Category Archives: Alternatives NewsMagazine Feature

Feature stories that I have authored for Alternatives NewsMagazine and/or Coast Magazine. Will never, ever, ever be anything other than what interests me, ’cause that’s how I roll.

Back On Track: Model Citizens’ Annual Train Show October 13 & 14

By Brian M. Howle

The Grand Strand Model Railroad Club will bring the tradition-steeped hobby to the public, as they have announced their second annual Model Railroad Show and Sale. The event will be held on Oct. 13 and 14 at the Lakewood Conference Center, 5837 S. Kings Highway (on the frontage road) beside Lakewood Campground, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The show will run Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 adults;  children 12;and under FREE. The Conference Center’s phone is 843-447-7383.

Modular layouts on display will include Lionel (O-gauge), HO-gauge and N-gauge sizes. There will also be Free Modeling Clinics conducted throughout the day, so you can learn now to make mountains, trees, rivers, rocks, and more. Woodland scenery – pre-made miniature grasses, rocks, shrubs and trees are available from manufacturers, but more and more modelers are going the extra step of creating their own flora and fauna. Plus, there will be door prizes, and a Kid’s Engine Simulator.

Last year there were 1,600 attendees, 75 tables with 25 vendors, and all types of trains. This year features 80 tables with 29 vendors.

The club was formed over 25 years ago in Myrtle Beach by Nick Nicholas, who moved to Florida (and sadly, has since passed away). Ed Sharrett was stationed at the M.B. Air Force Base when he joined the group 24 years ago, and the love he developed for model railroading – as for so many of all generations – had its roots in the glorious heyday of Christmas mornings that featured the coveted Lionel train set underneath the Christmas tree.

There are currently 40 avid members, ranging from 18 to 92 years young. All types of people from all backgrounds belong, from chiefs (ret. USAF) to high school student, to former railroad engineer who worked for the railroad in Japan after WWII and then worked on the PL&E in Pittsburg, Pa. Always looking for new members that are interested in the hobby and would like to share their knowledge with others, they have operating sessions and in-house clinics to teach each other about all types of subjects: electrical, scenery, track laying, weathering and painting cars.

Their headquarters has recently moved to a new home after 25 years in downtown Myrtle Beach. The new location is at Myrtle Beach Mall on Hwy. 17 next to Bass Pro Shop, just off the Hwy. 22 interchange. The hours of operation are Saturdaya 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Mondaya 4 to 7 p.m.

Before or after the show, stop by and see the three layouts: The Lionel, the N-gauge and the HO-gauge are operational.

Their transportable N-Scale modular layouts meet National Standard specifications, which means they can be attached to other layouts with the same specs. The club can take their layout to national shows or conventions and literally “plug in” to other layouts.

According to Sharrett, the train sets and layouts of today have advanced by leaps and bounds from those earlier forerunners. The world of model railroading use to be overwhelmingly Lionel (O-gauge), with one train and one track. Placing a second train would reduce voltage and slow the performance of both trains. Those “little engineers” now over the age of 40 have fond memories of this larger gauge format of trains and accompanying accessories, which were almost always located in more expanisive attic or basement locations.

Old layouts required huge amounts of wiring for each and every function of trains, tracks and accessories. Electronics now allow layouts to utilize computer chip technology that gives today’s enthusiasts far more control with a fraction of the time to build.

But today, the sets are controlled by Digital Command Control (DCC), which allows you to run 99 trains on one track at the same time, traversing in different directions and at different speeds, complete with sound systems that reproduce those snorting gases, air pumps, pistons and steam hissing – along with that amazing sensory delight, the billowing smoke from the old steam engines – that make the illusion ever stronger.

The engines have small electronic chips that receive the signals from the DCC controller, similar to your TV’s remote control. These are dedicated signals for all of the different commands you might wish to program into your layout.

HO-gauge is currently the most popular in today’s model railroading world, because of its size and relatively lower costs. The larger Lionel scale is still popular, but requires a lot of space (and money) to build a working layout.

And the advent of N-gauge opens up the ability to have a great layout in a much smaller space, giving them the nickname of “Coffee Table Layouts.”

But if you really want to go small, the incredible “Postage Stamp” Z-gauge has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

Size Matters

As mentioned above, model railroaders have several scale sizes to consider when building a train layout:

Z Gauge – 220:1 Scale – Smaller than a penny, about the height of the top of Lincoln’s head. (Requires almost sterile operating environment, though; a speck of dust can bring your railway to a screeching halt!).

