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Beach Buzz January 2017

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 Another year and another milestone has passed. It is 2017 and every year, particularly in the early months when the business slows down considerably, we hear about how Beach music is barely surviving. What is amazing to me, however, is the bands/groups in Beach music and by that I mean the sheer number of bands that have been around, either by name with new players or by still having some original members, for years and years!! There are actually tiers of them by the decades in which they originated.  Let's take a look at them:

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                          The Tams Perform New Year’s Eve 2016        

    The '50's -

The Tams -  based in Atlanta, not known as a band per se but as a singing group, The Tams, first emerged in the mid '50's, had nationally charting hits in the '60's and still record and play the Beach music circuit today, led by Little Red, son of a deceased former member. A new generation of Tams is being trained to carry on the mantle for many years to come. Inducted into the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

The Embers - originating in the Raleigh NC area, pushing 60 years as a band with co-founder Bobby Tomlinson, who is  still driving the bus and playing the drums, they are widely known as the Royal Ambassadors of Beach Music and, as several former members have returned to the fold, they continue to be in big demand. 1995 CBMA HOF inductee.

The Catalinas - another band formed in the late '50's in the Charlotte NC area, they have two current members who were there 50 years ago. With a more recently revised lineup and a great new album, the band continues to be a popular draw. 1995 CBMA HOF Inductee.

Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs - they were originally the Charms, then the Gladiolas and finally the Zodiacs in the late '50's. With a history of million selling singles and number one national hits, founder Maurice Williams still has a group together that performs today. 1995 CBMA HOF inductee.

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              The Castaways On Stage

    The '60's -

Ron Moody & The Centaurs - Formed in the mid '60's in Richmond VA, original member Ron Moody continues to take the latest reincarnation of the band on the road, primarily in the Virginia area. 2008 CBMA HOF Inductee.

The Castaways - Formed at Northern High School in Durham NC, now at 55 years and counting, the players have changed but the name carries on with the current Generation Six lineup becoming more popular with each passing year. Original members have come back on occasion and sat in on a few tunes. 2014 CBMA HOF Inductee.

The Swingin' Medallions - formed in the early '60's in Greenwood SC, the band had a million selling single in 1966. The current edition, now partially comprised of sons of original members, continues to play at popular venues throughout the Southeast. 1996 CBMA HOF Inductee.

The Sensational Epics - founded in 1963 in Columbia SC, the band later broke up as everyone went their separate ways. They reassembled in 1999 with several original members and still perform selective events today. 2014 CBMA HOF Inductee.

The Attractions - another band formed in the mid '60's in the Burlington NC area that disbanded but got back together with original members in the late '90's. The lineup has changed since then but the good music marches on! 2009 CBMA HOF Inductee.

O'Kaysions - originally from Eastern NC, the group had a Top 10 national hit in 1968. Now based in Columbia SC, the current edition is managed by original member Wayne Pittman. 2003 CBMA HOF Inductee.

The Band of Oz - this Dunn  NC based band originated in the late '60's, currently has founding members and others who have been there over 40 years. They are a good mix of veterans and younger players and have a huge crowd appeal everywhere they perform. 1997 CBMA HOF Inductee.

Chairmen of the Board - came together in the late '60's as part of the Holland-Dozier-Holland breakaway from Motown, after over a dozen charting national hits, the Chairmen came South to the  Carolinas in the late '70's and were a huge part of the reemerging Beach music sound. Long time member Ken Knox is now using the name again as they just completed a European tour. 1995 CBMA HOF inductee.

 

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The Second Nature Horn Section Performs On New Year’s Eve 2016

     The '70's -

Second Nature - Based in Camden SC, this band has been playing the Beach circuit since 1971. Keyboardist and founder Tommie James still is very active, having kept this outstanding band going through the personnel changes over the years. 2016 CBMA HOF inductee.

The Fantastic Shakers - originated in 1978 and based out of Lincolnton NC, co-founder Bo Schronce  keeps the band alive as one of the most popular groups in the genre as they  perform throughout the Carolinas and beyond. 1996 CBMA HOF Inductee.

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The Entertainers On Stage

    The '80's

The Entertainers - Based outside of Charlotte, NC, the band came together in 1980 and is still managed by founder Earl Dawkins. They have had quite a resurgence in the last few years and are a hot ticket on the Beach circuit. 2000 CBMA HOF Inductee.

