Several groups over the years have been named Alpha Centauri, and Canada’s foray into the name actually originated from Greeley, Colorado. Originally called Colorado, the band’s roots stem to the beginning of the 1970s, when guitarist Jess Redmon, Randy Thompson on keyboards and vocals, and drummer Kurt Smith began working around the state’s bars and concert halls while developing their psychadelic hard rock style and writing some material.
By the time North Dakota-born and Wyoming-raised Garth Hannum came on board and brought his bass, they’d changed their name to Alpha Centauri, and they graduated to playing the a-circuit throughout the American midwest, often headlining their own shows, but also filled the opening slots on tours for Styx, Uriah Heep, and even Jerry Lee Lewsi and Chuck Berry.
Redmon auditioned for the vacant guitarist jobs with Rod Stewart and Deep Purple (following the death of his friend Tommy Bolin). But when he was unable to land either gig, he returned to Alpha Centauri, who eventually moved to Winnipeg a few years later and landed a recording deal in late ’76 with the independent label, Salt Records. They spent the next few months at Rhodes Studio in Winnipeg, and emerged with their self-titled debut album the following spring. Hannum, Redmon, and Thompson shared the songwriting duties, and although no singles were released, guitar-driven tracks like “One Night At A Time” and “I’m A Rebel” got decent airplay on the FM stations in several markets across the country.
The attention they received fuelled some more concerts, including some dates with BTO and Badfinger, and a series of shows in England. Some radio and TV appearances at home and abroad culminated in their own CBC-TV special called “Alpha Centauri In Concert” in ’78, showcasing a concert done earlier that year in Toronto, along with bio material and behind the scenes footage.
The band had aspirations of making it big in the UK, but after returning home, things began falling apart. Problems with management coupled with the rigors of touring caused a temporary break, and everyone except Redmon moved back to Colorado. He worked for about a year with Chad Allan, but by 1979 he too moved back to Colorado. They regrouped and tried to duplicate their success back in the US. But although they were one of the featured acts at Denver’s Rock and Roll America Festival, they were unable to get a new recording contract, so they finally called it quits in 1983.
Following the breakup, Redmon started the Jess Redmon Band, and has toured with Buddy Guy, Rick Derringer, Johnny Winter, Mountain, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others. He also started up his own recording studio and label called Blue Zephyr, recording over 200 albums. In 1988 he received a Best Songwriter of the Year award from the Colorado Song Writers Association (CSWA) for the song “Caught In The Middle,” as well as the Best Guitarist award for his song “Yankee Blue.”
Thompson and Smith moved back to Colorado and started up a new group called Eyez. When that run ended a couple of years later, both got out of the business all together, with Thompson pursuing a career in electronics. Smith put down the drumsticks and picked up a suit and tie, and became a businessman in the Denver area. Hannum meanwhile moved to Oklahoma, then Texas, and became a videographer and photographer.
The band’s only album was re-released on CD by Pacemaker Entertainment in 1996, although no bonus material was included.