N Gauge – 1:160 Scale – This scale has exploded in popularity, due to the fact that you can build a huge scenario on a simple 4’ x 8’ layout, and buildings, scenery and accessories are plentiful.

HO Gauge – 1:87 Scale – The most popular scale, not as big as “O” Gauge, but big enough to provide great layouts and detail work. Again, huge variety of accessories.

S Gauge – 1:64 Scale – Most likely your Grandfather’s train set!

Standard “O” Gauge – 1:48: Scale – The one that went *BOOM* after WWII and graced millions of Christmas morning floors.  Consisting mostly of Lionel and American Flyer sets; layout complementing Corgi die-cast vehicles are also scaled this size.  Accessories are varied and may be harder to find (where you live), but worth every penny.

G Gauge – 1:29 Scale – A much larger scale, this scale is used in outdoor layouts that have become the darling of retirees across the country. Combines track planning and outdoor landscaping, which begs for a scale trestle over water somewhere!

On Site At The Show

The club will feature these layouts at the Lakewood Conference Center show:

N Scale – 6 ft. x 20 ft. layout – 8 Trains, 4 Tracks.

HO Scale – 10 ft. x 18 ft. layout.

Lionel (O-gauge) layout – 5 ft. x 6 ft. – Kids will love to operate these, which feature the some of Lionel’s legendary accessories, including the operating Log Loader, and an Electro-Magnetic Crane that picks up washers and puts them in a gondola car.

The club has constructed some interesting ways to show off model railroading to the kids (and not-so-little kids!).

The club uses a trailer to take the N-Gauge layouts to train shows, and the trailer has been painted to look like a real train caboose, complete with ladders, the smokestack from the old wood stove, and the iconic cupola on top!  Look for the Little Red Caboose to guide you in when arriving at the show’s site.

All proceeds from the sale go to the club building fund, so that the permanent home layouts will remain on the strand for all model railroading enthusiasts to enjoy for many more generations to come.

For further information, contact Edward Sharrett at 843-293-4386; Joe Corsetti at 843-297-7162; or Bill Smith at 843-602-2420.

This article was originally published at


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Spring Ushers In All Her Natural Finery At Charleston’s Magnificent Gardens

By Brian M. Howle

No use trying to deny it any longer, folks – around these parts (and a good portion of the nation), winter is listed as M.I.A. and it looks as if we can shelve the sweaters and blankies until next year – because we have slipped right past the ol’ Vernal Equinox (that’s First Day of Spring, Vern) and there is no shortage of things to do around the Palmetto state.

The iconic Long Bridge at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

And while there is a veritable plethora of activities for you to enjoy, I must admit blatant prejudice in advising you to make one annual spring event that “Must See” item on your agenda, and the bestest part of my choice is that it can be enjoyed by every member of your family – and if you choose the one that allows it, even Fido can join the family outing!

See how magnificent a swamp can look, as it frames the basis for Cypress Gardens off of Hwy. 52 near Moncks Corner.

I’m speaking of what I personally find to be one of South Carolina’s most stellar attractions, which features the perfect union of the ingenuity and stewardship of humans with the breathtaking beauty of nature in all of her majestic glory – the ring of Gardens that encircle Historic Charleston and the immediate vicinity.

You can peruse the brochures, look online and get pertinent info … but there is NOTHING to compare with being there and taking in the stunning beauty that prevails and permeates every molecule of your being.

The breathtaking majesty of terraced landscaping that flows down to the waters of Middleton Place on Hwy. 61, which runs along the Ashley River.

Oh, and if you have a pooch, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the ONLY garden in the state that allows doggies.  Be responsible and have them on a leash, but trust me, they will have a field day – and so will you.

Cypress Gardens • 3030 Cypress Gardens Road (Off of Hwy. 52 W.) • Moncks Corner, SC 29461 • 843-553-0515 •

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens • 3550 Ashley River Road (Hwy. 61 N.) • Charleston, SC 29414 • (800) 367-3517 •

Middleton Place • 4300 Ashley River Road (Hwy. 61 N.) • Charleston, SC 29414 • (843) 556-6020 • (800) 782-3608 •

And, honestly, in a category all its own – and season or time of year not that important, although always gorgeous with luscious, green leaves amongst massive, winding limbs that are draped with different forms of moss, from moist, wet green velvet to the arid, gray lifeless appearance of Spanish Moss hanging like a spirit that lingers on earth with a passionate urgency:
Angel Oak in all her majesty, in living color!  Notice the man in red jacket on left and person to left of trunk to gain perspective on size of the tree.

