DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Rick Strickland Melds Musicianship in New 7-piece Band

Posted in Interviews by darielb on April 21, 2009

Rick Strickland.

Rick Strickland.

Rick Strickland is a prolific, sometimes obsessed songwriter. He tells me he writes a song most every day. In fact, when he and wife, Gail, sat down to document his total tally of tunes, it came to some 2,500.

“And some of them are pretty good,” he laughs, “so I shouldn’t ever run out of pieces to record.”

Good thing, because in August 2008, the award-winning musician decided to bring to life a long-time dream and form a totally new band. A seven-piece band.

A sessions player for more than 20 years, Strickland has recorded with and opened for some of the country’s top acts, including Carl Perkins, Todd Rundgren and B.B. King. He has also produced over 50 albums in a wide range of musical styles. His work has made it to the silver screen (Modern Love/1990) He has composed two productions for the Columbia City Ballet. He has performed at the Georgia Music Awards, backing Tommy Roe, Joe South and Ray Stevens. He was Billy Joe Royale’s musical director for three national tours.

In 2007, he received a CBMA award for Solo Album of the Year for ” Something Smooth, and in 2005, he took home Songwriter of the Year. Also in 2005, “Something Smooth,” the single was No. 1 on the beach charts for the entire year.

Rick had been so successful with his three-piece group, I wanted to know what motivated this major change.

“I had a great response to the trio,” agreed Rick, “But I started thinking about what else I could do. My attention span isn’t all that long! My wife got tired of listening to me talk about it and finally said, ‘Hey, you have access to some great players. Let’s make an A list.’ So we did. And they all said yes!”

The newly incarnated Rick Strickland Band includes Rick, of course, on lead vocals and – on occasion – guitar, bass and drums, (but he is best known for his four-octave vocal range). Lesa Hudson is on keyboards and vocals; Debbie Anderson, vocals and guitar; master of the B3, Art Benton on keyboard and vocals; Gary Bruce on guitar and vocals; Chris Grant, playing bass guitar; and Ken Lancaster on the drum kit.

The successful singer/songwriter isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, however. His new band continues to nurture its R&B roots, building on Strickland’s 20-year history as a singer, musician, composer and producer.

“We’re really leaning toward the soul side of the genre, all of us. But what’s different for me, in particular, about the new band,” explains Strickland, “is the interaction between human beings … instead of overdubbing.

“When we perform tunes from Island Soul [Rick’s 2007 CD], there’s more air around them now. The harmonies are perfect, but there’s more ‘give.’ We’re still going to deliver my ‘signature’ vocal harmony, but we’ll be showing off a little more in instrumentation.

“I love the collaboration among the players; they’re not just executing what I say. You know, when I first heard Lesa and Debbie at a music festival, it was their vocals that struck me … and why I called them.

“Well, turns out Lesa is also a songwriter AND she’s classically trained on the piano. She’s got a solo CD out with a single that’s currently No. 15 on the Christian-Country charts. And Debbie, besides being one of the best harmony singers around is a very solid rhythm guitarist.”

What about Art Benton, I wanted to know. I knew from an earlier interview that Art played keyboard on Island Soul and I knew he had played with a group called the Pallbearers, who had two national hits on Fontana and Delphi Records.

“Art is the best keyboardist I’ve ever worked with. He’s equally at home in the studio or on stage. He is an incredibly tasteful and sensitive player who has a knack for fining the sweet spot in any arrangement.

I used to play a solo gig at Brinsen’s in Charleston, near Folly Beach,” Rick went on to tell me. “Art kept showing up and leaving me business cards. He was repairing dialysis equipment next door (We call him MacGyver, by the way). He kept giving me his card, but I was kind of cynical. When the Something Smooth CD came out, I was with 120inc and Mike Farver kept telling me we needed to do some live gigs. I needed a keyboard player. I had Art’s latest card, but before I called him, I happened to ask Steve Wiggins [five-time Grammy nominee, lyricist and lead singer for Big Tent Revival] if Art was any good. ‘Hell yeah,’ came the response. Art Benton is the B3 player from Heaven.’ Well, that was three years ago, and we’ve been working together ever since.”

