DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Carolina Soul Band Gonna Make Me Eat My Words

Posted in Interviews by darielb on July 27, 2011

Carolina Soul Band (photo by Jim Allen)

I  need to stop shooting my mouth off about how sick I am of tired old cover

tunes and even tired-er cover bands because, sure as Shinola, every time I do, some band comes along and insists on playing everything from “Mustang Sally” to “Lady Soul;” and completely blows me out of the water.

Carolina Soul Band is that band, and they’ve made me eat every last snarky word I’ve had to say about cover bands. I caught one of their sets at the O.D. Beach Club and it was a blast! Talk about high energy, I still have goose bumps from the vocals. The sax player was a crowd pleaser. They’re all showmen. What a great party band these guys are.

The nine-piece powerhouse puts out some of the sweetest, coolest, hottest

Rhonda McDaniel joined the band at the O.D. Beach Club.

soularound – a mix of old school, R&B, beach music and southern soul. Their high energy level along with huge talent will bring you back for more.

Last week, I had a chance to talk to drummer Chris “Silk” Terry, who is also the group’s founder. He formed Carolina Soul Band about two years. He and all but one of the other band members had played for years as the backup band for Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters.

“I started off in gospel, played with the Brooklyn All Stars,” Chris told me. “I grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C. My dad was a gospel singer. My uncles played guitar, drums, keyboard …  I think I chose drums so I could make a lot of noise.”

How big an influence was Bill Pinkney, I wanted to know.

“Bill was like a father to me. It’s hard hitting the stage and he’s not there. He taught me a lot about the music, and keeping it alive,” Chris remembers. “He showed me how to be a great entertainer and that I should never be arrogant with fans because the fans are who support us. He taught me so much. July 4, 2007 in Daytona was the hardest show I’ve ever played. That’s when Bill Pinkney passed.”

Bill Pinkney’s influence is evidenced throughout the band.

Jervey “Supreme Keys” Geddies, longtime bandleader for Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters also serves as CSB’s bandleader and keyboard player. FromCharleston, S.C. he has toured with Betty Wright, the Platters and the Coasters.
Joe “Run-On” Turner from Suffolk, Va., was one of Bill Pinkney’s lead vocalists, and you’ll know why after just one tune. What a voice!

Midway, N.C. boy Kacey “Smooth” Leak is also a vocalist from the Bill Pinkney days, and he plays lead guitar for CSB. He has also played for the Charlie Thomas Drifters, Ollie Woodson from the Temptations and the Herb Reed Platters.

Vocalist Erik Glenn is from Columbia, S.C. In additional to touring with Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters, he has starred in the gospel play  “Bible Story” with Donald Lawrence and Daryl Coley.

Will Green, also from Columbia,  performed with Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, Jerry Butler, The Gap Band, Jeffery Osborne and more. He plays organ and keys, lead and bass guitar, drums and is also a super vocalist.

Phil “Crazy Strings” Watson from Myrtle Beach is the group’s rhythm guitarist, and he’s on vocals, too. He’s toured with Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters, Percy Sledge and the Marshall Tucker Band.

Birmingham, Ala. vocalist Paul Shields puts the soul in Carolina Soul Band. He’s also toured with Bill Pinkney and other nationally known acts. Once again … goose bumps.

Chuck “7 Strings” Ruby is the group’s bass player and also provides vocals. From Baltimore, Md., he’s the new guy, joined Carolina Soul Band about a year ago. Chuck plays a seven-string bass and, on occasion, a six-string fretless, bringing a definite jazz influence to the group. I bet Bill Pinkney would be pleased.

Chris tells me that it was his soon-to-be-wife and booking agent, Katisha Gladden, who – after Bill’s passing – pushed the group to form: “She comes in one day and says to me, ‘You’re too talented to be sitting at home. So here’s your name and your website.’
“We owe her a lot. She got us going.”

They haven’t stopped to look back once. They’ve been playing clubs, corporate events, festivals … and audiences love them.

“I think ‘Dock of the Bay’ is our most requested song,” says Chris. “But we get asked for ‘Baby Don’t Be Mad at Me’  a lot, too.”

“Baby Don’t Be Mad at Me” is Carolina Soul Band’s current single, a beach tune that’s climbing the charts and getting these guys some notice.

