Born in Florida, Dan Peek was the son of an American father and British mother. Like the other founding members of the group America, Dewey Bunnell and Gary Beckley, Peek's father was in the military and stationed at an Air Force base in London in the mid-60s. The trio met at London Central High School--three military brats playing music and having fun. The three officially formed America in 1970 when they were just out of high school. They dubbed themselves America and began exploring an acoustic rock sound centered on close harmonies in the vein of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young who were among the hottest acts going at the time.
America's debut album, recorded in London in 1971, was modestly successful but far from a breakout smash. The group returned to the studio to lay down a few more songs, one of which would become "A Horse With No Name". "A Horse With No Name" took hold, becoming a worldwide hit. America's debut album was rereleased with the addition of the million selling single and quickly went platinum. America's follow up, "Homecoming", containing the Top Ten single "Ventura Highway", also went platinum.
In 1977, Dan felt burned out from the road and from drug use and left America to take his life in a different direction. Peek turned to Christianity and his music took a turn to the spiritual. He signed with Pat Boone's Lamb & Lion label and his first solo release, 1979's "All Things Are Possible", spent 13 weeks atop the Contemporary Christian charts. After a decade of hits, major and minor, on the Christian charts, Peek went into semi-retirement in Florida, occasionally releasing digital music through his web site. He never reunited with Beckley and Bunnell, though there was no animosity between them...it just wasn't in the cards.
America's Christmas album was recorded decades after Peek had left the group, but he, in fact, beat America to a Christmas record--writing and recording "The Star" for the 1979 MCA album "On This Christmas Night". In 2000, Peek returned to the Christmas theme with an instrumental steel drum album, "Caribbean Christmas". And my mind keeps telling me that he turns up on another Christian Christmas record somewhere, but I can't find any reference to such a thing anywhere.
Bill Morrissey was born in Connecticut, but found a home in New Hampshire which served as something of a muse for him, as he wrote song after song about small town New England life. He released ten albums during his lifetime (not counting his "Essential Collection"), two of which were nominated for Grammy Awards. Morrissey's music explored the larger themes of life and love through small slices of American life. His songs and stories were filled with the humor and heartbreak of the human condition. His attention to detail was uncanny.
Among the songs most loved by his fans are "Small Town On The River" (about what happens to a small town when the mill closes), "Off White" (a proposal to his wife, companion, and manager), "Last Day Of The Last Furlough", and, for humor with a side of hopeful irony, "Letter From Heaven" from the 1993 album "Night Train".
“And me, I couldn’t be happier
The service here is fine
They’ve got dinner ready at half-past nine
And I’m going steady with Patsy Cline
And just last night in a bar room
I bought Robert Johnson a beer
Yeah, I know, everybody’s always surprised to find him here
It’s a great life in heaven
It’s better than the Bible said
It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s a great life when you’re dead.”
It's a shame there's no Christmas music in Bill's discography, though he did record a few songs with winter settings. One of those (as it happens) is my absolute favorite Bill Morrissey song. Also from the album "Night Train", here is "Birches":
I am completely unfamiliar with Mr. Arroyo's discography. However, the Christmas recording that seems to turn up frequently is "El Nino Dios", available on several compilations including "20 Exitos de Diciembre y Navidad".