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Beach Buzz January 2013

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Billy Scott

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Jerry Goodman

   
       

A common theme over the last several years in the executive chambers of the American labor force is that 'everybody is replaceable'. If we look at the recent passings in the world of Beach music, I am not sure that would hold true. Just in the last part of 2012, we have lost legendary performer Billy Scott, longtime music producer Jerry Goodman, former Swingin' Medallion Eddie Wayne Bailey and Myrtle Beach radio station owner Bill Norman. These individuals, along with many who have gone on not too long before them such as Bill Pinkney, General Johnson, Bobby Smith, Billy Smith etc., were monumental for many years in this business – they were there when the terms Soul music, then Beach music were coined. They had the understanding of what went into the sounds of the '60's bridging through many changes to get to where we are today. The knowledge and experience these individuals possessed will be very hard to replace.

 Year Ending 2012 – A Beach Band Analysis

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                                         The Tams

 

It appears to me that we are soon reaching a critical juncture in terms of where Beach music is headed with regard to the bands that have kept it going for so long. Change is inevitable in anything we are involved in, and many of our finest musicians are not getting any younger. Some of our bands that are classified as Beach do not want to be labeled as such, but yet their schedules are filled with Beach music venues. Others have no problem with the tag, and still play many private gigs and party tunes. The standard for performance level is very high as landing gigs has become quite competitive. The following is my assessment of where we stand with regard to some of the key groups in Beach music. There are several outstanding groups that may not get mentioned here, that does not mean that we don't recognize their talent.

 

Legendary Groups In Transition 

 Chairmen of the Board – With the passing of General Johnson and the departure of Danny Woods, the Chairmen have undergone quite a change over the last two years. With a new team, remaining member Ken Knox continues to push forward to keep the tradition alive.

 

 Tams  The lone remaining original member Charles Pope is seldom seen in their performances and outstanding vocalist Joe Jones passed away in late 2010 after almost thirty years in the group. Little Redd, who started singing in their shows at age seven,  carries on a reconstructed lineup with solid bookings. Original member Robert Lee Smith's Tams are also on the circuit, featuring Michael Jones, Joe's younger brother.

 

Additional Groups That Remain In The Legendary Category  

EmbersThe band keeps right on doing what they do. Some folks that see their performances say 'That's not the Embers'.  No, it's not the Embers from thirty years ago but how many Beach bands are still intact from that point in time? It is the new era of the Embers!  The latest additions are veterans  Jimmy Weaver on keyboard and Hugh Blanton on bass guitar.

 

Swingin' Medallions – Fifty plus years after the band was formed, the torch is still carried on by several sons of original members. Their live shows are tremendous, their schedule is usually packed with private party dates and they don't play the Beach circuit that often. But make no mistake about it, they can still play some awesome Beach music.

 

Groups Still On The Top Shelf  

Band Of Oz – Seven time winner of Group of the Year (including 2012), their live shows are often nothing short of phenomenal. A strong blend of youth and experience, as many as four horns and multi-talented vocalists make this high energy band hard to beat.

 

Fantastic Shakers – Years and years of arranging and performing experience in this band make them just about as tight of orchestrated sound as you can have in a live engagement. Many of their songs have become Beach music classics and they show no signs of slowing down!

 

Group Gaining The Most Ground

 Craig Woolard Band. Although only just completing their eighth year, Craig's stage presence and the stable lineup of musicians has positioned this band to be one of the most sought after bookings in the business. It was good to see Main Street People win Group Album Of The Year as well the band on  Best Blues Song (Harlem Shuffle) for 2012.

 

Group That Is Steady Rolling

Holiday Band -  Consistently nominated in the Group of the Year category, Mike Taylor keeps their song repertoire innovative and the bus on the road with steady gigs. There will be some level of transition with the recent retirement of original member Mike Neese, but expect to always get your money's worth with this outstanding band.

 

Group Coming Back Stronger Than Ever

North Tower – in the last few years, this group has emerged from the shadows with a strong updated sound accompanied by more public appearances. Nothing but positive comments from live performance attendees. Well deserved induction into the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame in 2012. 

 

Groups Coming the Farthest In The Shortest Amount of Time  

Steve Owens & Summertime – Voted Favorite New Artist of the Year for 2012, I swear this band sounds like they have been playing together for at least ten years. Good blend of youth and veterans with multiple horns producing a seamless tight sound.

 

Carolina Breakers – Only been together for a couple of years, three outstanding vocalists up front with many years of experience keeps this band solidly booked.  Voted Favorite New Artist of the Year for 2011.

 

Groups In Witness Protection Program  

Part Time Party Time Band – These guys have been unbelievably good for what, about thirty-three years but do not get near the recognition they deserve. I mean a nine piece killer outfit with four blazing horns! Way underrated!

 

Castaways – Through several iterations of lineups, this Piedmont North Carolina group has kept the name alive now for fifty-two years without a lot of recognition. Had the opportunity to work with them at this past years' CBMA weekend and they have never sounded better!

 

Groups That Uh - Oh! Dare To Be Different

Jim Quick and Coastline – A group of outstanding musicians that play what they feel and follow their own celestial star (would that star be the genius eccentricity of King Tyrone??).

 

Rick Strickland Band – How many Beach groups have you ever seen with an acoustic guitar? This band makes it work in fine style with ALL original material. Singing and songwriting veteran Rick has penned some tremendous songs for multiple groups as well as solos in his outstanding career.

 

Hip Pocket Band  - the Beach music heritage is there - the band members are either young or young at heart (Sound engineer Alan Brantley is even older than me and that is, well.....). They are in strong demand as a party band, striking up a killer groove on the wedding circuit. Always worth the price of admission!

