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Beach Buzz August 2015

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Just Released: The anticipation is finally over as The Entertainers, the 2014 Group of the Year, have finally released their new album. Summer Love, with a re-mix of the title track, containing twelve tunes, several of which have never before been heard. One that will likely be a huge success is the Jim Stottlemyre vocals on the very soulful Satisfy My Woman. Also remixed is the current hit Maybe We Can Still Be Friends.


The Carolina Beach Music Awards is just around the corner - in fact, the deadline for 2015 nomination qualification for new songs and/or albums was July 31st. One interesting fact, there has not been a rush of new group albums released over the last year. Economics is a large factor when a band starts weighing the pros and cons of the expense of recording and releasing a new album, more so now than ever before.


There are, however, a few group albums that certainly qualify (the release qualification year being August 1st 2014 to July 31st 2015). The Tommy Black Band had a nice twelve track CD called Beautiful Day In North Myrtle Beach that features the vocals of Christina Cooper Black. This one was actually released back in the fall of last year. Movin' On, a fourteen tune effort from the current generation of the Castaways, is, in my opinion, their best album to date. The top hits so far have been Talk To Me and Woman On The Move. The Boulevard Boys, the principals being Big John Thompson and Roger Smith, released Originals this past spring with She Wants Me emerging as the top hit tune so far.


A few more group albums that should qualify for nomination include a band that has had somewhat of a recent reorganization but is still going mighty strong. That would be Hip Pocket, who released Disco Wrecking Ball last fall. South Carolina based Vance Kennedy & Barksdale Station released Old Friends New Songs, which has received increasing recognition over the last several months. The single Silk On Glass has occupied a prominent spot on the Smokin' Top 45 charts for quite awhile. The three CD set of Coastline Classics Vol. 1,2 & 3 would also qualify for this year's nominations. Also released in the last year was the holiday album Merry Christmas From The Embers Featuring Craig Woolard.



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One Beach music label that often gets overlooked does a heck of a job promoting new and very often original material in the genre. I am speaking of Patman & Robin Records based in upstate South Carolina, who recently released their fifth great compilation in as many years. DJ extraordinaire Pat Patterson has a huge radio following all over the Palmetto State and beyond. He and wife Robin have been bold enough to take a stand by introducing new and/or relatively unknown artists and their songs to the Beach music world, often with very positive results. That list includes Debra Hutchinson, Shrimp Shack Band, Toni Spearman, Jimbo Durham, Shag Attack, Shana Blake, Shag Doctorz, Vance Kennedy, Night Move Band, Deacons of Swing and Kingdaddy. The albums blend in a good mix of more recognizable names such as Rick Strickland, Lesa Hudson, Craig Woolard, Swingin' Medallions, Dip Ferrell & The Truetones, Nantucket, Rev. Bubba D. Liverance, Don Dixon, Rachel Tripp, Fantastic Shakers and Gary Lowder.


The label's latest release, We're Building An Island, is a CD that I have had in my car player for the last several weeks. The variety of songs with a good time feel that just radiates all over is amazing! One that has already become a huge hit, A Night Like This, may be the best yet from Alabama's finest, Reverend Bubba D. Liverance & The Cornhole Prophets. Another one rising on the current Beach charts is a masterful Rick Strickland original, A Long Time Ago. Band mate and superlative female diva Lesa Hudson cranks it way up loud and proud on the Country rockish Girls Gotta Do (What A Girls Gotta Do).The Carribean feel resonates in the title track from one of my favorite groups, Dip Ferrell & The Truetones. Fall In Love With Me is another vintage uptempo Dip Ferrell. The awesome soulful voice of former Female Vocalist of the Year nominee Shana Blake comes through strong as she joins the Truetones on Good Times.


Did you know that saxophone virtuoso Tim Gordon is a member of Kingdaddy? Their latest version of You're My Girl is a featured tune on the compilation. The Shag Doctorz have become a North Myrtle Beach favorite playing the outdoor venue at Deckerz. They kick it in with (I'm Going) Down For Your Love. Vance Kennedy & Barksdale Station follow up on their success of Silk On Glass on with We Might Pass This Way Again, included here as another smooth selection from the South Carolina based band. What can you say about the Fantastic Shakers? Thirty six years and still going strong, they check in with a killer tune called The Biggest Mistake. Greenwood, South Carolina's Swingin' Medallions are one of the longest running Beach bands in history. It is fitting to have one of their classics, I Want To Be Your Guy, included as part of the package. Sixteen tracks in all, a solid compilation representing some of the best of today's artists in the genre!