The Breeze Band - the name has been out there since 1980, when they were formed in Eastern NC. With iterative stretches with other members, including the late Dink Perry, the band has come full circle back to the original founders as they keep right on going. 2002 CBMA HOF Inductee.

North Tower - Another early '80's startup, based in Raleigh NC, original member Larry Dean keeps them on the road with a strong lineup. 2012 CBMA HOF Inductee.

Part Time Party Time Band - originated in the Triad area of NC in the early '80's, the band has several long time veterans and, as always, their trademark killer horn section. 2013 Beach Music HOF inductee.

The Central Park Band - formed in 1982, original member Tom Bagley is still with the band. Based in the Raleigh NC area, they have recorded several original tunes and still rock the house!

 

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The '90's

Holiday Band - Originating in the Burlington NC area, the band got their start in 1991. Several years and many hit songs later, band leader Mike Taylor is the only member left from the early days. The current version combines youth with experience to produce a high quality product. 2015 CBMA HOF Inductee.

Jim Quick & Coastline - cranking up in the early '90's, Jim is the remaining constant from those start-up years. The evolution of the band has been quite a story - they remain in big demand throughout the Beach music world for you name it, private parties, outdoor festivals, clubs etc.

Men of Distinction - Columbia SC in the home base for this band, who got their start in the mid '90's. Had the Group Album of the Year in 1997, in recent years they have had a primary focus on performing for private events.

So as we can see here, we have 20 plus groups still out there getting it done that have between 20 and as much as 50 years in the business, all of which include Beach music in their performances. I am sure there are many more and may be some that I have missed that have the longevity as well. We just want to say best wishes to all the groups for a happy and prosperous 2017. 

 

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It is interesting that on a Soul Train show back in the early '70's, the Staple Singers were the guest stars that day. Don Cornelius asked Mavis Staples what vocalists did she follow that had the most influence so far on her singing career. The two she mentioned were Ruth Davis, founder of the Philadelphia based Davis Sisters Gospel group in 1950 and Dorothy Love (Coates), lead singer of The Original Gospel Harmonettes, also in the '50's.  Not surprising, since the Staple Singers began their long career as a Gospel group before turning to secular music, while maintaining their roots in the resultant recordings. Their body of work included some great tunes in the '70's such as Are You Ready (Come Go With Me), Respect Yourself and I'll Take You There.  The heavenly strains of Gospel music have had quite an influence on the Beach scene as well - both from an inspirational and spiritual viewpoint and as some great tunes in the genre that work well for the shaggers. All the songs have stories to tell and messages to convey.

I did not realize until recently looking back at some of the old Beach Music Top 40 charts that the Mighty Clouds of Joy had the #2 song for the year in 1983 with Mighty High. The legendary Shaw Singers, a group that also originated in the '50's, had the #29 song for 1985 with Going Home To Jesus. The Reverend F.C.  Barnes had a very influential Gospel song in Beach music with Rough Side of the Mountain, first released in 1984 and still getting play today. Manhattan Transfer went Gospel on Operator, which was the #6 Beach music song of 1982.  King's Highway, written and recorded by Alabama spiritual vocalist Louise 'Candy' Davis, has been included on multiple Beach music compilations. Melvin Williams and his sibling Lee, key components of The Williams Brothers, one of the most successful Gospel groups of all time, gave us Cooling Water in the early 2000's. The Carpenter Ants from Charleston, WV charted with Wrapped Up Tied Up Tangled Up (With Jesus) in 2004.

Our traditional Beach artists have not ignored Gospel as an important part of their recording catalogs. The Coastline Band recorded It's Gonna Rain early in their career, the Holiday Band covered a beautiful rendition of He's Got The  Whole World In His Hands, Big Time Party Band gave us Have A Little Talk With Jesus, The Daddy-O's  released This Way To Happiness and the Sand Band came out with  Golden Road. The Band of Oz had Walking Up The Steps of Faith and the duet of Big John Thompson and Debbie Mac gave us Your Grace Is So Good.  Craig Woolard teamed up with Gospel crooner Gerald Hinton on the inspirational I'll Meet You In The Middle. There are certainly other Gospel tracks recorded in Beach music as well. How about the Tams with Jesus Is Your Ticket To Heaven? The Clovers did their take on Going Home To Jesus in 1990. The late Bill Pinkney recorded a Gospel album with his Original Drifters entitled Peace In The Valley in 1996.