Guitarist Gary Bruce is known regionally for his work in bands like Second Nature, Mama’s Home Cookin’, The Blue Chip Band and Fresh Air.

The guitarist said, “I’ve known Rick since about 1975.  We always had a good chemistry going and talked about playing together, but sometimes these things don’t work out right away. Other commitments get in the way. We’ve been able to work together over the past couple years, and, when he called about the new band, the time was right. I was still playing with Fresh Air, but ready to make a move.”

Says Rick, “I was working with White Witch, fresh from playing bass on tour when I met Gary, so we’ve known each other a long time now. Gary, like Art, is great on stage and in the studio. That’s Gary doing the acoustic guitar solo for “Best Love” on Island Soul. He’s also one of the most sought after guitar teachers in the southeast. He perpetually has a waiting list of 50 to 100 potential students.”

Drummer Ken Lancaster has played with R&B group, North Tower, the Okaysions and Nashville’s Clifford Curry. Strickland says, “Ken has an incredible sense of meter, sort of like a human metronome. Playing with him and Chris [bassist Chris Grant] is like sitting down in a big easy chair.

“I first met him the year I won the solo album award. He was working with the PA company doing the awards show.”

Ken adds, “I was a stagehand. I wanted to get in with a band, so I was listening to all of them, and I gave Rick my card.

“‘You’ve got good timing,’ Rick told me. Well, a year or so went by, and I saw him again. ‘You’ve got good timing, ‘ Rick told me again, only this time I auditioned. Rick is awesome. I’ve been in the Charlotte area, but I’m moving to Charleston next month. I love what we’re doing.

“I love eighties metal and beach music.”

Did I just hear right? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Ken is laughing on the other end of the telephone, “I can’t help it. I’ve always loved the metal stuff but I relate to beach music. It reminds me of family times at the outer Banks when I was a kid. I’m infatuated with the whole beach scene. I even shag a little”

The latest addition to the group is bass player Chris Grant, who Rick says is “smooth and solid, but has chops when the song calls for it.” Chris toured and recorded for several years with N.C. blues legend Skeeter Brandon, who passed away just over a year ago. He’s also worked with Big Bill Morgenfield, son of Muddy Waters, and blues guitarist Jimmy Thackery.

The new Rick Strickland Band is making its debut on Saturday night, April 25, at the Spanish Galleon in North Myrtle Beach during S.O.S. Spring Safari, the annual ten-day celebration of shag dancing and beach music, the regional sub-category of the R&B genre.

“We’ll be going into the studio almost immediately after that,” said Strickland. “We are excited about putting a band album out. It’s gonna be great.”

I have to agree.


Rickey Godfrey, Tommy Black at Papa’s Pizza

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on April 17, 2009

Papa’s Pizza In Little River, S.C. To Offer Live Entertainment April  23 – 25

Rickey Godfrey.

Rickey Godfrey.

NOTE: CHANGE TO SCHEDULE. I’ve just heard that one of the guys in Tommy’s trio has some sort of medical issue – in his family, maybe – and Tommy Black has to reschedule his appearance at Papa’s. The gig is still up on Papa’s website, though. So, either way, call before you make other plans for Thursday night.  Rickey is still on for Friday night and Saturday afternoon. DB Apr. 21, 2009. 11.56 p.m.

Papa’s Pizza, Wings & Things, located in the Lowes Food Shopping Center in Little River, S.C., will offer live entertainment on Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25. Local beach artist Tommy Black will perform with his Tommy Black and Blooz trio on Thursday evening from 8 – 11 p.m. Nashville blues singer/guitarist Rickey Godfrey is set for Friday night, 8 – 11 p.m. and again Saturday afternoon, 2 – 5 p.m.

