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
Embers – The 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)
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!
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.
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!