They’re also hard at work on a new CD (which will include covers and original tunes). Musician Jim Quick and Keith Houston, owner of KHP Music in Dunn, N.C., after one of the group’s early Fat Harold’s appearances, contacted Chris and set up a recording deal to co-produce a new album, which they expect to release this fall.

“Our band’s goal is to keep good clean music alive,” says Chris. “We want the younger generation to know that not everything is about killin’ and spillin’.

“I love when the parents and grandparents bring their kids who dance and love the music, too.”

All in all, I suppose a cover tune or two won’t hurt me, if I get to listen to musicians like these guys.

Here are some upcoming shows for them: Ducks on Main St. in North Myrtle Beach (Balladeer Lenny Welch will be joining them! ); Thirsty’s2 in Greensboro, N.C. on Aug. 5; back to North Myrtle Beach for Boom Boom’s Raw Bar on Aug. 12; my favorite beach bar, HOTO’s in Cherry Grove, S.C. Aug. 28; over Labor Day weekend, Fat Harold’s on Main St. Sept. 4; down to Chucktown for the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival, Sept. 5; and back again to Fat Harold’s on Sept. 18. You’ll have a blast. And while I’m busy  eating my words, you can sing along with theirs.


Lesa Hudson: Laid Back In a Driven Kind of Way

Posted in CD Picks, Interviews by darielb on July 11, 2011

Lesa Hudson says “I don’t want to be in a box. I want to write a song, express myself and create music just the way it comes to me.”

(Photos Jim Allen; CD cover photo Jim Allen; CD cover design Joanie Dakai)

On my way to see the fabulous duo, Blue Mother Tupelo, at Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island last week, I stopped off to visit with singer/songwriter Lesa Hudson, so we could talk about her new solo recording, her work with Rick Strickland Band and her plans for the future.

I’ve known Lesa for a couple years and have always considered her to be pretty laid back and mellow. During this visit, though, I was struck by just how driven she is.

Much like her bandmate, Rick Strickland, she’s driven to write, to create.

“I’m a songwriter first. I’m always writing. In fact, I’d like Rick to produce a

“When You Look At Me,” Lesa Hudson’s duet with Rick Strickland from her 10-track solo CD reached No. 1 on Ted Bell’s Top 20 Countdown for July 9, 2011.

Praise and Worship album for me. I already have the songs for it.”

Hudson grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. Playing piano since the age of six, her first singing “job” was with a trio at church. N’Accord was very successful and traveled throughout South Carolina. She still sings with the group when time and opportunity allow.
She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a larger contemporary Christian group. She produces and performs several Christian-based showcases, and has also performed with the classic rock band, 3 Day Funk with Keith Hamrick (formerly with Billy Joe Royal and the Atlanta Rhythm Section).

Lesa tells me she’s been writing and composing for about 15 years. (“I still have my doodle sheets in a folder somewhere.”) Her very first completed composition was “Lukewarm Christian,” written and produced in 2003. It went to No. 8 on the Power Source 100 chart. “I was thinking about my life and where I wanted to be. I didn’t want my faith to take a back seat …” she explains.

She still leads a contemporary worship service in Darlington, but her current position as lead vocalist and keyboard player with the Rick Strickland Band takes up the bulk of her time.

“Rick Strickland is an incredible talent, and I don’t know if the world really understands that,” she tells me candidly. “From day one, he has been the person I could rely on and trust. We think the same way about music.

“When I write a song, it starts with a feeling … I’m just not passionate about singing covers,” she tries to explain.

This particular thread refers to the fact that so many deejays and booking agents prefer bands and singers who perform cover tunes.

“I’ve never really taken the easy road,” she laughs. “And I guess this is one of those times. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’d just rather not play covers.”
Happily, the Rick Strickland Band is making a name for itself playing Strickland, and now Hudson, originals.

Tunes like “Something Smooth” (Rick Strickland/ 2004), “So Do I” (Rick Strickland/2008) and now “When You Look At Me” (Lesa Hudson/2010), the immensely popular Hudson/Strickland duet on Sweet Wonderful You,  have been huge hits with fans and deejays alike.

Sweet Wonderful You is Lesa’s second solo project. According to the artist, the ten original songs each tell a story about love and being thankful for the people you love. Hudson either wrote or co-wrote eight, with the other two penned by Rick Strickland.

“The current breakaway hit,” she says, “seems to be the duet with Rick, “When You Look at Me.” I intended for this song to take people back to the moment they fell in love … when they weren’t quite sure the other person felt the same way … I shared it with Rick and he loved it. He said it had to be on the project.

