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Grammy Winner Taffy Nivert Settles In Safety Harbor

The singer/songwriter talks about her two chart-topping hits, “Afternoon Delight” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” on the eve of the 2013 Grammy Awards.

When artists achieve worldwide success, oftentimes it can lead to disaster.

And when the success is not sustained or duplicated, the fall from spotlight can leave performers bitter, broken and angry.

As a member of the Starland Vocal Band, Taffy Nivert scored a No. 1 hit, “Afternoon Delight,” which earned the band two Grammys in 1977. She also co-wrote the John Denver smash, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

But although Nivert and the band never duplicated their early success, she is anything but bitter or angry about her career.

"I don’t regret a minute of anything,” she said. “I still have a sense of wonder that it all happened.”

Nivert recently sat down with Patch to discuss her career, what it’s like to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and why she chose to settle in Safety Harbor.

From Fat City to Country Roads 

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Nivert was always involved in music, singing in church choirs, school glee clubs and anywhere else music was playing.

“I was always writing, always singing, always adding harmonies to songs I’d hear on the radio,” she said. “I thought it was my gift to the universe to be able to harmonize.”

Eventually she got noticed by a bartender at a popular club who knew of a band in search of a lead singer.

“I said sure, I have nothing to do this week,” she half-joked. 

The audition led to collaboration with her future husband, Bill Danoff, and in August 1967 they formed the group Fat City.

Over the course of the next four years, they wrote more than 350 songs and developed a loyal following playing gigs all over town. 

“Bill would play guitar, and I would write the words. We really worked great together as a collaborative team.” 

Their popularity in the D.C. club scene led to an opening gig for an up-and-coming artist, John Denver.

When the singer visited their apartment between appearances and asked if they had any music to show him, the couple brought out a song they had written while heading to a family barbecue. 

“During the summer of 1970 Bill and I were travelling to a family party in Maryland. I was driving and Bill was strumming his guitar and singing “country roads” over and over.” 

The pair worked on the song for a while, changing the lyrics to include West Virginia instead of Maryland and adding a chorus. 

When Denver heard it he immediately knew they had something special. They finished the song that evening and played it the next night; the rest, as they say, is history. 

“The next night we did it as an encore, and we got a five-minute standing ovation,” Nivert said. “That was the beginning of our success.”

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A ‘Delightful’ Trip to The Top of The Charts

While “Country Roads” got the group the clout to start doing bigger things, it was its next hit that made Nivert and the band worldwide sensations.

Ironically the inspiration for “Afternoon Delight”, a song known for sexual innuendos, came in the most unlikely of places. 

“I was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, and Bill went to lunch with a bandmate,” Nivert said. “He noticed the menu between lunch and dinner was called ‘afternoon delights,’ and a light bulb went off.”

The track became the initial song of the newly-formed Starland Vocal Band, and it would go on to become a worldwide sensation.

Not only did it help earn the group four Grammy nominations in 1977, including wins for Best New Artist and Best Vocal Arrangement, but it has since become of of the most recognized, imitated and criticized songs of the last century.

“The song was the right thing at the right time,” Nivert recalled. “It was the summer of 1976, the country’s bicentennial celebration, and it was just so different from everything else that was out there.”

In addition to topping the charts in July 1976, in 2010 "Afternoon Delight" was named the 20th sexiest song of all time by Billboard, and it has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including "Anchorman," "Good Will Hunting" and "The Simpsons."

“It’s become an animal with a life of its own. I have no explanation for it,” Nivert said. 

Humble, Grateful and Not One Bit Bitter

Although the Starland Vocal Band went on to record four albums together, they never came close to repeating the success of “Afternoon Delight.” 

Soon after their last album was released in 1980, the group disbanded, and Nivert and Danoff divorced not long after that.

“The song was huge but no one could remember the name of the group!” she joked.

Nivert finally left D.C. and moved to Safety Harbor two years ago to be closer to a lifelong friend, and it’s given her a chance to reflect on her career.

“I think it’s beautiful here. I’ve met some nice people, and I’m very comfortable here. I feel like I've been transported to an exotic land.”

She’s currently working on a memoir and says she will always have fond memories of her days as a pop music sensation.

“We didn’t sustain a career but we lived the average life span of any band - five years." 

"But because we were a one-hit wonder, we got our name on the wall at the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame," she added. "If we had another hit, that would never have happened.”

Are you a Starland Vocal Band fan? Do you remember when "Afternoon Delight" topped the charts? Share your memories in the comments below.