Angel Oak in all her majesty, in living color! Notice the man in red jacket on left and person to left of trunk to gain perspective on size of the tree.

The Angel Oak Tree • 3688 Angel Oak Road (Off of Hwy. 17 S. [Savannah Highway] and east on Main Road) • Johns Island, SC 29455 • (843) 559-3496

Angel Oak Tree Park is located on Johns Island with no admission charge. The park also has a gift shop and picnic area. On Johns Island stands the majestic Angel Oak. Estimated to be between 300-400 years old; the tree towers 65 feet high and has a circumference of 25.5 feet. Its area of shade is 17,000 square feet and its largest limb has a circumference of 11.5 feet, and a length of 89 feet.

Live oaks are not particularly tall trees, but have wide-spreading canopies. Only in the very old specimens do you find massive limbs resting on the ground, as you do the limbs of the Angel Oak. The City of Charleston acquired the Angel Oak Park in1991.

Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 9am-5pm
Sunday- 1pm-5pm
No Admission Charge

This article also appeared in Alternatives NewsMagazine, April 2012.



Michael “Buffalo” Smith: A South Carolina Writer’s Take On Southern Rock And More

By Brian M. Howle

Michael "Buffalo" Smith.

We southerners are a unique breed, in all humbleness and honesty.  And the way we are perceived is often multi-layered and complex, for a geographically and stereotypically pigeonholed group of folks.  Sometimes it’s disarmingly charming, sometimes it’s laden with humor, and sometimes it’s brutally honest. But then again, so is life.

And if it happened in music, in the genre of Southern Rock, and more particularly, thru the eyes of a southern renaissance man – it was probably performed, covered, experienced, and written about by Michael “Buffalo” Smith.

Smith is an author, music journalist and musician living in Greenville, SC. He grew up down the road in Spartanburg during the heat of the seventies Southern Rock boom at a time when his hometown heroes The Marshall Tucker Band were at the top of their game. Even then Buffalo was sowing the seeds that would one day find him referred to as the “Ambassador of Southern Rock.”

Buffalo worked many jobs as newspaper editor, features writer, columnist, sports reporter, layout and more. He also logged several years as a radio air personality while singing and playing his own music and recording five albums that featured many of his high school era heroes, including Bonnie Bramlett, Pete Carr, George McCorkle, Tommy Crain and Tommy Talton.

In 1998, Buffalo founded the online magazine GRITZ and began a ride that lasted over 13 years, including three years as a glossy print magazine. During the GRITZ years, Buffalo conducted countless interviews and wrote hundreds of features, reviews and columns/blogs. When CMT needed a Southern Rock authority to appear on their Outlaw Country and Southern Rock special, they enlisted Buffalo. He would later appear on the documentary section of the Shout! Factory release Live from the Garden State by The Marshall Tucker Band.

In 1997 Buffalo’s first book was published by Marshall Tucker Entertainment of Beverly Hills, CA. Carolina Dreams: The Musical Legacy of Upstate SC was a history of the MTB and all the other great music that came from the region. The book includes lots of great photos and history on The Marshall Tucker Band (and all the bands that they had prior to MTB), Garfeel Ruff (featuring the amazing Rickey Godfrey), Artimus Pyle, Hank Sugarfoot Garland, Esquerita, Marshall Chapman, David Ball, Don Reno, Aaron Tippin and many more… Star tributes to both Toy and Tommy Caldwell, many one on one interviews. Foreword written by Charlie Daniels and an introduction by Marshall Tucker’s Doug Gray.

His second book, 2006’s Outlaws, Rebels & Renegades, was drawn from over seven years worth of published interviews, “Outlaws” includes some of the best interviews conducted by Smith for GRITZ Magazine (as well as other publications like Goldmine and Hittin The Note) with members of The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band and many more.

