May 24, 2024

Like countless musicians, Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill earned their musical chops playing in church. Only when their father left the ministry did the Followill’s, along with their cousin Matthew, discover Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty and Rolling Stones.

Interestingly, those influences did not dominate. Rather, the Followill’s honed a roots/rustic style that was, in part, inspired by White Stripes’ lean approach.

The Followill’s re-located to Memphis in ’00 and became the Kings Of Leon – “Leon” being the name of their father and grandfather.

Brandishing a Southern Rock sound, the Kings Of Leon released the ’03 EP “Holy Roller Novocaine.” It was soon followed by the full length “Youth And Young Manhood,” which contained songs from the EP.

After touring with The Strokes, the Kings Of Leon returned in ‘05 with “Aha Shake Heartbreak.”

“Because Of The Times,” their third studio album, arrived in April, ’07. ‘Because of the Times’ is also the name of an annual Pentecostal gathering the brothers often attended in their youth.

“These songs are so much bigger, this band is so much better,” said Caleb.

“Because Of The Times” did well in the U.S. but the set fared far better in the U.K. and Ireland where it debuted at #1. It didn’t stop there. NME wrote that the album “cemented Kings Of Leon as one of the great American bands of our time.”

As work got underway on the group’s fourth album, “Only By The Night” Nathan and Caleb got into a fistfight, which happens with brothers. It can be argued who won but suffice to say Caleb was soon on pain medication. As a result, he wrote what he termed some of the “most beautiful” songs. Meds will do that to you.

The single “Sex On Fire” was released in the U.K. before being issued in the U.S. The song went to #1 – a first for the group.  In addition to their chart success, the Kings Of Leon made the cover of Rolling Stone (April 30th, ‘09 issue).

“Only By The Night” earned a platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for shipping 1-million copies in the United States (it eventually sold over 6.5 million units).  At the ’10 Grammy awards the band took home Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance for “Use Somebody.” “I’m not going to lie, we’re all a little drunk,” said Caleb. “But we’re happy drunks.”

The Kings Of Leon went on to their fifth set, “Come Around Sundown,” featuring the single “Radioactive.” Nathan called the album “darker” and “grungier” than previous albums.

It received mixed reviews but Rolling Stone placed the album at #18 on their list of the Best Albums of 2010.

The Kings Of Leon documentary “Talihina Sky” was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York featured footage from live shows, recording sessions, and early home videos.

There is a saying that success breeds demons. Actually, the demons may already be ingrained, and success only allows them to appear.

About half-way through a North American/European tour there was a fateful show in Dallas (7/27/11). Caleb appeared to be heavily intoxicated and slurred incomprehensibly between songs. He then left the stage, saying he was going to vomit, drink a beer and return to play three more songs. He never returned. The band apologized to the audience for the abrupt end to the show.

It quickly became apparent that the Dallas show was symptomatic of larger problems as the group canceled the remainder of their summer tour just three days later “rather than play subpar gigs.” However, Jared wrote on Twitter, “There are problems in our band bigger than not drinking enough Gatorade.”

In an effort to move on, the Kings Of Leon began work on their follow-up to “Come Around Sundown” in early ’12. “We just bought a rehearsal space/studio in Nashville… kind of make it our little clubhouse,” Nathan commented during an interview at the 54th Grammy Awards.

The group’s sixth studio album, “Mechanical Bull,” containing the single “Supersoaker” landed in ’13.  Selling 110,000 copies in its first week, the set went to #2, behind Drake, on the Billboard 200.

Back on the road, their ’14 tour hit a snag. Nathan Followill was injured in Boston when the band’s bus stopped abruptly to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Nathan’s three broken ribs forced concert postponements.

Two years passed before Kings Of Leon presented “WALLS” (“We Are Like Love Songs”). The album was produced by Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay).

There was a five-year gap between “WALLS” and their eighth studio effort, “When You See Yourself.”  Released in ’21, the album again produced by Dravs, peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 and #2 on the Top Rock Albums chart.   

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