The popular local eatery has scheduled the performers to coincide with 10-day S.O.S. Spring Safari, the annual celebration of shag dancers and beach music lovers, which begins officially Friday, April 17 and runs through Sunday April 26 in the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach.
This is the first time vocalist Tommy Black will appear at Papa’s Pizza. A prolific songwriter, he penned and performed “Shadow Shaggin’,” which earned him a 2008 CBMA award for Best Smoothie. Other hits for the Fayetteville, N.C. native include “Sabrina” and “Lalita.” Recent releases include a cover of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and  “Unbreak My Heart” from the singer’s newest CD, Shadow Shaggin’ and the Ones We Miss.

For Rickey Godfrey, this is a return appearance to Papa’s.  He is well known at the beach for hits like “Can’t Change My Heart,” the number one song in beach music for some 13 months from Soul Sensations, his 2004 CBMA award-winning album and single; “If Ten’ll Kill Me You Can Give Me Nine” and “Once In a Lifetime Love,” the title track from the 2006 Group Album of the Year. His brand new soul single, “Help Yourself To Me” has debuted on Beach Music 45 at number 30 and is climbing the charts now. Back in Nashville, he has been honored as a Music City Blues Society nominee for both guitarist and keyboard player of the year.

Papa’s Pizza, Wings & Things is a homey, comfortable, welcoming restaurant that serves a range of mid-priced pizzas, calzones, salads, pastas, wings and more. Signature dishes include the Phab-U-Lous Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup and a Kitchen Sink salad, chock full of mixed greens, grilled chicken, crumbled bleu cheese, dried cranberries, walnuts, red onion and more, served with a range of homemade dressings.

Tommy Black

Tommy Black

Papa’s Pizza is located at 111 Pavilion Drive, in the Lowes Food Shopping Plaza in Little River, S.C.  on the road to Calabash, N.C.  For more information, call 843-249-3663 from S.C. and 910-575-7900 from N.C.
For more information about the musicians, visit their websites:
Tommy Black: www.tommyblackandblooz.com
Rickey Godfrey: www.myspace.com/therickeygodfreyband

In recent months, Papa’s Pizza has offered customers a range of entertainers including R&B group, Sammy O’Banion & Mardi Gras, soul-blues guitarist/singer Rickey Godfrey,  singer Gary Lowder and singer/DJ Gary Brown. You can keep up with the restaurant’s future events at their website or on MySpace.

CD Pick: Rev. Bubba D Liverance

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on April 8, 2009


Rev. Bubba D Liverance

Let My Peoples Dance (2008)


Label: Ain’t Bad Records

Genre: Beach

You know you’re in for some fun when the guy’s name is Rev. Bubba D Liverance, his band is called the Cornhole Prophets and the CD is titled Let My Peoples Dance. What you may not know until you pop it into the player however is the topnotch songwriting, musicianship and production quality of this disc.

Take your cues from the title, and get ready to boogie. Opener and title track, “Let My Peoples Dance” is a cleverly written shout out to the masses to take a minute to feel the beat and shake your bootie. “That’s What You Do” is a very danceable soul tune penned by Bubba and Sam Hankins. According to the good reverend, it was written in the same mold as “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” by the Swingin’ Medallions where the writer’s so affected by a girl, her lovin’ made him turn flips, shout out loud and finally made him pass out. In this tune, her lovin’ has him “speaking in tongues.”

The swingin’ “My Baby’s a Seafood Platter”(Rusty McHugh/Wild Okra Music ASCAP) is one of just two not written or co-written by Rev. Bubba. “Ain’t No American Idol” is the rev’s initiation of a backlash against American Idol. He thinks they should have better finalists. In “Mo Better,” Bubba’s affection for 60s soul and R&B is apparent. “If You Can’t Shag” is one of the most popular – and controversial – tracks on the CD. The full lyric is “If you can’t shag, get your ass out of Carolina.” It was reportedly inspired by an eighth grade South Carolina requirement to learn the State dance – the shag. Can that be true? If you can’t shag, you can’t graduate from eighth grade?