His most recent release is The Brown Box: Remembering Greenville Memorial Auditorium. This is the history a S.C. venue that, although it was closed and imploded in the early ’90s, still holds a lot of happy memories for many people. It was the home of Monday night wrestling and the site of many outstanding concerts including the final performance by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band. The fans, the stars and the employees were interviewed for this little labor of love.

He currently has a memoir book in line for publication called Prisoner of Southern Rock with a foreword by Billy Bob Thornton, which will be published by Mercer University Press in September, 2012.

And for current interviews with the legends of Southern Rock and more, tune in his online radio show – The Buffalo Radio Show, Sundays at 7 p.m. at

More than a musician, writer and historian, Michael is a cherished treasure for those who grew up with music as an integral part of their lives.  He is a damn fine man, an even finer friend – and we are all the better for his presence.

For more on Michael or to order one or all of his books and other merchandise, check out

This article was also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine, Vol. XXVI No. 9, Jan. 26 – Feb. 9, 2012.


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Rocktober Brings Legendary Rockers Trey Anastasio, Steve Miller, And Styx To House Of Blues Myrtle Beach

By Brian M. Howle

There are some things about life that are just universal.  With the current state of the nation – nay, the world – combined with a hotter ‘n hell/back-to-back packed tropical storm summer here in the south, those of us here along the shores of Shangri la collectively and thankfully welcome the cooler temps that the advent of Fall has brought to bear upon us.  Cool, as they say, is good.

That being the case, it’s about to get cool as grits along the Grand Strand.

After a somewhat quiet summer of music tours, things are about to change in a wonderfully major way as three iconic musical powers – each unique and totally different from each other but equally capable of burning down the stage to the delight of ecstatically frenzied fans – ramp up what promises to be a stellar fall and winter season of tours at House Of Blues in North Myrtle Beach.  Here’s what we have to look forward to over the next couple of weeks.

Trey Anastasio

An Evening with Trey Anastasio Band
Oct. 7

Amongst the faithful who like their rock served up with a healthy helping of long, seemingly meandering free-form jams, there are but a few select names that will bring out the kids in droves.  And anyone who knows the genre has a top 3 that will inevitably include Phish, and in doing so, automatically takes their creative and spiritual leader to the altar of grooviness – and that leader is Trey Anastasio.

Trey Anastasio Band hits the road this winter for an Acoustic & Electric Tour starting Feb 18th at the State Theatre in Portland, ME and ending at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA on March 5th marking the first TAB dates on the west coast since Trey reunited the Classic TAB lineup in 2008. The lineup will once again feature Natalie Cressman (trombone and vocals), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet and vocals), Russ Lawton (drums), Tony Markellis (bass and vocals), Ray Paczkowski (keyboards) and Russell Remington (tenor saxophone and flute). The show features a full solo acoustic set from Trey along with a full electric set marking the first time that Trey has toured in this format since 1999.

Trey’s band had it roots in his brother-in-law’s Vermont nightclub, Higher Ground. On April 17, 1998, for the second show in the club’s existence, Anastasio put together a band of local Vermont musicians for a one time performance under the name Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes. Among the five musicians onstage with Trey that evening were drummer Russ Lawton and bassist Tony Markellis. They debuted material that night that became part of the repertoire of both Phish and Anastasio’s solo career.

While active, his bands did not officially have a name. Fans commonly referred to them as Trey Anastasio Band, or TAB for short.

When Phish hit the scene somewhere between 1998 and their debut 2000 album, Farmhouse. Their touring was relentless, and with the signature never-ending sets and jams they quickly developed a huge following of followers. Phish went on hiatus in 2000; Anastasio rolled on with a series of projects and stayed typically busy.  Phish announced their reunion in 2002; but in the summer of 2004 they announced their final tour.  The band played their final incarnation (to date) in September at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

In the spring of 2005, Anastasio introduced a new backing band, 70 Volt Parade.

In 2006, it was renamed Trey Anastasio Band.

He has continued to tour and drop in on various gigs and festivals, and is widely recognized as one of the best free-flow jam musicians on the planet.  And his more traditional, “structured” stuff ain’t bad, either.

Oh yes, be one of the many happy chilluns that will be chillaxin’ and dancing the happy dance with the Trey Anastasio Band in a memorable evening on Friday, October 7.  Doors open 8:00 p.m.  Tickets are $39.50 Advance.