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Central Park Band

Do you remember a band that toured the Beach circuit back 30 years or so ago called the Central Park Band? Did you know that they are still out there today working just as hard to entertain their audiences? Formed in 1982, the original members were: Alan Atkinson - trombone, vocals, Kent Stephenson - trumpet, vocals, Gary Stephenson - sax/vocals, Craig Pulley - bass/ vocals, Steve Bartholomew - drums/ vocals, Steve Roberts - keyboards/vocals and Tom Bagley - guitar/vocals. The band had a couple of killer Beach original tunes that I still use today in radio rotation. The classic Which Way To The Beach was composed by Alan Atkinson and You Don't Know was written by Tom Bagley. These grooves will take you back to riding toward North Myrtle Beach with the top down!! As bands often do, these tunes were remixed/remastered several years later. Alan left the band shortly thereafter to focus on songwriting and performing solo.


The current versatile edition of The Central Park Band is based out of the Raleigh, Garner and Clayton NC areas. The members are: George Coghill - drums/ vocals, Cindy Ferguson - keyboards/vocals, Jeremy Moss - guitar/keys/vocals, Marty Gilbert - bass/drums/vocals, Tommy Wall - sound engineer/drums and original member Tom Bagley - guitar/bass/vocals.The band added another signature tune along the way - the George Coghill written Ashley. Their repertoire includes weddings, private parties, today's dance music and beach festivals. For more information on this exciting group, check them out at http://www.thecentralparkband.com/music.html


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When strolling the streets of North Myrtle Beach, you may run into a friendly face but not know him; or, if you happen into one of the clubs, restaurants or lounges up and down the Grand Strand, you may even see him performing. His name is Johnny Cobb, and his career long musical resume is quite amazing! He was a superb Beach music artist from the Burlington, NC area in the '60's, providing vocals and playing the saxophone as a member of several bands of that era, including the In-Men Ltd., Weejuns, Originals and Attractions. Always a songwriter and performer, Johnny has travelled quite a journey from then to today.


Heading to Nashville in the '70's, Johnny spent several years touring the world in the employment of Ronnie Milsap, performing on both national and international stages. During the course of this period, he provided song arrangements, backup vocals as well as bass on three RCA label recorded Country Music Association Albums of The Year including Ronnie Milsap Live and It Was Almost Like A Song. Two Milsap singles received Grammy Awards during this time frame as well. Johnny and writing partner Mike Lawler composed Roarin' for honkey tonkin' Southern rocker Gary Stewart and provided backup vocals for his 1980 Cactus And A Rose album. The next year, Johnny and Mike released their own album, Lawler & Cobb / Men From Nowhere on the Elektra/Asylum Records label, which received critical acclaim.


Johnny worked with the Allman Brothers at the time of their re-emergence to prominence on the Arista Records label. He served as producer, keyboardist and sang background vocals on the band's Grammy nominated album Reach For The Sky. He was the lead composer on the single Angeline, which made the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980 and was duplicated on many compilations in the following years. The Johnny Cobb written song Straight From The Heart, which Arista founder Clive Davis liked immediately when he heard it, was the featured track on the Allman Brothers release, The Brothers Of The Road. The tune reached #11 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart. Johnny and writing partner Lawler's composition of Two Rights was also on the album - additional players on the studio production of the album included Jimmy Hall and Charlie Daniels. Johnny later composed a song recorded by the late Etta James - Jump Into My Fire was on her 1989 Grammy nominated album Seven Year Itch. The tune was later recorded by the Blues band The Nighthawks and by Kansas City diva Ida McBeth.


Johnny later worked with Garth Brooks, performing background vocals on his 1992 #1 album The Chase, which included the award winning single and video We Shall Be Free. Brooks was the most successful artist in Country music at the time, winning 4 straight Entertainer of the Year Awards between 1990 and 1993. Cobb also sang background vocals on Garth's 1992 Beyond The Season release, 1999's The Magic Of Christmas, and Garth Brooks Greatest Hits. Cobb performed the official fundraiser song You Can’t Break America’s Heart, being the featured singer in the song’s video to help the Oklahoma City Mayor’s Relief Fund for Bombing Victims. He received a letter of recognition and a honor guard presentation of an American flag that had flown over the White House from then vice-president Al Gore for his contribution to this cause.


