On Friday evenings throughout the warm summer months, hundreds of locals in and around Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. head to the Museum of Coastal Carolina where the parking lot transforms into an outdoor concert area. Folks set up their lawn chairs, blankets and coolers and get ready to enjoy some good music.
On Aug. 12, the music will be especially fine as one of the area’s top beach music groups take the stage. Legends of Beach was originally formed in 2007 by a group of musicians most of whom happened to be former members of the legendary Embers band. They included vocalist Jackie Gore, known for his “I Love Beach Music” anthem for the genre; keyboard player Johnny Barker, a prolific songwriter responsible for such classics as “Summertime’s Calling Me;” guitarist Jeff Grimes; the extraordinary saxophonist and vocalist, C. Mark Black; and longtime bass player (and now band manager for Legends of Beach), Gerald Davis. Drummer Tony Davis, Rusty Smith (horns) and sound technician Steve Davis were also in the original lineup.
The band has undergone some changes in the past year. Jeff Grimes has returned to the Embers. Mark Black has also left the group, devoting more time to his East Coast Party Band. Both are huge talents, whose departures must have been felt to the core of the band.
But as they say, when one door closes another opens, and these exits were balanced by the addition of other topnotch players to the band.
For a time Gary Lowder of the Carolina Breakers was with the band to help fill in when Mark Black was not available. Since then, Terri Gore, the original “Carolina Girl” and daughter of Jackie Gore has joined; Nantucket saxman Eddie Blair has signed on; guitarist/ vocalist Pat Carpenter is now a full-time member; and so is trumpet player Ben Shaw. Not too shabby.
Gerald and I had a good long telephone conversation this past week, after a brief time out for a tornado warning in Wilson, N.C. where Gerald lives with his wife, Jane. We talked about his pre- and post-Embers life, the new players and what’s ahead for Legends of Beach.
Gerald’s got some great stories that I’d never heard before.
He was living in Riverside, Calif., playing in the house band for a joint called the Gas Company, right on the main drag. One night a young guitarist wanted in, and Gerald brought him up on stage. Forty years later, Gerald saw him again, this time at House of Blues. It was Sammy Hagar and the band was Van Halen.
“Your husband gave me a chance, got me up on stage,” Hagar told Gerald’s wife after the HOB show.
“I was shocked that he remembered me,” says Gerald. “I still have the bottle of Cabo Wabo Tequila he gave me.”
That house gig, by the way, helped land our young hero a singing contract with Liberty Records in
Hollywood. “I recorded two singles there with with the Jazz Crusaders; it was a big deal,” says Gerald.
A few years later, still in Riverside, he had a chance to meet one of the giants of Motown.
“There was a project, and I brought my old buddy from N.C. State, Donnie Weaver, lead singer for the Okaysions, out to California. We met Marvin Gaye, wound up at his house in Topanga Canyon and then went into A&M Studios to record.”
The album was never released, but they did get to work with Marvin Gaye. How cool is that?
In 1976, he moved back to Raleigh, N.C. and joined the Embers. Gerald figures he produced or co-produced a dozen albums for the Embers between 1979 and 2002.
After 31 years with the Embers, he left in 2007 to form Legends of Beach, and that brings us to the upcoming concert at Ocean Isle Beach.
I wanted to know what to expect.
“We haven’t changed our direction,” he tells me. “We still play the beach music our audiences love. And we love getting them involved. They’re there to have a good time.
“Of course, we have a female vocalist now, so that’s new for us.”
Terri Gore joined Legends of Beach on March 25 as a replacement for Gary Lowder. For anyone out of the Carolinas, she is a five-time Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year, and has also earned two Album of the Year awards, along with a Collaboration award with the Soft-Tones. She was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Just last year, she had four No. 1 hits on the beach charts, including “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” recorded with Legends of Beach before she even joined the band.
Her latest album is YBF on Forevermore Records. Terri is married to Daryl Lemonds, leader of the Sand Band.
