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Bobby Tomlinson Drums, Bandleader
Bobby bought his first drum set after his family moved to Raleigh in 1955. And he never put down the sticks after that. That's not too surprising. Bobby started paying attention to music as a kid in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The Clovers, The Spiders, Wynonna Harris, Billy Ward & The Dominoes were the artists that caught his ear. It would be the music that shaped his career.
He was ten years old when he joined the Williams Street Elementary School Band. Band Director, John B. Thompson taught him how to play the drums. He was even promoted to the high school band while he was still in the eighth grade. His family moved to Raleigh in 1955. He made music and friendships that would last a lifetime at Hugh Morson Jr. High.
A Needham Broughton High School graduate, Bobby was a member off the Symphonic Orchestra, the Circus Band & the Marching 100. He captained the Marching 100 squad his junior and senior years. While in high school, he formed a band called The Satellites, which evolved into The Embers in 1958. He's been there, keeping time, keeping things in order ever since.
Bobby credits his first band director, John B. Thompson and his mother and father (whom most of his friends knew as "Mr. & Mrs. T") among his major inspirations and strongest supporters.
He and his wife Linda and their son live in Raleigh. He counts basketball and the Washington Redskins among his favorite diversions. By the way, when you see the Embers bus on the road, remember Bobby's not too fond of traffic and quick changing signal lights.
Craig Woolard Lead Vocalist, Saxophone
Lead Vocals-Saxophone, Tenor, Baro, Alto, Soprano-Flute
Craig has won many accolades with The Embers, and is proud of his tenure with the group as Lead Singer & Frontman. A veteran of the music industry since he was 14 years old, Craig has performed for Presidents, governors, and ambassadors (Including governors of NC, as well as Elizabeth Dole’s and former President Clinton’s inaugurations); appeared on stage with famous groups as The Four Tops, The Temptations, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, plus backed up artists as Jeff Cook, Percy Sledge, Archie Bell, THE BLUES BROTHERS, Chuck Jackson, Donnie Ray, Ms. Jody, EDDIE FLOYD, GENE CHANDLER, Eddie Cornelius, Jerry Butler, and Alabama. He has played such events as the 100th Celebration of The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. His music has been heard from the Caribbean, to New York, to California, Chicago, Atlantic City and as far away as Hawaii and Europe, and is loved in Nassua and St Thomas for his annual appearance at Senor Frogs. For the past 10 years, he has co-hosted the acclaimed the Carolina Beach Music Awards (affectionately known as the “CAMMYS”) held each November at the Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach. And once again, Craig was the GRAND MARSHALL for the ever so popular SOS parade held each spring at Myrtle Beach, SC. He recently worked with Petty Enterprises producing a Beach Music CD to benefit Victory Junction, a camp for seriously ill children, as well as a TV show spotlighting Beach Music.
In 2011, in honor of his contributions to his industry, Craig was inducted into the CBMA Hall of Fame.
On May 7, 2005, the CWB performed right on the racetrack at the Darlington Dodge 500 in front of 120,000 NASCAR and Beach Music Fans! But there’s more – Craig was honored to be invited to sing the NATIONAL ANTHEM at the race, which was aired on FOX TV for Millions of people!
As further recognition for his accomplishments throughout his career, Craig has received the following awards:
Entertainer of the Year – 2 wins
Male Vocalist of the Year – 13 wins
Group of the Year (2 wins)
Song of the Year – 2 wins “LOVE DON’T COME NO STRONGER” and “I’VE GOTTA FEELING” (Cammys)
Best Duo for “CRUISIN’” with Marsha Handcock *Cammy Awards)
Producer of the year 2002 (Cammy Awards)
Collaboration of the Year 2002 (Cammy Awards) – ‘THAT’S SUMMERTIME TO ME”
Song of the Year 2002 and 2004 (Cammy Awards)
Male Vocalist 2002 (Rhythm & Beach Awards)
Song of the Year 2002 (Rhythm & Beach Awards)
#1 Song in 2002 (Rhythm & Beach Awards)-“Love Don’t Come No Stronger”
Other awards while with The Embers include: Most Charted Songs, Entertainer of the Year, Group of the Year, Blues Song of the Year; the list goes on and on…
Furthermore, Craig is one of the most loved entertainers in Beach Music today. He will go out of his way to help his many fans…singing at a five year-old’s class birthday party, entertaining at a school function, performing for a Christian Businessman’s Luncheon. or at a Fundraiser for a person in need. You may see his daughter on stage with him at many shows, and his son (who appeared with him since he was in diapers) is performing with him and writing songs as often as he can!
