Station News

Tommy Edwards – the best friend that bluegrass could ever have

In our bluegrass community, some folks perform, some promote, some teach, some deal/trade instruments, some encourage others in the business, and then there are those that amazingly do it all, and do it well. Tommy Edwards of Pittsboro, NC, was one of those rare and precious gems.

Saturday morning, after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer, Tommy Edwards, 75, left this world, but left it better because of his existence. Born in 1945 (the same year Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe), he was a historian and poster child for bluegrass music.

Friday, the day before his death, Edwards received his home state’s greatest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the most prestigious award that the Governor of North Carolina can bestow upon a citizen. The state’s highest honor is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the state through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments. Tommy’s service to his community was truly exemplary and his accomplishments, exceptional, yet he never tooted his own horn.

Edwards was the leader and a founding member of the Bluegrass Experience, a band that was slated to celebrate their 50th anniversary last Thursday at the Duke Performing Arts Center in Raleigh, but was canceled due to his declining health. 

Band mate and original member, fiddlin’ Al McCanless, reflected on his longtime friend, “We were often mistaken for brothers, and he was like a brother I never had. We had some great conversations back in the early days while I was riding shotgun and he was driving late at night. I used to kid him and say that he could play pretty good for someone who didn’t have an ear for music! Of course, he was a fantastic picker on guitar, banjo, and mandolin, could write great songs, and most importantly, he was an entertainer that was passionate about the music. He left a legacy in many areas and influenced scores of young people. He made significant contributions to not only music, but through his instrument collecting and trading, teaching, and antique furniture and pottery collecting. It is sad to see him go, but we honor one who had a life well lived. His legacy lives on.”

Another band member, Stan Brown, joined Bluegrass Experience in 1998. The banjo picker who had toured with Wilma Lee Cooper in his younger days credits Edwards for getting him back out playing.

“I was with them (Bluegrass Experience) for 23 years. Tommy loved the music and had more energy and drive than anyone I have played with. He never met a stranger and always made time for everyone, especially the children. He was definitely an ambassador for the music we all love.”

Stan’s wife, Julie, chimed in. “The first time I played a gig with Tommy was in ’96 or ’97. He called needing a fill-in with The Bluegrass Experience. I accepted and showed up to catch a ride with the band. The gig went well, and being a frat party, was very entertaining and an experience to say the least. We got home safely in the wee hours of the morning, and it was the first of many shows that I would play with Tommy over the years. Tommy was one of the best people you could ever play music with. You were guaranteed to have a good time and a bluegrass experience that you might not forget.”

Edwards impacted many Tarheel pickers throughout his years.

Russell Johnson, Director of the Carolina Bluegrass Band at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and mandolinist/vocalist with Diamond Creek Bluegrass Band, shared, “It’s hard to sum up in a sentence or two what Tommy has meant to bluegrass music here in North Carolina, and to the people he encountered along the way. He touched people whether it was as a teacher, coach, musician, radio host, instrument dealer, entertainer, historian, or just as a positive, happy person that you’d want to know. He definitely was an inspiration and influence when I started out.”

“He taught me that the most important part of playing music is learning how to smile when you do,” Andrew Marlin, mandolinist with Mandolin Orange, relayed.

David Brower, the executive director of PineCone, a Raleigh nonprofit dedicated to promoting and preserving folk arts and music, said, “Tommy was exceptional. His right hand was just explosive, in terms of how nimble he worked through tunes. He epitomized the spirit of bluegrass and old time music from the Piedmont, where strangers can sit down and play tunes and get to know each other through the music.”

Edwards was also involved with songwriting and workshops to teach others the trade.

“Tommy was talent with a heart. We’ve picked and laughed and worked through 50 years of friendship and music. Tommy said yes to helping, every time. He jumped in with both feet to help in the nonprofit work we did to bring music and songwriting to children and communities in coastal NC, helping for four years as sound guy, teacher, performer, and songwriter. He leaves a space that can never be filled, because only he could fill it,” expressed songwriter and performer, Louisa Branscomb.

“He was a fine musician and an even better person. He had such a positive attitude and was always ready to lend a helping hand and an encouraging word,” Jeanette Williams added, who worked alongside Branscomb and Edwards in teaching the craft of musical compositions.

“(I was) very sad to hear of the passing of my friend. Tommy has been a fixture on the central North Carolina bluegrass scene for as long as I can remember. He was always ready to pick, always with enthusiasm and his infectious grin, and he loved to share and hear bluegrass stories,” stated author and musical historian, Penny Parsons.

Jim Watson, a musician and longtime friend of Edwards, described him as, “the quintessential bluegrass enthusiast. The Bluegrass Experience played every Thursday night for 9 years starting in the early ’70s at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, and those were legendary nights, 3 sets of hard-core bluegrass played to a packed crowd. The Experience featured powerhouse vocals and a seemingly endless repertoire.”

Tommy was always enthusiastic about playing – it seemed he’d do it anywhere, anytime, and his enthusiasm was infectious. All bluegrass communities need people like Tommy Edwards – a multi-instrumentalist who can bring a variety of people together for the joy of making music.”

The North Carolina bluegrass legend twice won the world championship title for bluegrass guitar at the Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers’ and Bluegrass Festival.

“I loved him dearly,” stressed North Carolina Bluegrass Association President, Vivian Pennington Hopkins.

Edwards also hosted a weekly two hour bluegrass radio show on Saturday nights on Life 103.1 (WLHC in Central NC and WLQC in Eastern NC).