“I’m like an old Motown singer. I like power vocals with an R&B groove,” Terri says.
How about singing with your dad, I wanted to know.
“We’re so fortunate to be able to do it together,” she says, genuinely excited. “My dad is just the best singer in this industry … in my opinion, of course. And audience response has been incredible.
“Legends of Beach is the most incredible thing I’ve ever been part of.”
Let me introduce you briefly to the other new members of the legendary Legends of Beach band.
Eddie Blair is a strong, strong presence in the horn section and as a soloist. I can’t wait to hear his Junior Walker thing. Pat Carpenter has that bluesy, soulful voice that just gets under your skin. Ben Shaw has played trumpet with The Fantastic Shakers, the Kays and the Castaways.
It’s going to be a perfect night at Ocean Isle Beach.
Woo woo! It’s summertime at the beach and that means it’s time for Concerts On the Coast. Every Friday from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. Property Owners Association (with help from some very generous sponsors) hosts a series of free concerts just over the bridge on the Island.
This year, the Entertainers opened the series, followed by local classic rock band, Bailout, and then the Imitations on June 11. If you missed those, not to worry, we’re still got 12 more concerts throughout the summer.
Coming right up on Friday, June 18, will be Legends of Beach. And I’m here to tell you, these guys really are legendary. They’re some of the finest vocalists and musicians in beach music today. Lead singer Jackie Gore was the songwriter for the beach music classic “I Love Beach Music” back in 1979 when he was with the Embers. R. Mark Black (vocals, saxophone), Gerald Davis (bass), Jeff Grimes (guitar, saxophone) and Johnny Barker (vocals, keyboards) were all Embers, too. I saw this group at the Spanish Galleon a couple months ago and they were phenomenal, one of the best in this genre that I’ve ever seen.
The Attractions, known for their monster horn section and their number one hit single, “Zing Went the Strings,” take the stage on June 25. This popular group has opened for the Tams, Clifford Curry, Fifth Dimension and the Platters, just to name a few. This should be another great show.
On July 2, another of my favorite groups will be at Ocean Isle – Mark Roberts & Breeze. Formed in late 2007, MRB was named New Group of the Year at the 2008 CBMA Awards. They rock, they roll, they’ve got soul, and they’re going to get you on your feet. If we’re lucky, they’ll do Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell In Love. If we’re really lucky, they’ll follow it with Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues For You.”
The next Concert on the Coast is Craig Woolard Band on July 9. For those of you outside the beach music community, Craig has also been lead singer for the Embers. In fact, he took Jackie Gore’s place back in … what year was it, Craig? Since forming in 2004, CWB has evolved into a powerhouse of a band, combining soulful blues with R&B to deliver one great show after another. Visit cammy.org to see for yourself all the awards Craig and the group have won.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Continental Divide is known for their happenin’ horn lines and professional performances. If you’re into Motown, soul music, oldies and beach music, plan to attend this July 16 show. And wait until you hear lead singer Gene Pharr.
That brings us to July 23, when the big sound of Band of Oz returns to Ocean Isle Beach. Originally from Raleigh, N.C. Band of Oz was born in 1967 as a part time band playing frat parties and proms. Today the’re one of the top bands on the beach music circuit, playing the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. Boasting a formidable horn section and the not-so-secret weapon of Jerry West’s guitar, Band of Oz draws a crowd wherever they go.
Churning out classic rock and blues, GB4 Band is on the roster for July 30. This is a group I haven’t heard yet, but I’m looking forward to the show. They’re known for playing everything from classic rock to funk, soul and blues. Something tells me they’re going to rock the beach!
Goldrush, in the August 6 slot, will be performing a happy mix of oldies, R&B, blues and beach. Together for 32 years, they are one of the few groups asked to perform at the very first beach music awards show in Myrtle Beach. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Percy Sledge and more.