By the way, the horns are none other than the Memphis Horns: Wayne Jackson (trumpet); Donnie Sanders (sax); and Carl Hale (trombone). Yep, the very same Memphis Horns from Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” and Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds.” Musicians include Bubba D Liverance (guitar/vocals); Sam Hankins (guitar/vocals) Jane Rhodes (keyboard/vocals); Jonas Schultz (keyboard/saxophone/vocals); Austin Solomon (bass) Russell Garner (drums/percussion). DB. April 7, 2009.

A version of this post will be published in the entertainment section of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue April 9 – 23, 2009, p. 26.

CD Pick: The Snake Charmers

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on April 8, 2009


The Snake Charmers
Been Gone Too Long (2008)
Label: Skunk Eye Records
Genre: Blues

The Snake Charmers have been mesmerizing the larger-than-life city of Houston since 2002, when husband and wife team, Marie Angell and Will Blumentritt, formed their own band “to play what we like and like what we play.” Been Gone Too Long is the eclectic group’s first professionally produced CD, although a 2006 homemade demo is available for download at the band’s website.

The ten-track contemporary blues CD opens with “Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” a slow burn that showcases the sultry pipes of lead vocalist and keyboard player, Marie Angell. The honey-drippin’ opener segues easily into “Mercy,” a southern rockin’ celebration of bass lines courtesy of Will Blumentritt and rockin’ guitar from Larry Meeker. Son Eric Blumentritt on drums complete’s the group’s tight performance.

The emotionally charged “Can’t Trust a Heart,” is up next, a bluesy ballad enriched by Meeker’s plaintive guitar licks and powerful lyrics by Angell – who, by the way, wrote all ten tunes on the CD.

“Big, Big Love” will get your shoulders moving, your hips swinging and your toes tapping. Give in to it – get up and dance!

The bass-driven title track combines raw sexiness and yearning as the singer misses an old love, even as she notes her newfound independence. Additional tunes include the very danceable “I Wanna Do Right,” and the 12-bar “Move On Blues.” Closing out the CD is “Hoochie Mama,” or, more accurately “(I Wanna Be a) Hoochie Mama,” a fast-paced, fun ending to a completely charming disc from The Snake Charmers.

Guest artists on the recording include Alan “Otis Futhermucker” Gould, on harmonica for “Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” and “Big, Big Love;” guitarist David Coronado on “Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” “I Wanna Do Right” and “Hoochie Mama;” and Tracy Wilson provides finger snaps and handclaps on “Just a Little Kiss.” DB. April 7, 2009

A version of this post will be published in the entertainment section of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue April 9 – 23, 2009, p. 26.

Bull City Syndicate: Horns of Plenty

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on April 8, 2009
Vhondy Strickland.

Vhondy Strickland.

I had a friend’s request on MySpace a couple weeks ago, a group named Bull City Syndicate. I’d never heard of them, so I went to their profile. What a great sound! Funky, soulful, strong vocals … tremendous horns. Not long after that, I get an email from JD Cash; they’re coming to Razzie’s at 2001 in Myrtle Beach. I’m stoked. This is a band I want to see.

I head to the nightclub for the Friday night show on April 3 and I wasn’t disappointed. First and foremost, this is a horn band.

Clarke Egerton is on trombone and vocals. He also serves as the group’s musical director. Vhondy Strickland plays tenor, alto and soprano sax as well as the flute. If a soulful sax solo grabs you, chance are it’s Vhondy. Louisiana boy Steve Baker, who handles most of the MySpace contact, plays trumpet and flugel and handles some lead vocals. His singing voice is as smooth as his horn. According to the band’s website, Steve was also a founding member of the Raleigh Jazz Orchestra. Completing the horn section is Rodney Ogden, who also plays both trumpet and flugelhorn. Simply put, he’s a powerhouse.