Janice Barnett, who gave us some great upbeat Beach songs in the '70's and '80's, turned her attention to her church ministry in more recent years, which has included releasing songs like My Brothers And Sisters and Gospel  Medley with the late Harvey Fuqua.  Joe Simon is another Soul/R&B singer that turned to Gospel and  ministering back in the early '80's. Among his releases of faith was the This Story Must Be Told album on Ripete Records in 1998. Al Green has had his own church as a minister in Memphis for many years and has recorded several Gospel albums.  Candi Staton is another outstanding artist that has released multiple Gospel recordings. These are just a few examples of well known individuals in the industry who have committed themselves to their faith with their work and their music. From a compilations standpoint, the two volumes of Swoop Down Jesus and All Aboard The Gospel Train are definitely a great source of additional songs that have been recorded by and/or have had an influence on Beach music artists as well.

A few recommendations for Gospel uplift with a nice groove:

1) He's Alright - Williams Brothers

2) Happy - Tim Rogers & The Fellas

3) Since Jesus Came Into My Heart - Candi Staton

4) Another Blessing - True Believers

5) Nobody Can Turn Me Around -  Mighty Clouds of Joy

6) Smile - Rance Allen Group

7) I'm Going Home - Gospel Hummingbirds

8) Movin' - Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens

9) Glory To His Name  - Slim & The Supreme Angels

10) I'm Trying To Be Your Friend - Soul Stirrers

11) I Done Got On The Right Road - Spencer Taylor/Highway QC's

12) I'll Go - The Edifying Luckett Echos

13) Sure Feels Good - Al Green

14) The Time Is Now - The Pilgrim Wonders

15) Stop By - Lee Williams

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You might say 1980 was a crossroads year in the history of music. The Disco era was about to die out or at least ramp down significantly, Country music had a big surge with the screening of Urban Cowboy and many of the headliners of a once burgeoning genre of Soul music were about to be in large part, cast aside.

There was one movie in particular in 1980 that celebrated the baseline of R&B/Soul and Blues that had been established over the years, probably more so than any feature film of its time. I am speaking of The Blues Brothers, the tale of two siblings Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Akroyd) Blues, who grew up in a Catholic orphanage and as adults, often ran afoul of the law. The story begins as Jake had just been released from prison with the sole intent of putting his now defunct band back together.  Former high school dropout John Landis hit it big at age 28 when he directed the 1978 now classic Animal House and continued his road to fame, following that up with this epic film.

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The cast members from a musical history standpoint were amazing - the two singers that I would most give credit to for the spawning of Soul music, James Brown and Ray Charles, both had key roles in the movie. Add to that the current still reigning Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin (and a supporting chorus role from her sister Carolyn), and the genre was represented with three of the all time best.  The actor that played Curtis, the custodian at the orphanage, was none other than Cab Calloway, who at age 72, had already achieved an over 50 year career and a songwriter, singer and orchestra leader during the Big Band era.

The Blues Brothers Band that they put back together in the movie were no slouches in terms of being real life musicians. Leading the pack were Steve 'The Colonel' Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn, original members of Booker T. & the MGs along with being Memphis songwriting and session musician legends. Drummer Willie 'Too Big' Hall, a Memphis native, was a Stax Records session player and also later was a member of the MGs.  Tom 'Bones' Malone and Lou 'Blue Lou' Marini' were known as outstanding horn players and Matt 'Guitar' Murphy was a Chicago sideman who had backed the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Memphis Slim, Otis Rush and Etta James.

When the brothers went looking in Chicago for Murphy in the movie, they encountered  legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker performing in the open air on Maxwell Street. Most folks would not realize the magnitude of the musicians in the history of Blues music that were jamming there with him. Big Walter 'Shakey' Horton, considered by many to be the best Blues harmonica player of all time, was there. So were four former members of the recently dissolved Muddy Waters Band, famous in their own right as Blues musicians -  Luther 'Guitar Jr.' Johnson, Pinetop Perkins, Calvin 'Fuzz' Jones and Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, most of which would go on to form the nucleus of the Legendary Blues Band.

Were there any other famous musicians in the movie? Well, Chaka Khan performed as a choir soloist in the church where James Brown was preaching, Steven Bishop had the role of a Illinois state trooper and Joe Walsh, yeah that's right THE Joe Walsh of James Gang and Eagles fame had a bit part in the movie as an inmate. Certainly right at the top of the list as one of my personal all time favorite films!