The next group coming to town is another of my faves. The Holiday Band. So mark your calendar for August 13 and get yourself over the bridge to Ocean Isle Beach. Whether you’re a shagger, a blues mama, a beach purist, a party animal, you just can’t go wrong with the Holiday Band. They’ve played everywhere from Lincoln Center in N.Y.C. to House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. But they’re still a bunch of sweet ole boys. (Okay, sorry, you’re not really ole.) A word to the wise: bring your boogie shoes to this show. You be dancin’!
Here’s another first time group at Ocean Isle! Jim Quick & Coastline will hit the stage running on August 20. For the uninitiated, these are the bad boys on the block. Led by wild man Jim Quick, this rock ‘n’ soul group is known for their hard-drivin’, kick-ass, no-holds-barred brand of swamp funk. Don’t worry about the kids though, these guys have a soft spot for the young ‘uns. Another must see, in my book.
Now, just in case you made the mistake of missing Craig Woolard’s July 9 concert, CWB will be back for another round on August 27. If you’ve never heard Craig sing, make sure you catch at least one of these shows.
Closing out the summer season on Friday, Sept. 3 will be the mighty, mighty Tams of Hotlanta, Ga.! “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me,” “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,” “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am).” Need I say more? Come out to see “Little Redd” Cottle and the rest of this legendary group.
The concerts run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and draw about 1,000 folks from the area. There’s an area for dancing right in front of the stage, and don’t forget to bring lawn chairs. See you there!
Fans of Carolina R&B love this event. The 19th Annual DJ Throwdown in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. is bringing 60-plus deejays to Ocean Drive along with three of the hottest beach bands around: Band of Oz, Legends of Beach and the Fantastic Shakers.
The fun takes place March 4 – 6 at Duck’s Beach Club on Main Street and the O.D. Beach Club where Main Street meets the beach.
Doors open at Ducks on Thursday night at 7:30 for a night of classic beach music. Tickets are $10 (Thursday night only). Band of Oz starts at 8 p.m., followed by Legends of Beach and ending with the Fantastic Shakers.
Although Band of Oz has been around in one form or another since the sixties, the current lineup showcases Scott Fine on vocals and trombone, Tim Morris on vocals and trumpet, and Daniel Morris on saxophone and vocals. They tour throughout the Carolinas, Va. and Ala. to sell-out crowds, and Ocean Drive will be no exception.
Typically, organizers bring in a national blues act for the middle slot. One year it was guitar whiz Debbie Davies. Last year harp man Mitch Kashmir came to town. For DJ Throwdown 2010, though, things have changed and I contacted deejay/organizer Butch Metcalf to find out why, but I haven’t heard back yet, and a deadline is a deadline is a deadline …
So, next up will be Legends of Beach, a topnotch beach band consisting mainly of former members of the Embers band. These guys are some of the best vocalists and musicians in beach music today. Jackie Gore is the personification of beach music. He wrote and sang the original classic “I Love Beach Music” with the Embers in 1979. R. Mark Black, another former Ember, brings soulful vocals and sax to the stage. Gerald Davis (bass), Jeff Grimes (guitar, sax) and Johnny Barker (keyboards) all include the Embers band on their resumes. You can expect an exciting set of classic R&B from this group.
Closing out Thursday night at Ducks are the Fantastic Shakers, who will keep the crowd movin’ and shakin’ into the wee hours. These guys are party animals and talented musicians to boot. Tunes like “Myrtle Beach Days” and “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” keep audiences singing along. I have yet to experience a Fantastic Shakers show when they weren’t “on.”
Of course, that’s just Thursday. For Friday and Saturday, deejays rule. They’ll be playing the old stuff, the new stuff, the sleepers, the breakout tunes, what’s hot, what’s obscure and everything in between. O.D. Beach Club will have deejays starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The club has announced it will be non-smoking for the weekend.
For more information, visit http://www.abscdj.com and click on the Ducks logo to download a flyer.