“Track two, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ On You,’ is a little different for me. I love the bluesy, laid back feel. It’s a little more romantic. It was a way to stretch my songwriting and my vocals.

“On the title track, ‘Sweet Wonderful You,’ I love the harmony vocals by Debbie Anderson … and for the whole CD … the amazing keyboards from Art Benton and incredible guitar work of Rick Strickland.”

The truth is, although I think Lesa comes alive when she’s under the Rick Strickland spell, she was making a name for herself long before they met.

A few years ago, one Chamber of Commerce prez said, “It wasn’t just fireworks that sparkled and lit up the sky at the July 4th Hartsville Family Fireworks Festival. It was also Lesa Hudson and her band who kicked off the holiday event with a bang!”

Kevin Stokes, songwriter for G3 Productions in Nashville, said, “Lesa’s sound is progressive and honest. A lot of times, artists deny their own passions creatively in order to squeeze into a marketplace that’s already crowded with artists doing the same thing. Taking a different road may seem like a harder route, but applaud Lesa for coming up with a sound that is as commercial as it is unique …”

David Wade agrees. He has recently signed both Lesa  Hudson and Rick Strickland (as solo artists) to his Shanty’s Records label. Wade will be booking the two artists and promoting them on radio in some expanded markets.

“I don’t want to put myself in a box. I want to write a song, express myself and create music the way it comes to me.”

Lesa Hudson is definitely driven. In a laid back kind of way.

CD Tracks: 1. Only You (Lesa Hudson); 2. Can’t Help Lovin’ On You (Lesa Hudson); 3. Falling For You (Lesa Hudson); 4. Baby Baby (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 5. When You Look at Me (Lesa Hudson); 6. Win My Heart (Lesa  Hudson & Rick Strickland); 7. Try (Rick Strickland); 8. You Make the Good Times Better (Lesa Hudson); 9.Just To Wake Up Next To You (Rick Strickland); 10. Sweet Wonderful You (Lesa Hudson).

Players on Sweet Wonderful You include Lesa Hudson (lead & background vocals, keyboards); Rick Strickland (lead & background vocals; guitar, bass & drum programming/producer); Art Benton (keyboard); Debbie Anderson (background vocals).

Port City Gets a Groove On

Posted in Interviews, Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 11, 2011

Being a fine old southern city, Wilmington, N.C. is steeped in tradition, and one of its favorites is the upcoming Cape Fear Blues Festival set for July 29 – 31.

Three days of blues in the Port City will include live concerts, a blues workshop, an all-day blues jam, a guitar raffle and the always popular Blues Cruise aboard Wilmington’s Henrietta III.

Nashville's Rickey Godfrey (Photo Mary Anne McLaurin)

Headlining the main deck on the Friday night Cruise will be Nashville guitarist Rickey Godfrey and his band.

“Rickey is a consummate entertainer,” said Cape Fear Blues Society president Lan Nichols in a telephone interview. “He’s a master on guitar … and has a really emotional voice. Rickey reads his audience and knows exactly what to give.”

Godfrey, who has been blind since birth, has been nominated for both guitarist and keyboard player of the year by the Music City Blues Society. He’s touring now as a featured guitarist with the Cee Cee James Band, so this is a rare opportunity to see the Rickey Godfrey Blues Band.
Above the main deck, fans will be treated to the retro blues of Wilmington’s own wildly popular Ten Dollar Thrill. Up in the atrium will be acoustic storyteller Tampa Blue.

Cruisers will be noshing on heavy appetizers provided by Angie’s of Chris’s Restaurant and no doubt enjoying the three different cash bars.

Get to the Blues Cruise a little early so you can enjoy Rick Tobey on the dock before you board.

The boat departs promptly at 7:30 p.m., but be sure to get there early enough to enjoy blues veteran Rick Tobey singing his unique brand of Chickenhead blues on the dock before boarding.

The Henrietta III will return to dock by around 9:30, and you’ll want to head right over to  the Port City’s favorite blues saloon, the Rusty Nail, where The Treblemakers will be rockin’ the room with their electric blues/classic surf sounds!
Presented by the Cape Fear Blues Society, the Festival has a reputation for bringing top talent to town while it also showcases the best in local and regional blues artists.

