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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Still Glowing - The Embers

Posted August 27, 2008 9:10 a.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2008 9:48 a.m. EDT

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.