Steve Miller

Steve Miller
Oct. 8

In the formative days of what became known as FM rock, there are many names bandied about as the obligatory “givens.”  However, there are but a select few whose sound is so unique, so completely original, one only need hear – at most – 3 or 4 notes on a guitar, or 3 or 4 vocalizations to immediately recognize the artist.

Oh yes – possibly in a category all his own, Steve Miller defined what Leo Fender imagined his guitar should sound like. And just to show off, his voice is as identifiable as any to ever grace a recording device of any era.

The arrival of Miller’s infectious guitar-virtuoso riffs signaled the beginning of one of rock’s greatest bodies of work. His first album was released in 1968, and his band featured another guy you may have heard of – Boz Scaggs, on guitar and vocals.  Subsequent works over the years have included contributions from the likes of Lee Michaels, Paul McCartney, Lonnie Turner, Les Dudek, Norton Buffalo, James Cotton, John McFee, Joachim Young, Kenny G, and Joe Satriani.

Beginning with 1973’s The Joker, his signature sound struck a chord, so to speak, with audiences around the globe – but he simply exploded onto the American scene as a favorite son in the tradition of Hendrix, Fogerty, and Springsteen.

The Chicago phenom continued to burn his name into legend with the follow-up release, 1976’s Fly Like An Eagle. Hard to convey to younger listeners how incredibly huge this album was.  It dominated FM radio, college dorms and 8-tracks in automobiles nearly as much as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

(Personal Note: This album, combined with Linda Ronstadt’s Hasten Down the Wind, ”spoke” to me and was the impetus that brought me to Myrtle Beach.)

The Steve Miller Band is one of the biggest selling recording, touring and catalog artists of all time, having sold more than 50 million albums worldwide throughout its career. SMB’s Greatest Hits 74-78 compilation reached prestigious Diamond Award certification with sales of more than 13 million units sold.

Recently, The Steve Miller Band and Miller’s new imprint Space Cowboy Records announced a worldwide partnership with Roadrunner/Loud & Proud Records.  Recorded at film producer George Lucas’ infamous studios at Skywalker Ranch,  BINGO! is the band’s first studio album in 17 years. A true return to Miller’s roots, BINGO! echoes his early years in the Chicago music scene and features carefully chosen and crafted tracks performed in distinctive Steve Miller Band fashion.

Early reaction from fans and industry insiders are comparing the album to Miller’s 1968 masterpiece SAILOR. BINGO!, is the first of two albums that were recorded together as a complete body of work, the second of which will be offered next year via the new label partnership.

These recordings feature longtime Steve Miller Band member Norton Buffalo, who sadly passed away in 2009. Norton began his tenure with Miller on 1977’s Book of Dreams.

Listen up: This is Steve Miller’s first – and most likely only – appearance at House of Blues, so don’t miss what will be a seminal show for the ages on Saturday, October 8. Doors open 7:300 p.m.  Tickets are $57.50 Advance; $60.50 Day of Show.

Styx (L-R, Top): James “JY” Young, Ricky Phillips, Chuck Panozzo. (Bottom): Todd Sucherman, Lawrence Gowan, and Tommy Shaw.

Styx with The Dirty Guv’nahs
Oct. 14

Spawned from a suburban Chicago basement in the early ‘70s, Styx would eventually transform into the virtual arena rock prototype by the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, due to a fondness for big rockers and soaring power ballads. The band – founded by brothers Chuck and John Panozzo – was heavily influenced by lead vocalist and keyboard wiz Dennis DeYoung, who wrote almost all of the lyrics along with most of the music. James Young’s distinctive guitar style complimented the style, along with guitarist John Curulewski.

The band released four albums with great potential but modest success. On the eve of the tour in support of 1975’s Equinox,  original guitarist John Curulewski abruptly left the band, and was replaced by Tommy Shaw. Shaw proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Styx, as most of their subsequent releases throughout the late ‘70s earned at least platinum certification (1976’s Crystal Ball, 1977’s The Grand Illusion, 1978’s Pieces of Eight, and 1979’s Cornerstone), and spawned such hit singles and classic rock radio standards as “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” “Blue Collar Man” and “Fooling Yourself.”

1981’s Paradise Theater became Styx’s biggest hit of their career (selling over three million copies in a three-year period), as they became one of the U.S. top rock acts due to such big hit singles as “Too Much Time on My Hands”. It also marked the first time in history that a band released four consecutive triple-platinum albums.

