DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

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

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