The Ship came together as a group in the spring of 1971 to arrange and perform an hour-long, allegorical song cycle called The Ship, written by Albert Melshenker and Steve Cowan. Joining them to help create the vocal and instrumental setting of that work were Todd Bradshaw, Billy Panda, and Mark Hamby. Debut performances were held in the Channing-Murray Foundation chapel above the Red Herring coffeehouse on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus. The Ship, a Contemporary Folk Music Journey, was recorded in Los Angeles in June, 1972, and released that fall on the Elektra Records label.
The next several years saw personnel changes and an evolution in the group's music. Additional members included guitarist/vocalist/songwriter James Barton, drummers Bobby Carlin and Jeff James, and bassist Rick Frank. From the middle of 1973 on, Barton and Hamby were the group's primary songwriters and Panda its featured instrumentalist and unofficial arranger/producer. The Ship released its self-produced LP, Tornado, in 1976, but disbanded in the spring of 1977.
The group would not gather together again until a 2008 reunion performance at the Red Herring's Channing Murray Chapel where it had all started 37 years earlier. In the months following that event, The Ship and Tornado albums were remastered and re-released for CD
and digital distribution. Two additional CDs -- One More Night Like This and Left in the Wake -- were issued, featuring more than two dozen studio demos and a few live performance cuts recorded during the group’s active years. Barton, Bradshaw, Cowan, Frank, Hamby, and Panda then collaborated on a 12-song CD, All Come Home, released in 2010 with a dozen new originals from five of the group's songwriters. In subsequent years, Barton, Panda and Hamby (BPH) have continued to collaborate on original work, resulting in their 2014 release, Down at Delmonico’s, followed by Boxes, Barrels & Rust in 2021.