Styx went on hiatus until a full-on reunion tour in 1996. But drummer John Panozzo fell seriously ill at the time, which prevented him from joining the proceedings — as he passed away in July of the same year.

Although grief-stricken, Styx persevered with new drummer Todd Sucherman taking the place of Panozzo, as the Styx reunion tour became a surprise sold-out success, resulting in a whole new generation of rock fans being introduced to the grandiose sounds of Styx.

Now comprised of original members Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young on guitars/vocals, along with Lawrence Gowan on keys and lead vocals, Todd Sucherman on drums and Ricky Phillips on bass (along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo), Styx continues to conquer the planet, one venue at a time.

The Dirty Guv’nahs

Oh, and in the “Damn! It just gets even better!” category, you’ll want to make sure to get there early to catch opening band The Dirty Guv’nahs, who are wildly billed as one of the hottest, equally original sounding bands to roll out in quite some time.  They’re on this tour in a support role for a reason, kids: make that ticket give you every penny’s worth and be sure to hear these boys as they whet your appetite for Styx.

The stage at House Of Blue was made for a show like this, with Styx rocking out our own Paradise on Friday, October 14. Doors open 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $32.00 Advance; $35.00 Day of Show.

Don’t get too complacent after these three shows, though. Upcoming shows include J. Cole, O.A.R., Colbie Caillat, Anthrax, Testament, Queensrÿche, Los Lonely Boys, Josh Turner and more.

Like I said, it’s about to get cool as grits along the Grand Strand.

For info on all shows, call 843-272-3000; for tickets call 1-877-598-8497; or visit .

This article was also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine, October 6 – 22, 2011 Issue.


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“Rocky And A Piano” Now At The Carolina Opry’s Gilmore Auditorium

By Jordan Walkins

Fans of The Carolina Opry and its original long-time keyboard player, Rocky Fretz, will have an opportunity to see him perform in a weekly piano matinee this fall, which began September 21. In contrast to the grand performances and special effects that occupy The Carolina Opry stage by night, Rocky and a Piano will offer a more intimate performance.

Patrick O’Leary accompanies pianist Rocky Fretz in the new Rocky And A Piano matinee at The Carolina Opry.

Accompanied by his favorite bass player Patrick O’Leary, this show will highlight Fretz’s talents in their purest form, featuring a variety of well-known classics as well as a few original compositions. Shows in November and December will also include holiday music.

Rocky joined The Carolina Opry as an original cast member in 1986, where his stunning piano solos and signature charisma consistently brought audiences to their feet. He continued to perform full-time through 2003, when he became a rotating artist pursuing his solo piano and recording career. In the intervening years he has been invited regularly to perform at The Carolina Opry in short runs. He will appear in the 2011 edition of The Carolina Opry Christmas Special, often called “the Christmas show of the South,” each evening for the length of its run.

Calvin Gilmore, owner and producer of The Carolina Opry, said “Rocky and a Piano is a great change of pace from what you usually see in our theater; just Rocky, a piano, and beautiful music. The smaller setting will create a really unique and interactive experience for the audience.” Rocky Fretz said, “It will be an honor to do a show at Gilmore Auditorium – and I have some surprises for you too. It’s going to be fun and upbeat all the way!”

Rocky and a Piano will run most Wednesdays, September 21 through December 28 at 2 p.m., and the performance will last approximately 50 minutes. For a complete list of show dates please contact The Carolina Opry Reservations line at 843-913-4000. Adult tickets are $27.00 through October and $29.95 in November and December, or just $15.00 when packaged with The Carolina Opry, Good Vibrations, or The Carolina Opry Christmas Special; restrictions apply, so call for details.

About The Carolina Opry

Gilmore Entertainment has long been the leader of musical variety show entertainment in the Southeast, with the classic Carolina Opry show and their newest hit, Good Vibrations. Gilmore and his Carolina Opry have been featured by USA Today, ABC Nightly News, Southern Living Magazine, Variety, and a host of other newspapers and television shows. It is the only Myrtle Beach show to receive the coveted South Carolina Governor’s Cup, as well as being voted South Carolina’s Most Outstanding Attraction. In recent years, Gilmore has performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and he is designated as South Carolina’s Official Country Music Ambassador.