 

Sea Cruz – Best sound coming from a three piece outfit that I've ever heard.  Allie has stepped in and continued the high energy stage presence that has kept them rolling for ten plus years.

 

Groups I Need To See More Often  

I have to travel south and then slightly west. Two week road trip!

 

Sand Band – I did get to see these guys for the first time in a while at this past years CBMAs. They sounded great.

 

Entertainers – Earl Dawkins, one of the ultimate on stage performers, keeps a great band going through frequent lineup changes.

 

Second Nature – Original member Tommie James manages the group that has been getting it done in South Carolina for forty plus years.

 

Sensational Epics – Based in Columbia, SC, these guys are heading into their 50th year as a band with an amazing five original members still playing. As many as five horns on stage at any one time!

 

Men Of Distinction – Formed in the mid '90's, this South Carolina based band has always had a strong delivery. They play mostly private gigs and I DO mean private, I can't even see their schedule online!

Beach Music In 1993  - Twenty Years Ago

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Holy Cow, can you believe it was twenty years ago that Alexander O'Neal's Since I've Been Loving You was released and became a big Beach music hit?? Where in the heck has time gone? I just played the tune while DJ ing in a club last week and it still fills the floor with dancers.   

 

At the dawn of 1993, Beach music had experienced a steady growth period of a dozen or so years since its near demise in the late '70's. The music, the genre, the people participating etc. were on the edge of an even more multi-dimensional period of expansion that has sustained even through today. The music, thanks to a steady proliferation of exploration and experimentation by an increasing cadre of DJ's, reached into several sound genres.

 

The Bands – Chairmen of the Board, Tams, Embers, Band of Oz, Fantastic Shakers, Catalinas, Entertainers, Breeze, Poor Souls, etc. were the well established and recognizable Beach venue headliners but a couple of groups in their infancy at this point would have a remarkable impact in Beach music over the next twenty years – The Holiday Band and Coastline Band were just getting started in 1993.

 

The Music – DJ's were in somewhat of a transitional period, many involved in switching from long standing vinyl to CDs in their play boxes. The Association Of Beach & Shag Club DJ's was a two year old organization at this point that would help fuel the growth of the music in multiple directions. Overlooked cuts from albums released in years past were a big part of the 'new' discovery of tunes that worked in the genre. Southern Soul and Blues from labels such as Malaco and Ichiban were slowly but surely easing into the mix. Older R&B tracks as well as music from national and international artists was dominating the Beach charts in 1993  – Aretha Franklin, Bee Gees, Tyrone Davis, Shakin' Stevens, George Benson, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Delbert McClinton, to name a few. At this time, there simply was not enough music being released by the traditional regional Beach music artists (and there were not near as many of them as exist today) to fill the chart void. That would change dramatically over the next few years as Ripete Records from rural South Carolina led the charge in getting high quality tunes from the Beach artists recorded and released. The 'Sixth Wave' of Beach music (Fessa John Hook's history references the eras of the music, the 'Fifth Wave' being 1980 -1995) was just before happening and it would literally take the music to a new level.

 

The Media – FM radio shows and networks were creating a more widespread and renewed interest in Beach music. WRDX Beach 106 was a 100,000 WATT blowtorch based in Salisbury, NC that had been going strong for several years,  spreading the sound all over Piedmont and Western North Carolina. Similar medium and large market weekly Beach radio broadcasts from Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Columbia, Wilmington, Florence, Little Washington and Greenville, NC were gathering an ever increasing following as a larger number of folks, both natives and imports, were realizing that Beach music was much more than just a reincarnation of  '50's and '60 's R&B and Soul. Much more evident was the fact that all songs heard on Beach music stations were not necessarily shaggable and all music heard in clubs was not necessarily meant for radio. The commercialization of the Internet was still a couple of years away and did not really take off until around 2000 (Wasn't life much simpler without computers?).

     

The Dance – Shagging was in the midst of several years of revival and growth in 1993. S.O.S Migrations had begun in 1980 and were growing every year, with much emphasis around the dance. Shag contests were cropping up all over – the Shaggers Preservation Association had been formed to help classify and coordinate the competitions of the dancers. Local shag clubs had sprung up throughout the Carolinas and club DJ's were focused on getting the crowds up and dancing. Shag lessons were being taught at most of the established Beach clubs.  Shag instructional videos from the experts were available – Jackie McGee and Charlie Womble produced the third video of their ongoing series in 1993. The release of the motion picture Shag in the late '80's had exposed a whole new audience to the dance.

 

 

The Beach – North Myrtle Beach, Main Street at Ocean Drive, turn left on Highway 17 if you are going south and head straight for the ocean! It was that way when we were teenagers in the '50's and '60's and still that way in 1993 (as well as today!). O.D. had been established as the center of the Beach music universe, although not quite as strong in 1993 as it is today. The mecca that became Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort, which has now become the hub of so many weekend events and activities, was not yet built in 1993. Some legendary hot spots were there like The Pavilion (still there today). Fat Harold's (and Harold Bessent) had opened in its current location in 1992, migrating from a previous succession of locales: The Original Spanish Galleon to Fat Harold's Across The Street to Fat Harolds At The Pad (Can you say 'fried baloney sandwich'?)  Ducks was in operation on Main under the direction of Norfleet Jones. Milford Powell would not open Pirates Cove until 1995. The Alabama Theatre at Barefoot Landing opened its doors in 1993. The '90's saw a large increase in the number of individuals migrating back who had spent the innocence of youth along the Grand Strand only to abandon it for many years afterward.

 

Twenty years ago seems just like yesterday to me. Where DID the time go?

 

                                        

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

   

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