According to Nichols, this year is no exception. Saturday begins with a free

Guitarist Eric Manning is presenting this year's blues workshop.

blues workshop conducted by Raleigh-based guitarist Eric Manning and sponsored by longtime Festival supporter Finkelstein Music. Following the workshop will be a performance, also free, by Manning’s band, E-Train & the Rusted Rails, at The Cellar in downtown Wilmington.

The Festival’s Saturday headliner is Studebaker John & the Hawks (The name refers to a Studebaker Hawk, a car he still owns).

“John is a triple threat,” said Nichols. “He plays great guitar, harmonica and has an excellent voice, too. He’s got a lot of old-school Chicago in his sound, but can rock out, too.”

Born in Chicago as John Grimaldi, he started playing harmonica at about seven years old, and was greatly influenced by Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street. He learned guitar after watching a single electrified slide guitar performance of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers.

Studebaker John & the Hawks headline the Saturday night concert at the Rusty Nail. YAY!

Currently on tour through the U.S. and Canada, Studebaker John talked by phone about his newest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings’ That’s the Way You Do (Delmark 2010). The 15-track recording is essentially a tribute to all the musicians who performed on Maxwell Street.

“It was a labor of love for me. I started thinking about it years ago, when I was on a bigger blues label, but they didn’t think it was commercial.

“Then last year, I was working at St. George Records, playing a session for Delta Slim, and these two musicians – Rick Kreher on guitar and Steve Cushing on drums – were there and I thought that maybe we could do it.

“The three of us were able to conjure up a sound.

“I wanted it to be a tribute, but still original.  It’s the same line-up as Hound Dog Taylor: two guitars, drum, and harmonica … I’ve always been a fan of Less Is More.”

His Rusty Nail show on Saturday night will include tunes from the new CD as well as the full band sound of Studebaker John & the Hawks.  Don’t miss this one!

Opening for Studebaker John, by the way, is local acoustic fave, Spider Mike Bochey, so get there early.

The Sunday blues jam starts at noon, and this is always a great event. There are a lot of great players in Wilmington, and they come out of the woodwork for this event, so get ready to be entertained. Bring a lawn chair, but leave your coolers home. There will be plenty of food and drink for sale.

The Jam ends at 6 p.m. with the Finkelstein Music Guitar Giveaway—a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Raffle tickets cost $1 each with proceeds supporting the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.

Raffle tickets are available at Finkelstein Music and The Rusty Nail.

For more information about the Cape Fear Blues Festival visit http://www.capefearblues.org or call 910-350-8822.
©Dariel Bendin.

Festival Schedule
Friday, July 29
5:30 p.m. Live blues on the dock. (Water St. at Dock St.) Blues soloist Rick Tobey will  treat you to the blues,  Chickenhead style, as you wait to board.
7 p.m. Boarding begins.
7:30 p.m.  Blues Cruise on the Henrietta III! Headliner Rickey Godfrey brings his gritty, soulful blues to the main deck. Wilmington’s own Ten Dollar Bill will be rockin’ the party deck. Storyteller Tampa Blue will be in the atrium. Tickets are $49 (www.wilmingtontickets.com). Or call 910-350-8822.
9 p.m. Post-Cruise Party featuring The Treblemakers at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888).
Saturday, July 30
11 a.m. Blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music: blues guitarist/vocalist/ songwriter Eric Manning followed by an outdoor set of  jump blues and rockabilly from Manning’s band E-Train & the Rusted Rail at The Cellar, 35 N. Front St. Free.
8 p.m. Festival concert. Headliner Studebaker John & the Hawks. A night of electric blues from a Chicago legend. Opening act Spider Mike Bochey, at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888). Tickets $8 advance/$10 at the door.(www.capefearblues.org or http://www.wilmingtontickets.com)
Sunday, July 31
Noon – 6 p.m. All-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Free.
6 p.m. Guitar raffle announced. Note: you don’t have to be on hand to win! Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. A steal!

The Surf Is Back – Live and Kicking at 94.9 FM

Posted in Interviews by darielb on July 8, 2011

Recently, the folks at NoDepression.com were lamenting the fact that satellite radio, sites like Pandora and other subscription streaming services were really chipping away at what they refer to nowadays as terrestrial radio.

I don’t think it’s quite that simple, and I’m a big fan of Internet niche radio stations like Sheila Cain’s Blues City Radio or Neal Furr’s Way Down South – both on live365.com.

