The band Chicago unknowingly had some influence on how the band America got its name.
America, whose hits include "Horse With No Name," "Ventura Highway," and "Tin Man," makes a return visit to Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Friday. The concert starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $40 and $35.
Dewey Bunnell, a founding member of the band, explained in a telephone interview how they became "America."
He, Gerry Beckley, and the late Dan Peek all had American fathers stationed at the United States Air Force Base at RAF West Ruislip, London, and all were attending London Central High School at Bushey Hall.
The trio, although in different bands, began playing music together and decided to come up with a name.
"We were teenagers with American dads in the Air Force," Bunnell said. "We thought we were always part of America. The band Chicago had just come out, so we said they can be (named after) a city, we can be a country."
Peek left the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career, but Bunnell and Beckley continued performing together. "We were confident Gerry and I would carry on," he said. "There was never any question we would. He left by himself. It was all mutual, but we always thought he would come back."
Last July 24, Peek died at the age of 60 from heart disease.
Bunnell and Beckley have been performing together since they were 14. "Of course we live separate lives but we get along great. We have a great working relationship and always have."
Bunnell assured that fans of America will hear all their hits on Friday night, as well as several selections from their 2008 LP, "Live In Concert: Wildwood Springs."
He said he never tires of performing or playing the songs that made the band famous. "It's a balancing act. It's our 42nd year and you have to play the old songs." He explained that people expect to hear the music the band recorded, but some audience members also enjoy some new material.
"I'm grateful to have this job, if you want to call it a job," he continued. "It's an art. It's really a special part of our lives." The performer admits that traveling extensively sometimes gets tiring, noting that this week there are concerts scheduled in four different cities.
The tour schedule later this year takes America to Japan and Australia.
Bunnell presently has two residences, one in Los Angeles where the band is based and the other in Northern Wisconsin, where he and his family spend summers. An avid photographer and nature lover, he said he hopes to eventually move permanently to the Wisconsin home.
There is a section on his Web site on which some of his photography of plants, birds, rocks, and other items are on display.
Asked what he would be doing if America hadn't attained its level of success, he admitted he doesn't know. He said, "We never went to college. Our band formed straight out of high school." He said had America not attained stardom, he's certain he would have pursued a college degree.
Bunnell said "Horse With No Name," which Bunnell composed and was originally titled "Desert Song," was a surprise hit for him.
"I thought it was a nice picture story about the dessert," he remarked. "Now I know it was being more introspective."
He added, "It the time, we were keying in on 'I Need You,' but we were surprised when the (record) label put 'Horse With No Name' in as a single instead."
The song lasted a month at the number one spot on most record charts in 1972.
On the other hand, he had confidence when he wrote the "Tin Man" that it would be well-received. "I always thought that was my strongest song," he said. "It was the first album I did with (producer) George Martin. In those days, we had a batch of songs early, and 'Tin Man' was right up there."
"We're real excited about coming back to Penn's Peak for the summer of 2012," said Bunnell. "We always look forward to that visit. It's a great venue."
Other top 10 hits by America include "Sister Golden Hair," which hit number one in 1974; "Lonely People," "I Need You," and "You Can Do Magic."