Stephen Pachuta Trumpet, Flugel Horn
Trumpet Player, Stephen Pachuta, formerly of Beach Music bands: The Coastline Band and The Main Event Band, is now playing trumpet for The Embers. His formal training in music school, as well as four years of playing in Beach music bands, has made Pachuta a sought after musician both on stage and in the studio.
As a section player, most of his studio work is recorded with Saxophone player, Butch Barnes of the Band of Oz. Together they do the arrangements and recording to create that well-known sound of the 'Carolina Horn Section' on many beach music hits.
Pachuta has recorded with The Rickey Godfrey band, Band of Oz, Coastline Band, Big John Thompson, Dink Perry, Tin Tymes and many others. His trumpet playing is heard on Beach music labels one20inc, Ripete, and KHP Productions.
Hugh "Tuff" Blanton Bass
Hugh (nickname Tuff) Blanton started playing guitar at 7 yrs. old. At 9 yrs. old he played guitar in the Battle of The Bands at Park Center in Charlotte, NC (came in 2nd) with a group called The Batrons. At 16 he began playing drums in a country band with his mom and dad (The Starlighters), who both sang and played.
He then began playing bass for a living while still attending high school with a few bands around the Charlotte area (Caesar, FoxFire, Cracker), and then was asked to join The Entertainers who were forming, based out of Charlotte,NC. After that, he moved on to play with The Breeze while doing session work and playing with other Artists like The David Caudle Band at Jazz Charlotte, Bobby Donaldson (Fairplay) and freelancing with bands all over the southeast.
In 2006 Hugh started playing with Eastern NC’S Spare Change and spent close to 5 yrs. with those guys and gal. In March of 2012 Hugh joined The Unknown Hinson Show and toured the country for around 8 months. He’s done a lot of session work, (gospel, cover material, originals, country, beach, funk) and just enjoy’s playing.
Jeff Grimes Guitar, Vocals
Jeffrey Miles Grimes has been playing professionally since high school. In fact, it’s all he’s ever done. Back in those days (early 70s), Jeff “sat-in” countless times with The Embers but he was usually playing saxophone. As most of the Carolina’s music trivia buffs know, during the 70s the Embers horn section consisted of 2 trumpet players….Johnny and Buck. Consequently, there was always room for a sax player. It was during these years that Jeff began a long friendship and association with Jackie, Bobby, and the Embers.
It was about 1973 that Jeff began “testing the waters” in New York City. By 1975, Jeff found himself working as a guitarist for Atlantic Records and recording or touring with The Jimmy Castor Bunch, Ben E. King, Sister Sledge, The Spinners, and others. But, as is so often the case with young talented musicians, he was unable to parlay this front-loaded success into a career in “The Big Time”. By 1978, Jeff was back in Nahunta, NC and forced to “re-evaluate” career choices that just weren’t working. He spent a couple of years trying to record original music and playing in a rock band named “10th Avenue” but ultimately decided to move again……this time to Florida .
The next 15 years were spent primarily in the Miami area where Jeff played house band jobs and worked in recording studios. The work was abundant and the musicians were great……but it wasn’t North Carolina.
In 1995 the phone rang - it was Bobby Tomlinson of The Embers. Jeff joined The Embers full time in ’95. Since then he has been playing with The Embers, playing jazz every chance he gets, and operating a state of the art recording studio in Goldsboro, NC.
Andy Swindell Keyboards, Vocals
Andy Swindell, the keyboard player, loves to play music and entertain. Just ask anyone who has spent any time with him.A native of Durham, Andy began piano lessons at the age of eight. His music teacher quickly realized that he was not particularly interested in classical music, so she cleverly gave him boogie-woogie and ragtime pieces to keep his interest. Today, he is still playing many of the same licks he learned at that time.
When The Beatles invaded America, Andy wanted more than anything to play in a band – just like many kids of his era. It seemed like a great way to meet girls! The opportunity presented itself when an organ player with a local band offered to sell Andy his combo organ on the “easy payment plan.” Soon, Andy was playing “Light My Fire” and other rock pieces of the day which featured lots of fine organ players.
