DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Jeff Roberts’ Legacy

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on August 4, 2010

Big Jeff at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot.

Note: This is a piece I wrote back in January shortly after the death of Jeff Roberts. It ran in Coast magazine and Alternatives magazine in Myrtle Beach, but until now, I hadn’t posted it here. At the end are comments from some of Jeff’s many friends and colleagues. We all miss him like crazy. –DB, August 4, 2010

It’s amazing that one guy could make such a difference in the lives of so many. But in the days since Myrtle Beach music icon Jeff Roberts passed away, the outpouring of  grief and gratitude throughout his circle of friends and his burgeoning music community has taken on a life of its own.

Musician Mike Farris was working on a Delbert McClinton cruise when Jeff passed. “I didn’t know,” he told me in a telephone conversation. “I would have been there in a heartbeat. I hate that I missed the service … I would have been there.”

Mike performed at a South By Southeast Music Feast in May 2008 and has been close friends with Jeff ever since.

“Jeff was just one of the super sweet dudes. I mean, when I was done playing, it’s like I was his kid. He was beaming. He was so proud. He was just a strong supporter.

“He was pure sunshine.

“I talked to him a few weeks ago and he actually answered his phone!

“He was in the car, waiting to pick up Hunter. We talked about his dad, had a real good conversation. He was so excited about playing golf with Hunter.

“He told me he loved me when we said goodbye, like he always did. I told him I loved him, like I always did.

“I think something deep inside him must have told him he was leaving, cause he answered the phone …  and he never answers!”

Jeff Roberts left a legacy even larger than his six-foot eight-inch frame – his beloved South By Southeast music organization.

So as friends, family and community members are still reeling from the monumental loss, this loyal company of music lovers is already filling ranks to make sure SxSE thrives and the dreams of “Big Jeff” are accomplished.

“Trust the Frog”

It’s important to understand that SxSE is more than a local music promoter. They take on the responsibility of finding top quality music and bringing it here. When Mike Farris came to SxSE, many in the audience weren’t familiar with him, but they trusted SxSE.

Today South By Southeast’s core of volunteers is made up of  Sam Hannaford and Seth Funderburk, who co-founded the organization with Jeff Roberts,  along with long time supporters Nell, Craig and Hasee Ciaccio; Mike Millsaps; Jeff’s son, Hunter; Wade Cooper, Earl Anderson, Joey Sanders, Tommy “Uncle Daddy” Pierce; Judy and Scotty Barton; Charlie Newell; Sam’s wife, Beth Hannaford; Wrynn and Mike Harrell; Fran and Rickie Rickenbacker; and  Bob “Noodle” O’Conner.

Corporate partners include:  New South Brewery, Pepsi,  QRock,  WAVE104,  Myrtle Beach Resorts, Beach First Bank and Star Music.

Sam and others from South By Southeast’s inner circle are meeting this week to determine responsibities and develop a program to increase sponsorships. Steps are already being taken to obtain 501 c (3) status for the organization.

Shows are being booked. Randall Bramblett will be back for a March 6 performance. Charleston’s Sol Driven Train will bring some southern blues and swamp funk to the Depot on April 17. They’re talking to Steve Bailey about a show.

This is exactly what Jeff wanted. And when I pay my $25 membership for 2010, it will be in Jeff’s honor. If you’d like to join me, send an email to southxsoutheast@aol.com. They’ll send you a membership form and details.

Life – and music – won’t be the same without Jeff Roberts. But I’ve made a decision. I still trust the frog.

Comments From Jeff’s Music Family

The January 11th loss of our dear friend, Jeffery Lloyd Roberts, has left a huge void in the heart and soul of not only the music community in the Myrtle Beach area, but also in the entire music family of brothers and sisters everywhere who live to make and enjoy music for all the true, right reasons. How big a void? Martina McBride sang Craig Brickhardt’s country lyric, “Where I Used to Have A Heart,” “Feels like a mile wide ditch.” Yeah, that big. No, actually bigger…

Those who knew and loved Large Jeffery here, spent several days calling and emailing, initially, just the music artists who we knew Jeff was in regular contact with because of South By Southeast show associations and his yearly trips, along with his regular group of music buddies, to the Americana Music Conventions in Nashville. After we reached Mike Farris, Lauren Ellis, Scott Miller, Billy and Jill Block, and many others, we started to realize that there was no way to include them all in the sad news…  not only Nashville, but the Carolinas, West Coat, New York… well, let’s just say Jeff’s outreach and positive influence in music and, in fact, in life, covered an area only known to Jeffery and all those he touched and loved. You couldn’t have had a better friend. I feel honored and blessed to have known him, and shared lots of great times, laughs, and wonderful music with him!