Johnny eventually came back to the Carolinas - his single of Slowburn was on the Beach music compilation 120 Soul Street in 2005, which turned out to be one of the best various artist releases in the genre's history. His self-titled album with Donna Vallance of eighteen original songs made it through the first round of Grammy consideration. Johnny's classic single entitled Forget Him was on the 2006 compilation Rare Blue Eyed & Northern Soul, produced in the UK on the Goldmine label. His '60's singles If You'd Allow Me and Pretty As A Picture were included in the seventeen CD set that accompanied Greg Haynes 2007 coffee table chronicle The Heeey Baby Days Of Beach Music. Johnny's composition of My Great Escape, which was featured on the TV movie that was the story of Natalie Wood, was also included on the 2012 Beach compilation Judie's Patio Party - Friends.


Other recent tunes include Johnny's charting reprise of Straight From The Heart, his great renditions of Soul Provider, Into The Mystic and Standing In The Shadows of Love and his collaboration with Jerry McCoy on Gotta Get Up. Johnny's latest masterpiece with Jerry is the recently released storied mid-tempo No Boundaries, which he says is the composition he is most proud of to date, representing his musical journey (with an accompanying video) as well as that of all the fellow musicians. Johnny continues to compose songs and perform at various venues in and around the Myrtle Beach, providing quality entertainment every time out!




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Sun Jam 2015 - The Musicians

A bit of musical magic occurs every July for us former Chapel Hill, NC natives that care to venture back for a magnificent event. For the fifth year in a row, a collection of great musicians came together on July 18th in the Ballroom at the University Inn for what is called Sun Jam. That same Saturday afternoon is the only time they actually practice together during the year. This year's event had to be the best one yet. Although the majority of the attendees were once (and some still are) Chapel Hillians, the gig is open to the public simply for the price of admission.

The jam consists of two sets: the evening starts off with the nucleus of a mid- '60's junior high band called the Sands of Time. Like most combos, as they were referred to back then, they were focused on the popular Soul, R&B and Rock that was being played in the mainstream. Original members were Mel Jones, Bif Bream, Dickie Andrews, Donnie Sparrow and Skipper Via. Not all original members are always able to attend so the startup band is filled out with talented former classmates such as Andy Preston, Jay Cole, JP Mitchell and vocalist extraordinaire Carter Minor. Together, they quickly get cranked up, turning out an outstanding first set of classic R&B, Soul, Blues and Rock 'n' Roll.

Many of these individuals have had ongoing careers either part time or full time in music. Mel Jones currently has a couple of premier groups based in the Triad area - Tin Can Alley and Mel Jones & His Bag O'Bones as well as also doing occasional Piedmont Blues sessions. Dickie Andrews headed up a killer Beach music band in the late '70's called Free Spirit that included former members of Doug Clark & The Hot Nuts. Carter Minor has been involved in music his entire life as a superb vocalist and harmonica player, recording artist, band director, Jazz virtuoso and voice coach. You may remember he had a tune called Evalena that was on the Beach music compilation Blooz And Boogie Volume 2. Jay Cole just completed a stint playing keyboard for The Fabulous Daddy'O's. JP Mitchell has his own group and also has been recently sitting in with the legendary Nomads.

The second set becomes a true jam session. More talented musicians are invited to join such as Armand Lenchek, a tremendous guitarist whose resume includes Country Rock band Sleepy Creek and Blues dynamos Skeeter Brandon & Highway 61 as well as his current band. Vocalists Michele Belanger and Calvin Johnson join the mix - they are members of the Western Piedmont band Mystery Hillbillies, whose specialties are classic Country, Western Swing, Rockabilly and Blues. Don Story also sat in with them - he is from Wilkesboro and performs regularly in his Face The Music band, which includes a yearly gig at Merlefest. Local native Jack Mullen stepped up to the mike to provide some strong vocals as well.

You know the jam is in full swing when you hear their smoking rendition of the Spencer Davis Group's Gimme Some Lovin'. You would think the roof is on fire with all that musical energy being expended! The night reaches a crescendo when the band tears through the late Jackie Wilson's all time classic Higher And Higher. For one celestial evening, we can close our eyes and let the music take us back in time to when we were forever young!! Thanks to all, including helping hands like Deborah Pardee Miller, Carolyn Brafford and Jean Britt, who make this great event come together each and every year!

 

Artists, DJs, Club owners etc. send me your latest news for potential inclusion in Beach Buzz at nealfur@aol.com.