But I do agree with one point: live radio rocks! Where else do you get turned on to new music or get the backstory on that old, old, old tune? Who else tells you about the virtuoso guitarist that you somehow didn’t notice in the venue’s ad two weeks ago? I love a deejay with personality, someone who can add his or her two cents to the mix … and does.

Anyway, this prompted a visit to the offices of our own newly resurrected local FM station, 94.9, The Surf, right in the heart of Ocean Drive (for out-of-towners, that’s the section of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. famous for its Carolina beach music, shag dancing, and adult partying into the wee hours).

Current owner, or more accurately, co-owner, Bill Norman took time away license renewal chores to talk with me about what happened and what’s ahead for the station.

As most of you reading this already know, WVCO, 94.9 on your FM dial, has been one of the main radio outlets for Carolina Beach Music since the summer of 1998. After being named Station of the Year for nine years running, in 2010,  the station became part of a personal bankruptcy filing by then owner Harvey Graham. It seems that the banks became involved because Harvey had pledged some stock in a condo development deal that failed (That’s been rehashed in the papers already. Google it for details).

At this time, BB&T and Horry County State Bank announced that they would sell the stock of Carolina Beach Music, Inc.

And even though the bankruptcy was personal and the radio station had not declared bankruptcy, the stock had became part of it. So, Harold Worley and Bill Norman worked out a partnership agreement and put in a bid. At this point, there were three entities involved:  Harvey Graham, the banks and the Worley-Norman partnership.

Then Harvey died, complicating an already complicated situation. The banks went to court, had a receivership appointed, and the receivership became the owner. Carolina Beach Music LLC ( Norman and Worley’s company) signed with the receivership, and filed papers with the FCC to become a licensee.
For reasons that Bill Norman says he doesn’t understand, The Surf went dark on January 16.

The good news is that three months later on April 16, The Surf was back on the air. For a brief period, listeners heard a simulcast with WNMB-AM 900, also owned by Bill Norman.

Today, 94.9 FM The Surf is operating at full power, playing today’s Carolina beach music as well as classic beach music oldies. There are live deejays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The morning slot is filled by Skipper Summers. He’s been with The Surf for about six weeks and already striking a chord with listeners. You may recognize him from his previous On the Waveline With Marty Shirah talk radio show in Wilimington, N.C., or from his five-year stint with Dick Lee on the Big Talker.

“Skipper is a great communicator,” says Bill Norman. “He’s a good fit for the radio station.”

Ted Bell, who we all know and love from the original Surf, hosts the All Request Beach Café at 12:30 p.m. on week days. People leave him messages on Facebook, they call the station and they send emails.  And now on Saturday mornings he hosts the Top 20 Countown. (I’m glad, because we’ve missed Ray Scott’s Top 40 show.)  According to Ted, the top tunes are based on listener requests; reports from sales outlets such as Judie’s House of Oldies and the Wax Museum; and charts like Craig Fleming’s Beach Music 45.

Afternoon drive time is hosted by Freakin’ Deacon (aka Deacon Dawson), the multi-talented voiceover, artist, actor and off-the-wall deejay. Ask Bill Norman about Deacon and he just laughs. Freakin’ Deacon has that kind of effect on people.

Bill Norman recognizes the importance of building a rapport with his listeners. He said, “Our best indication of success is the response from our listeners and from our clients.

“The Surf is getting about 150 emails a day from listeners. Last Wednesday, we had 1,700 online with an average listening time of two hours.”

According to Norman, today’s Surf radio is owned by him along with Harold Worley and his children H.G.Worley, Jessica Worley and Lindsey Worley.

Bill Norman’s AM station, WNMB, which he has owned with his wife, Susie since 2001, shares space with The Surf at 429 Pine Avenue in North Myrtle Beach. An oldies station, WNMB plays hits from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The station also runs community programming. It has between 500 and 550 streaming listeners every day.

Located in the same building, WNMB provides production for The Surf, and has its own deejay lineup.

Bill Norman has the morning slot, covering news and community information. Bob Dale, who was a mainstay at WTOB,  Winston-Salem’s Top 40 station during   the 60s and 70s, handles the afternoon time slot. Susie Norman works on air, too. And Jerry Holt has a regular Friday and Saturday night show with a devoted following.

Websites for both stations offer streaming audio. Just click the links. Visit The Surf at http://www.949thesurf.com and WNMB at http://www.wnmb.com