Our thoughts and prayers are, and will be, with Jeff’s fine son Hunter, and his Dear Mom, Mrs. W.C. Montie Roberts.

H. David Henson

Jeff Roberts was single-handedly responsible for breaking artists in Myrtle Beach and throughout the Southeast. His passion and enthusiasm for selling records, good live music and turning people on cannot be replaced. Memories of Jeff will live forever.

Mary Sack
Mary Sack Management

I had only spoken to Jeff a few times on the phone to discuss my booking at the Train Depot for a SxSE concert. The total of our conversations was maybe 15 minutes. Yes, he seemed like a great guy but it was the “five minute interview” that really sold me on what a great guy he really was.


It was a month or so later and the Depot was packed. The crowd was inspiring me and I felt like I was on fire. I had a great first set. Then it was time for a short intermission. Before I returned to the stage for a second set Jeff said he wanted to say a few words and then, if I didn’t mind, ask me afew questions. I said “sure,”, but in the back of my mind I was thinking,  ” man, I want to go back out there and fire it up right where the first set left off. I hope this ‘five minute’ interview doesn’t kill the momentum”.

I don’t remember the exact questions. They really don’t matter. Here’s what matters. At the end of the five minutes Jeff had not only conducted a concise, thought provoking interview, he had also fired me and the crowd up for an even better second set.

And so in five minutes I learned that Jeff Roberts was articulate, eloquent, entertaining and passionate about his music. That’s all I need to know to call a man my friend.

Verlon Thompson

Jeff was instrumental in getting the RandallBramblett Band to SxSE for the first trip several years ago and we’ve been coming back ever since. He brought together a great group of people for a great cause and we’ve always been honored to be a part of it. We’ll miss him.

Randall Bramblett

Jeff Roberts was the original Teddy Bear. He always greeted you with a big smile and big hug. Passion for music drove Jeff to do amazing things for so many talented people. Jill and I are grateful to have been embraced by Jeff and the SxSE music family. He will be deeply missed by many here in Nashville.


Billy Block
The Billy Block Show
& Locals Only 103WKDF

In addition to being one of the more astute scholars of R & B that I have known, Jeff Roberts was also one of the most genuine people I ever met. When talking with Jeff, I never had the feeling that he had any ulterior motive. I cannot tell you how rare that is in the music business. I will truly miss him.

Craig Woolard
Craig Woolard Band

“Jeffrey Lloyd” was managing The Music Box record store in the old Myrtle Beach bus terminal when he was either a senior in high school or just starting college.  It was the highlight of my day to go there every day after school and hang out and listen to Jeff’s suggestions, and he definitely led me-or, was it, shamed me!–to branch out from Elton John! He was the first “non-rural” person I knew who enjoyed country music, and he predicted its popularity years ahead of the fact.  I remember his mischeivous glint in the eye and his wide grin whenever he was listening to music he loved.  I also remember he would pile jalapeno peppers on his burritos in the middle of the summer and wipe his brow as he ate!  I worked for Jeff and Buddy Pittman at Sounds Familiar after college, and, though we didn’t stay in touch, I feel a vacuum now in a world that no longer has these two fine men in it.  For all they meant to me, to Jeff and Buddy I say, “Thank you! Goodnight!”

Greta McDaniel

From the Facebook South By South East: SXSE Music Feast page:

I just heard about Jeff. Music has lost a great soul. He gave me a job at Sounds Familiar many years ago and changed my whole understanding of music. I’ll be forever grateful.

Tim Hewitt

It was an honor to be Jeff’s Friend. He touched so many lives including mine.Such a big loss here at the beach. My prayers are with Hunter and Jeff’s family.

Kimberly Dawn Clayton
Folk artist

How many people can call a music store while you’re on the air when a CD goes ‘bad’ and have another over to you in 15 minutes so you don’t miss your song?

He made that happen. He made a lot of things happen we should follow his lead.

I have never enjoyed doing a “KZQ 12 days of …” & working on Christmas Eve more than when we did it LIVE from Sounds Familiar. You guys remember those? Love to your family

Summer James

A friend, a genuinely decent guy, a great dad and a bona fide Myrtle Beach music icon – Jeff will be greatly missed.