Robert Saltzman February 08, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Who of my age (shut up Jeff) could forget "sky rockets in flight afternoon delight"
Harborite February 08, 2013 at 12:57 PM
"Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight, Gonna grab some afternoon delight, My motto's always been, when it's right it's right, Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night" Who can forget these lyrics once you've heard them? I would like to welcome Taffy Nivert to Safety Harbor. We already have Cheap Trick's Robin Zander living here and now we have Taffy Nivert. Safety Harbor has always attracted artists, painters, and musicians. Now even rock stars are discovering Safety Harbor as the best place to live for creative artists.
Jeffrey Rosenfield February 08, 2013 at 02:24 PM
Bobby, I am old enough to remember the song when it first came out. Like you two said, who can forget the lyrics and melody once you've heard it? I liked what Taffy said about the movies and TV shows exposing a new generation to the song. As she told me," It keeps showing up, like a bad penny!"
Charles Schelle February 08, 2013 at 04:39 PM
The song is definitely legendary with a younger audience like myself thanks to Anchorman and Arrested Development. (Plus I always loved that John Denver song)
Jeffrey Rosenfield February 08, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Funny back story about the song in "Anchorman": The guys were just goofing around between takes, singing the song together on set. Once they realized how great it was, one of them (Nivert surmises it was probably star Will Ferrell) said it had to be part of the movie, so they added it in.
Janice M. February 08, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Oh boy, am I smiling at my desk from the memories that song is evoking!
Dee Dokumaci February 08, 2013 at 07:15 PM
My Favorite Song Take Me Home Country Roads" brings a flood of great memories, I was 13, my brother was 9, my parents were young & very much into wholesome family activities, we lived in Falls Church, Virginia our favorite grocer was Giant Super Store, every Saturday morning we would shop then drive to a scenic picnic area on few occasions we went to Shenandoah Valley, other trips went to National Falls & we always sing along to the song playing Country Roads Lyrics next post :)
Dee Dokumaci February 08, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Almost heaven, West Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains Shenandoah River - Life is old there Older than the trees Younger than the mountains Growin' like a breeze Country Roads, take me home To the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads All my memories gathered 'round her Miner's lady, stranger to blue water Dark and dusty, painted on the sky Misty taste of moonshine Teardrops in my eye Country Roads, take me home To the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads I hear her voice In the mornin' hour she calls me The radio reminds me of my home far away And drivin' down the road I get a feelin' That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday Country Roads, take me home To the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads Country Roads, take me home To the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads Take me home, now country roads Take me home, now country roads
Jeffrey Rosenfield February 08, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Dee, did you get a copy of that lyric songbook? :)
Dee Dokumaci February 08, 2013 at 09:58 PM
No Jeff I didn't get a copy, please let me know how I can get one also I would absolutely love to hear Taffy sing Country Roads, ohh sweet memories of days gone by ;)
Dee Dokumaci February 08, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Good news, Barnes & Noble sells it :)
Dave Deal February 09, 2013 at 12:55 AM
I am originally from Md, the DC area, and saw Fat City perform at the University of Maryland during the late 60s...they were the opening act for the Cajun fiddle star Doug Kershaw....Fat City did Country Roads....it was a great nite fom what I could remember...ha
Jeffrey Rosenfield February 09, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Great story Dave!
Barbara W. Hugg February 09, 2013 at 01:32 AM
Welcome to the Harbor Taffy. You performed at my tiny little college in West Virginia in 1970 with John Denver. It was the Concord College in Athens, WV. Its now Concord University. It was a great concert...
Charles Schelle February 09, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Ha! I never knew that--pretty cool Jeff.
Warren Firschein February 10, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Someone needs to tell Ms. Nivert (and Mr. Zander--I wasn't aware that he lived here, too) about our little town music festivals on the third Friday each month . . . Heck, Maui has regular performances by local resident Mick Fleetwood . . . why can't we have something similar . . . ;-)
Jeffrey Rosenfield February 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM
Yeah she's got a number of cool stories like that, Charles. I wish I had space to tell them all!
Carmen Brandy February 12, 2013 at 01:21 PM
I've been blessed that my family and I personally know Taffy, and what a jem she is! As a previous singer and writer, she has been such an encouragement to our daughter Carmen Brandy. The stories she has shared and all the laughs we have had are unforgettable! Thank you Taffy for being so sweet and kind! Hugs....Kari Brandy
Piperh Pierson March 17, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Piperh Pierson I have a Christmas card Taffy sent to me beack in 79 along with SVB's Christmas At Home album,she sent me a nice letter with it that I have to this day,I have both FatCity albums,both Bill&Taffy albums and all 5 SVB albums,plus their CBS tv series on dvd and so many more songs that as far as I know were never released....I have a facebook group that Bill and Jon are in that focuses on Bill,Taffy,Margot&Jon,Emma and Lucy Danoff are there too https://www.facebook.com/groups/Starland1969/ also I have a youtube channel that I put up called http://www.youtube.com/user/starlandandmore69?feature=watch I have videos built around all of the songs and videos of the group performing live,including SVB's version of "Take Me Home,Counter Roads"it's my way of trying to bring recognition to Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert,2 amazing singer/songwriters that I will never get tired of hearing from
Piperh Pierson March 17, 2013 at 05:19 PM
The youtube features all of the FatCity,Bill&Taffy and SVB songs,over 200 songs so far...also,this is for Taffy,I live here in Ft Myers Florida
Piperh Pierson March 17, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Hi Jeff, I am really hoping you will check out the youtube channel I have up with Bill Danoff's blessing,it features all the songs from FatCity,Bill&Taffy and SVB in video form as well as all the live performances I could find so far,over 200 so far and SVB performing at Georgetown University"Take Me Home,Country Roads"
Piperh Pierson March 17, 2013 at 06:18 PM
sorry for all the misspelled words,got so excited about reading the comments and sharing...
Piperh Pierson March 17, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Hi Dee, I have video on youtube of SVB singing Country Roads,Taffy sings lead..I posted the link below in another comment
Lisa Bifulco October 22, 2013 at 09:57 PM
I love Taffy, I am very very lucky to have the chance once a month to make her as beautiful on the outside (hair) as she is on the inside.. Taffy has shared some wonderful stories with me, and I could hear a different one each and every time she comes in and not hear the same one twice. Love her!
Randi Miller March 14, 2014 at 05:44 PM
I grew up next door to Taffy's aunt, and had the thrill of "jamming" with the Starland Vocal Band as a budding 14 year-old guitar player. I haven't seen Taffy in about 7 years now, but wish I could pop a bottle of wine with her and catch up, she's such a wonderful person and so much fun to be around.

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