Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Still Glowing - The Embers

Posted August 27, 2008
Updated August 28, 2008

How would you define "beach music?" And what is your favorite beach music band? Please weigh in on those two questions today.

Even though it's raining outside this seems like a perfect day to talk about beach music since drummer Bobby Tomlinson is stopping by the WRAL studios today to discuss the 50th anniversary of his legendary band The Embers. Bobby has been playing with the band since its beginnings in Raleigh when he attended Broughton High School. I asked Bobby to bring a few pieces of memorabilia by the other day and boy did he ever! His incredible collection of photographs, vinyl albums, billboards, posters and articles only added to my already strong admiration for Bobby and the band. The Embers have played for five decades entertaining appreciative audiences all over the world from Whiteville to the White House. Their latest global journey sent the band to South Korea to entertain American troops.

I actually played in a beach music band in Morganton during my high school days. We were called the Cyntriks and we looked up to and tried to emulate great bands like The Embers, The Tams and The Catalinas. I remember recording a couple of records at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte where the Swingin' Medallions laid down tracks. There was also a Western Piedmont band we really liked with an unforgettable name - Harry Deal & the Galaxies.

Beach music definitely has influenced my compositions today in the Celtic fusion vein. You can also hear hints of beach music's sweet sound in the ballads of James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett. Country music also bears the fruit of beach music in the songs of Kenny Chesney and Alabama.

My favorite beach music guru is Charlie Brown who worked for years at WKIX in Raleigh and who now has a wonderful syndicated radio show. It's called "On the Beach with Charlie Brown." No one knows beach music quite like Charlie. It was great seeing Charlie and his wife Sue at my concert this summer at The Clayton Center.

If you get a chance tune in to WRAL's Noon News today for my interview with Bobby Tomlinson. In fact, feel free to send me questions you would like to ask Bobby.

Also, be sure to check out WRAL's Pops in the Park concert Sunday afternoon at Regency Park in Cary featuring the North Carolina Symphony and The Legends of Beach. You may even get to see host Valonda Calloway shagging across the stage at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre.


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  • The ORIGINAL ladybug Aug 27, 2008

    I love beach music. Carolina girls are the best in the world ;o)

    Chairmen are THE BEST beach music band HANDS DOWN. I LOVE my Sunday on the Beach on 107.9

  • bleslie Aug 27, 2008

    I asked Bobby off camera about Jackie Gore's departure from the group and he just said Jackie wanted to strike out on his own. That is as much as he would say about it. BTW, you can see the interview online.

  • almostheaven Aug 27, 2008

    The Embers were at the very top of their game when,Johnny Hopkins,Craig Woolard and Jackie Gore played with the band.
    Right on bmg379.

  • gbred Aug 27, 2008

    I learned to shag in college by holding onto the cord on the window blinds and sometimes the doorknob. It depended on which side of the room I was on when the music started playing! I still love beach music. I wasn't able to see the show today, Bill. Did you find out why Jackie Gore left the Embers?

  • bmg379 Aug 27, 2008

    I had the pleasure to work with the band in 1979-80 when the band was Jackie Gore ,Johnny Hopkins,Craig Woolard,Bobby,Gerald Davis and Doug Strange who was replaced by Johnny Barker shortly thereafter,the band had the club on Capital blvd at Hechingers Plaza where The dental clinic now is and we played places like The Landmark at myrtle beach 2 weeks at a time,the band did the best vegas style floor shows and all the other beach bands wanted to know the secrets of what they did. Bobby and Jackie are local Raleigh guys and despite any band differences and the completely different band lineuo nowdays thru the mid 80s with the great lineup they had the Embers were one of the best beach and show bands around.And Bobby knows the best places to eat.
    Just ask Raymond Massey.If you want to see a flashback of those days make sure to see the LEGENDS OF Beach

  • dlowman Aug 27, 2008

    Yes, Bill. This definitely brought back memories. Having grown up in Valdese, most of your musings strike a familar cord. I think I probably heard Harry Deal more than the Embers since we were in WNC. Yes davidgnews, I have it from a reputatable source that beer had an important role in the development of the shag.

  • tangerine Aug 27, 2008

    Love all that is beach & beach music...favorite beach music show is Steve Hardy's Original Beach Party...gotta love those Chairmen of the Board & Craig Woolard Band

  • Riverracer8 Aug 27, 2008

    I remember the Shaggers Beach Club in Dunn very well! What good memories. I'm going to put on a beach music CD right now.

  • davidgnews Aug 27, 2008

    I remember Harry Deal. I also still have my Swingin' Medallions 'Double Shot' 45rpm.

    I'd always heard that beach music was invented so you could dance and hold a beer at the same time.

  • battenclan09 Aug 27, 2008

    What a wonderful topic today Bill!! My father's family is from Bladen Co so I have grown up listnening to beach music. My grandmother taught me to shag at the age of 5 (with either my cousin or the refrigerator door). I love the Embers and Chairmen of the Board. We even named our husky (who has blue eyes) "Sweet Carolina Girl", but call her Carly for short. My 3 yr old daughter knows every word to 'Gone Fishin" and "With This Ring" and will sing it at the top of her little lungs. Thank you for the different topics you have Bill, even though I do not post on them all, I read them and they always make my day a little brighter!!




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