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Going for No. 6
By JOSEPH SITARZ
, Staff Writer
Saturday, November 09, 2013 7:00 PM
The Carolina Beach Music Awards are being presented today at Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach. McCormick's own Rhonda McDaniel has a chance to do what no other woman has done in the history of the Carolina Beach Music Awards.
She could become the first to win the title of Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. No one has ever done it ... not Susan Trexler, Terri Gore, Ruby Andrews, Molly Askins, Allie Privette, Karen Clayton, Lesa Hudson or Shana Blake.
Rhonda has had a stronghold on the top female award given each year by the Carolina Beach Music Academy since 2008. That's not surprising. Rhonda is one of the best in the business.
With a win today, Rhonda will cement her place in beach music history. My fingers are crossed.
Whenever I interview Rhonda about being nominated for female vocalist of the year, she seems genuinely surprised her name appears on the ballot.
I still haven't figured out why.
Granted, she always says it's hard for someone from the Upstate area of South Carolina while most of the beach music bands are from or regularly perform at ... well ... the beach. She's blown that theory out of the water for the past five years.
That's not to say Rhonda doesn't sing at the beach. She does, but at a much more limited pace than some of the other nominees. Members of the Academy predominantly live along the coast of North and South Carolina and Virginia. Members are those who select the nominees and who vote for the winners.
Getting her name on the ballot is a testament to the loyalty of her fans. She has a lot of them. She has sponsors who love her from points east of here. More than a handful of beach music bands have asked Rhonda to perform with them, which she does. She shared the stage with the biggest names in the business, either for planned sets or impromptu performances.
Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Birty and Jim Lightner from a small town near Wilmington, N.C. I didn't get to meet them at their home. Instead, I met them in Newberry. They were in Newberry to see Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
The couple made the drive from the coast to see McCoo and Davis, best known for their time with The Fifth Dimension. They were going to catch the show, spend the night, tour Newberry and then head back home. They were having dinner and I was invited to meet them.
They're good people.
At some point Jim and I started talking about music, and more specifically, beach music. It seems Jim has loved beach music all his life.
In fact, in high school, Jim played guitar and organ in a band called the Taxmen. It seems the Taxmen cometh ... and the Taxmen goeth.
Jim said the Taxmen thought they were the next big thing, until they performed with another band they just couldn't match.
Career adjustments were made, but his love for beach music never waned.
For one of their anniversaries, Jim had the Craig Woolard Band perform. Earlier this year, for Birty's retirement, Jim brought back the Craig Woolard Band, and for good measure, he had Sea Cruz and the Band of Oz perform, too.
How cool is that? What's just as cool is he knew who Rhonda was. I showed him a few photos of Rhonda I had on my phone when she performed with the Fabulous Expressions in Calhoun Falls for the Independence Day celebration.
He catches beach music shows whenever he can. He's a member of the Academy. He has a copy of Rhonda's CD. He said she's got the best voice out there, bar none.
That day in Newberry, when I told him how close he was to McCormick, he couldn't get over it.
For all he knows about Rhonda, and for as much as he likes her, he still doesn't know how amazing she is live.
Here's hoping I get a chance to take Jim and Birty to see Rhonda in concert ... with her being the six-time Carolina Beach Music Female Vocalist of the Year.
Sitarz can be reached at 943-2529 or via email at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.
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