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The S.C. Soundtrack – Featuring Music From And About South Carolina

By Brian M. Howle

We all have an inborn love of the place we were born and raised: our home, our base, our never-ending love of who we are and where we are from, and the memories that form that sweet, precious feeling.

And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that, when it comes to memories, one of the strongest triggers known to humankind is music.  We have all become familiar with the phrase, “soundtrack of our lives,” because that’s exactly what they are – and audio scrapbook that coalesces all those wonderful times in our lives that we each hold dear in our minds and hearts.

So what better way to document life in South Carolina than an actual soundtrack of all the tunes related to or about life or artists in one of the sweetest places on God’s green earth?

Answer: The S.C. Soundtrack.

This project was put together back in 2007, but knowledge about music and musicians from one’s home state never gets old., the South Carolina Information Highway Web site, has put together a South Carolina soundtrack, with songs either about the Palmetto State or by artists who were born here.

These folks suggested songs and took suggestions from readers, and then  narrowed down the South Carolina soundtrack to 15 South Carolina- inspired songs, including beach music, country, blues, bluegrass and even some rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and jazz.

Songs receiving the most votes (a tie) were “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor and “Carolina Girls” by (the late) General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board.

The rest of the songs were selected based on popularity. The SCIway site, has more details about why the songs were chosen in the “liner notes” section.

Here they are, in no particular order:

The Twist – Chubby Checker
Hailing from Spring Gully (near the town of Andrews along the Georgetown / Williamsburg county line), Chubby Checker (aka Ernest Evans) was born in 1941. He grew up in South Philadelphia. Mostly known for his 1960 summer hit, The Twist, Checker was instrumental in changing the way people danced to music. The Twist introduced people to the concept of “dancing apart to the beat” (as opposed to slow dancing). In 1964, Chubby Checker married Catharina Lodders, Miss World 1962. He is still touring and promoting his line of snack foods (Chubby Checker Snacks). Find out more at

I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown
Even though Georgia repeatedly tries to claim Brown for its own, The Godfather of Soul was actually born in Barnwell County. He spent the last 30 years of his life on an estate in Beech Island, near Aiken. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, he is South Carolina’s most famous and widely-renowned musician. Dubbed “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” he was a tireless performer – a singer, dancer, and organist who is said to have burned 700 calories per show! In addition to recording numerous soul ballads, he helped bring about the “funk revolution” of the 1970s.

Read the rest of this entry »


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Brookgreen Gardens’ Cool Summer Evenings: The Best Summer’s Worst-Kept Locals’ Secret

By Brian M. Howle

There is one standard truth when visiting or vacationing an area that you may not be familiar with: Ask the locals.

Oh, with the advances in technology, yes; you can surf the web and you can cull some very handy and useful information, no doubt about it.  And for those of you who do, kudos to you – you’re resourceful, Internet savvy and show initiative!

And it’s a shame when one goes through all that effort and good intention, and then find you’ve been steered somewhere because of a paid reference source – not necessarily looking out for your best interests.

So you can go about avoiding that messy little detour to your vacation fun by doing what this guy – who read his his bronze edition of Alternatives NewsMagazine – did before getting up to go anywhere.

Ask the locals.

Want to experience the things that we locals have found to be worth your time, effort and hard-earned cash? And lets you enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of summer along the coastal lowcountry?

My Blatant Prejudice: Brookgreen Gardens

Man, I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve uttered the phrase “You know, the best-kept secret on the Grand Strand is Brookgreen Gardens!”

But I promise you, it really is. Always has been, and always will be. Humans are capable of creating some very nice things, but we can’t compete with Mother Nature.  We can compliment her, but we can’t outdo her.  A visit here at any time of year is worth the visit, but the ol’ gal shows off like nobody’s business in the summer.

Besides the normal fare of nature on display, with some truly beautiful human contributions (one of the world’s greatest collections of sculpture and art), there are summer children’s programs that will enrich the lives of all who are fortunate enough to attend:

For The Family:
Wednesdays – Friday, June 15 – August 12
Brookgreen Gardens’ Cool Summer Evenings

For nine weeks this summer, the sounds of live entertainment will stir the quiet of the gardens when Brookgreen remains open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings until 9 p.m..  Guests will enjoy live entertainment and activities just for kids.

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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Alternatives NewsMagazine Feature


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