With a line of horns like this, you can’t get by with a wimpy rhythm section. Bull City Syndicate’s tight four-piece rhythm section drives the group easily from R&B to funk. Matt Kanon’s dynamic guitar work is solid, and the band credits him with keeping the dance floor full. Larry Woodard from Raleigh is one of the most sought after drummers of North Carolina. Bassist Jeff Nelson lays down some of the funkiest basslines I’ve heard. Rounding out the rhythm section is soulful Charlie D’Agostino playing keyboard. Bull City Syndicate is a band with chops and soul. Lead singer Dan Lantier brings on da funk in a big way. His vocal range must be off the scale. Covering Earth Wind & Fire, his falsetto is right up there with Philip Bailey. The group recently added Charlotte Renee Gregory to their front line, sharing shares lead vocal chores with Dan. Charlotte has performed with nationally known acts such as Rhett Akins, Trisha Yearwood, Ricochet, Ken Mellons and Charlie Monk. In the Carolinas, you may have seen her with Raleigh-based jazz/funk group Café Mars; Myrtle Beach’s Rockin’ Country; Heart’s Desire, reincarnated last year as Mark Roberts and Breeze; Sugardaddies; and the Flabbergasters.

Band History

Bull City Syndicate came into this world in 1993 – as a blues band called Soul Kitchen playing clubs in the Raleigh/Durham area. After adding Clarke Egerton and Vhondy Strickland, the Bull City Horns were born, and now it was Soul Kitchen & the Bull City Horns playing around the Triangle of N.C. The next addition was Steve Baker in 2001, who the band credits with bringing lead trumpet chops on board along with another lead vocal. The band was now able to perform more sophisticated horn arrangements, Now they were a horn band. Trumpet player Rodney Ogden joined the group three years ago, making this top drawer horn section even tighter. The addition of lead singer Dan Lantier in 2007 was the next big change for the group. He brought a vocal range equal to the breadth of the horns. Grappling with trademark infringement issues arising from another Soul Kitchen band, the group finally evolved into the Bull City Syndicate, giving a nod to their hometown of Durham, N.C., even as the band continues to build its fan base and reputation throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Bull City Syndicate released their first CD, You Make Me Feel (2007 SMB Music Group), which is a tribute to composers either born in or living in North Carolina. The 13-track disc includes originals by John Custer, who produced the album and is responsible for the horn arrangements. It also includes “(I Wanna) Testify,” written by George Clinton and Deron Taylor; “Go Up Moses,” written by Roberta Flack, Jesse Jackson and Joel Dorn and “Supernatural Thing, Part 2” by Ben E. King, Patrick Grant and Gwen Guthrie. Today, this funk rock horn band plays special events, corporate gigs, weddings, clubs and festivals. They cover Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, Chicago, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and many others. In addition, they’re also committed to developing their own original work, and their fans support it. This is one group you’ll want to experience for yourself. Visit their website at www.bullcitysyndicate.com or one of their two MySpace pages: www.myspace.com/bullcitysyndicate or www.myspace.com/bcshornbandtribute.

A version of this post will be published in Beach Newz in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue April 9 – 23, 2009, p. 24.

Yes, Oh Yes, It’s S.O.S.

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on April 8, 2009

It’s that time of year when over 10,000 shag dancers descend upon the Ocean Drive
section of North Myrtle Beach for ten full days of barbecue, beach time, silliness, catching up
with old friends, live music … and above all, shagging (and no, I’m not talking about the
British version, although I’m not discounting it either).

This year’s Society of Stranders (S.O.S.) Spring Safari officially begins Friday, April 17
and runs through Sunday, April 26. Don’t forget, you need to renew your S.O.S. membership
to attend events at the sanctioned S.O.S. lounges: Ducks and Ducks Too, Fat Harold’s,
the O.D. Arcade, O.D. Resort and Pirate’s Cove.