Durham was a culturally diverse town, and exposure to the wonders of black music could not be avoided. WSSB and WKIX would play R&B hits along with the standard top 40 songs. That powerful rhythmical influence changed Andy’s tastes forever, creating a love for what eventually came to be called “beach music” to go along with his rock-and-roll roots. This melting pot of influence can be heard in everything Andy sings and plays.
Through the years, Andy has become proficient on drums, bass and guitar as well as keyboards, having played multiple instruments on many beach music recordings. Additionally, he has won awards for songwriting in several national competitions (see CDBaby.com). Still, his first love is performing live.
Andy met Craig Woolard in the early seventies, and had the pleasure of working with him from 1992 until 2001 in The Embers. According to Swindell, “It’s great to be back playing with Craig. He’s such a good guy, a natural entertainer, and a tremendous singer. I’m happy he is doing so well. And the band is terrific! What fine players and good guys!”
Bob Nantz Trombone, Trumpet
For decades The Embers have been making music by playing a mix of rhythm and blues and heart and soul. Rhythm and Blues became the foundation and essence of soul music and the Motown sound, but in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, the name that applies is “Beach Music.” Some believe that Beach Music is simply lyrics that are easy to sing with simple melodies and pretty harmonies that accompany them. Bobby Tomlinson, drummer and leader of the band, believes that Beach Music is music with a memory.
To say “The Embers play Beach Music” is an understatement. After eighteen albums and numerous single releases, The Embers are one of the most popular and active groups in the country. The Embers boast an average of two hundred fifty dates per year all ranging from Toronto to Florida and westward to California, Hawaii and most recently South Korea. Over the years they’ve played for presidents and princes, students and bankers, at the beach and in the city, on record and in concert, for our armed forces and audiences all around the world.
There are many bands or groups today yet few that are considered a musical institution. The Embers have solidified their position as a thriving musical entity leaving their mark on listeners for decades.
The Embers boast numerous albums and single releases that span decades and all the crazes continuing to exhibit top quality showmanship, musicianship and professionalism. Having been inducted into the South Carolina Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame and most recently the South Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame, The Embers are honored to carry the moniker of North Carolina's Official Ambassadors of Music. This group has traveled the country and the world and have performed for every event imaginable from the highest dignitaries to the hottest back yard frat parties. The Embers were also honored to travel throughout South Korea to perform their Christmas special 'Christmas with the Embers' on American Military bases for America's troops in December of 2007 and 2008. The Embers were awarded Military Coins of Excellence for their distinguished service.
The Embers are widely considered a musical MARVEL and have laid the groundwork for what has become known as 'Beach Music' in the Carolinas, Virginias, the gulf coast region of North America and every beach in between. A true musical tradition with which many Americans have grown. The Embers consider the genre of Beach Music as "music with a memory" and have been creating lasting memories since its inception in 1958. Simply put - Heart and Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Feel Good Music.
Today, touring is commonplace for The Embers regularly boasting an average of 225 shows per year. The Embers also embark on a cruise each year for their friends and fans to various locations throughout the Caribbean. The Embers also continue their tradition of Christmas shows throughout the holiday season this year celebrating their 8th consecutive season!
The Embers have released more than 25 albums and singles releases through the years and are currently working towards the completion of a brand new album getting back to the basics that afforded the group its initial success. Two singles 'Little Mama' and 'Lovey Dovey' are currently available from this forthcoming release and have been steadily climbing the beach music charts.
The history and complete scope of this group is soon to be realized in a documentary film 'The Embers - The Heart and Soul of Beach Music' as well as a book chronicling its history complete with fan testimonials and legendary tales of years gone by. The nearly two hour feature includes interviews from original, past and present members of the group telling the complete story of this legendary band from its inception through today. This package is being written, filmed and produced by Skip Crayton and Bill Benners in collaboration with McBryde Publishing and Digital Wunderland.
Though Ember members have changed throughout the years, one common denominator has remained the same. Bobby Tomlinson is the group's founder, band leader and drummer and still performs every show today. He is the last remaining original member. THE EMBERS of today consist of: Bobby Tomlinson (Founder/Band Leader/Drummer), Craig Woolard (Lead Vocalist/Saxaphone), Jeff Grimes (Guitar/Sax/Vocals), Stephen Pachuta (Trumpet/FlugelHorn), Hugh Blanton (Bass), Andy Swindell (Piano/Vocals), and Bob Nantz (Trombone/Trumpet).
THE EMBERS are truly one of the finest entertainment experiences of our lifetime. If you see their show once - you'll undoubtedly see them again!
Important Booking Information and Tips
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