweet, powerful, literate, emotional, rootsy, progressive and quintessentially Southern. It couldn’t have happened at any other time or place and for a while there nobody thought it would end. Today it seems like only a moment, but it’s one which still lives for all of us who heard, knew and loved one of the very best rock & roll bands ever, The Mighty Contenders.