If you’ve never experienced a Spring S.O.S parade before, it’s not to be missed. Adults
gone wild, and it’s a blast. Head on over to Main Street in North Myrtle Beach on
Saturday, April 25. The parade starts at 1 p.m. Lots of folks like to close out the weekend
with the Camp Kemo event, held at Fat Harold’s. There are live performances, auctions
and more – all to send kids with cancer to camp for a week, so they can remember what
it’s like to be a kid again. This year’s event is being dedicated to the memory of saxman
Johnny Cox, who lost his own fight with cancer earlier this month. It won’t be the same
without people stuffing bills into Johnny’s horn. Word has it, though, that Johnny’s son
Scott Cox, will be there to do the honors. Bring your Kleenex.

One last thing, welcome and thank you to all the deejays who’ll be spinning tunes around
the clock!

Sam West– Upstairs in the O.D. Resort
Charlie & Jackie – Ducks
Judy Duke – Fat Harold’s
Ellen Taylor – O.D. Arcade
Live Music
Friday, April 17
Spanish Galleon 7 p.m., Tommy Black and
2001 Nightclub, 7 p.m., Craig Woolard
Band (no S.O.S. card needed)
Chasers Beach Club, 9 p.m. Castaways (no
S.O.S. card needed)
Saturday, April 18
Fat Harold’s, 1-5 p.m., Sea-Cruz
Pirate’s Cove 2 – 6 p.m. The Poor Souls
Spanish Galleon 7 p.m. The Entertainers
with guests Vicki Skinner, Bobby Smith and
Paul Craver
2001 Nightclub, 7 p.m., Tim Clark Band
Sunday, April 19
Fat Harold’s, 1-5 p.m.,Holiday Band
HOTO’s, 1 p.m. Mark Roberts & Breeze
(no S.O.S. card needed)
Spanish Galleon, 7 p.m. Band of Oz
Monday, April 20
Spanish Galleon, 7 p.m. Embers
2001 Nightclub, 8 p.m. Jim Quick &
Tuesday, April 21
HOTO’s, 3 p.m. King Tyrone & the
Graveyard Ramblers (no S.O.S. card needed)
Spanish Galleon, 7 p.m. Mark Roberts &
2001 Nightclub, 7 p.m., Sea-Cruz (no
S.O.S. card needed)
Wednesday, April 22
Fat Harold’s, 1-5 p.m., Jim Quick &
Spanish Galleon, 7 p.m., Sammy O’Banion
& Mardi Gras
2001 Nightclub, 8 p.m. Legends of Beach
(no S.O.S. card needed)
Thursday, April 23
Fat Harold’s, 1-5 p.m., Craig Woolard Band
Spanish Galleon, 5 p.m. Pre- release party,
various artist. Band of Oz follows.
2001 Nightclub, 8 p.m. Mark Roberts &
Breeze (no S.O.S. card needed)
Friday, April 24
Fat Harold’s, 1-5 p.m., Fantastic Shakers
Spanish Galleon, 4 p.m.New music release
party, followed by Holiday Band
Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things, 8 p.m.
Rickey Godfrey (no S.O.S card needed)
2001 Nightclub, 8 p.m., Craig Woolard
Band (no S.O.S.card needed)
Saturday, April 25
Avista Resort, 12 p.m. Big Time Party
Band (no S.O.S. card needed )
Spanish Galleon, 7 p.m. Rick Strickland
Band, Bobby Smith & the Poor Souls
Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things, 2 – 5 p.m.
Rickey Godfrey (no S.O.S card needed)
Sunday, April 26
Fat Harold’s, 1- 5 p.m. Camp Kemo, various

A version of this post will run in Beach Newz in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue April 9 – 23, 2009, p. 24.