Paul Grimshaw
A great friend for 28 years and I can’t believe you’re gone. My heart aches and I will miss your wit, wisdom and friendship. Even if I live to be 100, I will never know as much as you – what an incredible memory and wealth of musical knowledge! We shared a lot of laughs and you made sure I never left the store without more than one CD :-) The last time we spoke was at SxSE and I’m beating myself up because we didn’t visit longer. I miss you buddy – rest easy.
Rod Smith

I met Jeff through my college friends, Wrynn and Mike Harrell at one of the earlier SxSE shows at the Brewery. He always had a smile on, and when he spoke to you, it was as if no one else was in the room! SxSE was and hopefully will always be, a healing place. Keep the music LIVE and his memory will live on! Thanks and my deepest gratitude to everyone who is a part of SxSE – so much music I deeply love, I would never have heard were it not for Jeff!

Janet Chapman

Like so many of you I had the pleasure of knowing Jeff. Sounds Familiar was part of my youth and, at the time, a wonderful outpost to the commercial jack in a box music stores that followed (what became of the Paul Stanley-ized Farah Fawcett poster in the back room?) Jeff was always a supporter of Sandwitch and for that I’ll always appreciate what he did for local music and local musicians. One of a kind.

John D. Rutenberg

I have known Jeff for nearly 20 years, but he became a real friend to me the last two or three years. Especially the last two years, Jeff and Hunter were around our house nearly everyday. Jeff would come pick Hunter up and most days chat with me while I cooked dinner, and we always had something to talk about. And I know he listened and was interested in what I talked about because he would always bring me an article, magazine, or something related to what we talked about. He would remember things special to me, and what can I say, I never knew anyone like him.

My life forever changed on Monday when my friend did not come home, but as sad as it is to see him go, I think he has taught me (again) how important my friends are- they are my wealth. I love you Jeff, I see you everywhere, I hear your voice, and I feel your love! I meant what I said, I won’t let you down! Peace.

Dana Phillips

Sam’s Story

My little brother has gone to his new record store…it is in a better place.  I remember meeting Jeff at the after high school football game dance when our band was playing at is what is now  Pepper Geddings Recreation Center.  He was about 12 years old and one of the tallest people in there.  We established a friendship through the mutual love of music later that year when I was working at The Record Shak music store downtown, and he would come and hang out. I quit the shop  and Jeff started working there.  I would always come by the store when in town and during the summers and hang with him at the store…talking music always.
In 1975 he called me to ask if he could have a job at The Record Bar that I was moving back home from Columbia to open at Myrtle Square Mall.  I said sure, and we started a bond that few enjoy at that point.  We had a family of “Rock N’ Roll Crazies” that opened and later worked at that store, and these were – without a doubt – some of my best memories.
We worked closely with Cecil Corbett Of Beach Club Productions, and got to rub shoulders with the Rock stars that Cecil would book at his various venues.  I went on to other things and Jeff became manager of the store for a brief period.  Pete Smolen from Record Bar Headquarters was wanting to open a store-Sounds Familiar- in Myrtle Beach.  The first thing I suggested was that he should contact Jeff…and Sounds Familiar was born.
We went through the years with Jeff expanding this huge network of friends that would become his “family.”  This has been proven with the multitude of messages sent via e-mails, facebook messages, cards and phone calls, as well as the huge amount of folks who attended his funeral services.
When Jeff suggested we have the first “living room concert” (our friends, Nell Huffman and Bob O’Connor  from The Mullets, had one a few months before at their house) at our friends’ the Millsaps and Tinkers’ Aloha Motel recreation room, and that he had these two ladies from Nashville-Jill Block and Lauren Ellis  to play, I said that would be fun.
Little did we know that we were sowing the seeds of SxSE. After one more show at the old Royal Oak Restaurant, we decided to contact the Secretary of State of S.C., and moved onto a charitable/non-profit status, with the mission being twofold: bring music not heard at any other venue to the area and serve as a music educational vehicle, and to donate what money we could to the musical needs of kids in the area who could not afford to rent,buy or /experience the joys of music.
Through Jeff’s  and our other volunteers’ and partners’ hard work, we have been able to construct and maintain our mission.  We have been able to showcase world class music and entertainment and we have helped kids experience music  through instrument drives, scholarship donations, band uniforms and more.
Jeff was the driving force behind this most wonderful “thing we do.”  We are very proud of it.
Our plan is to serve as a legacy to this man who was larger than life itself.  We ask for your continued support and help to stay on course.
– Sam Hannaford
SxSE Advisory Board

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