Buddy Michaels, host of Weekend Festival on the same station, shared, “Edwards has joined the Heavenly Angel Band. We have been friends and worked a lot of music venues over the years; him singing and picking, and me emceeing and hosting. Promoters would ask about good solid bluegrass bands and I would always suggest The Bluegrass Experience, knowing they would give a GREAT show no matter what, plus I knew they were the oldest GRASS band in North Carolina, and were always a crowd pleaser.”

“He was not only a heck of a flat top picker, but a very good singer, songwriter, and band leader. As the years went by, we became closer and even radio hosted on the same station. When we first learned of his illness, we were shocked, but ready to be by his side. It’s been tough on all his friends, students, and fans. I know why his students loved him so much. He was a great teacher, and taught me so much more about the music I love. Anyway, there will never be another like him.”

“Tommy was never a star. He didn’t have any gold records, but he played with passion. He played with heart. Music was a huge part of his life,” Pinecone’s Brower pointed out.

Edwards did appear on the 2003 Rebel Compilation Album, Christmas In The Mountains (REB-CD-1800), with his song, The Christmas Letter. The project also included Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks, Paul Williams, the Country Gentlemen, and Lost & Found. The Bluegrass Experience recorded four albums and their band leader had six projects of his own.

Co-owner of Edwards Antiques, Art, and Music in Pittsboro with his wife, Cindy, Edwards was a collector/trader of high vintage guitars. The Siler City native also served in the US Army and was a former middle school history teacher, assistant principal, football, softball, and men’s and women’s basketball coach for Chatham County Schools.

Former student and banjo picker, Tim Mendenhall, recalled the retired educator. “Mr. Edwards was our middle school vice-principal in 1977-79. He was gracious to invite my twin brother, Tommy, and me to perform during school assemblies. We were scared to play bluegrass in front of our classmates, but Mr. Edwards made us feel at ease playing in front of the student body. It was the three of us with him on guitar, Tommy on mandolin, and me on banjo. I will always remember how important it made us feel to play with Mr. Edwards because he was such a great local guitar player that we admired. Mr. Edwards will be remembered as a great teacher, a great guitar player, and even more importantly, an all-around great guy.”

“We had a lot of respect for him in our bluegrass community. RIP Mr. Edwards, you will be missed,” added Tim’s brother, Tom.

Joe Newberry who knew Edwards for decades, concluded, “A hallmark of Tommy was that he loved playing with folks, and was not above learning new licks even though he was an established player. He listened deep and played just the same. Whenever people gather in our region to play a tune, we’ll think about Tommy.”

A public celebration of Tommy’s life will be held in June. Date, time and location to be determined.

Featured Artist – Neil Diamond

Neil Leslie Diamond was born on January 24, 1941. His father was a shopkeeper, who also served in the military for a time. Diamond grew up in Brooklyn, except for a couple of years in Wyoming – the family had moved when his father was stationed there.

His interest in music began at an early age. He was part of the chorus at Erasmus Hall High School. Barbra Streisand was also part of the chorus at that time. At 16, he received his first guitar as a birthday gift and began song writing.

He formed a singing duo with Jack Packer, a friend of his younger brother, and the two released songs under the name Neil & Jack. He met little success with Neil & Jack and the duo soon broke up.

He attended New York University on a fencing scholarship as a pre-med student before leaving to pursue his song writing career. He penned several hits for other artists, including “I’m a Believer” for The Monkees. He also composed the score for the 1973 film Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Although the film did not garner much critical acclaim or box office success, it did earn Diamond a Grammy Award for “Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special.” He worked on the soundtracks for many films over the course of his career, including 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

His first album included the singles “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry” and led to appearances on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” He also appeared on The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and in an episode of the show “Mannix.” He turned down many acting roles, preferring to work behind the scenes on soundtracks, or to appear as himself, which he did in the 1978 documentary The Last Waltz.

In 1970, at Hollywood’s Troubador nightclub, Diamond introduced Elton John – it was the British star’s first appearance on stage in the US. According to allmusic.com, “[E]arly in the 21st century, [Diamond] ranked third, behind only Elton John and Barbra Streisand, on the list of the most successful adult contemporary artists in the history of the Billboard chart.”

Diamond has been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (1984) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2011). He has also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor.

In 2018, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and abruptly cancelled the final leg of his 50th Anniversary World Tour. He has been married three times and lives with his current wife in Colorado. Diamond has four children.

We here at Life 103.1 are pleased to include in our “Timeless Favorites” playlist a number of his most popular hits, songs that are indeed timeless in their appeal.

 

(allmusic.com, imdb.com, liveabout.com, biography.com)

Featured Artist – The Temptations

One of the best-known vocal groups of all time, the Temptations are renowned for their harmonies and distinct choreography. The group began in 1961 with the merger of two other Motown groups, the Primes and the Distants. First known as the Elgins, the group changed their name to avoid conflict with another group already using the name and signed with Miracle Records.

The music of the Temptations is unmistakable. Their first big hit came in 1964 with “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” During the early years, Smokey Robinson wrote and produced their songs. When Robinson stepped aside, Norman Whitfield took over writing and production. Under his direction during the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s, the group shifted their signature sound from soul to more psychedelic funk. The Temptations have continued to endure, periodically updating their style to remain contemporary.

Still performing today, the group has changed over the years, losing and replacing members. Otis Williams, who rarely sang lead, is the only remaining member from the original lineup of the 1960s. He still performs with the group today. Some members embarked on solo careers, while others were dismissed or died.  

In addition to creating their own music, the Temptations have influenced many other artists, the Motown Museum stating that “the Temptations’ influence on R&B and soul music has been compared by music experts to the impact the Beatles ha[d] on pop and rock.” The group has been featured in the music of other artists, including Rick James (“Standing on the Top” and “Superfreak”) and Rod Stewart (“The Motown Song”).

The Temptations have stars on both the Hollywood (1994) and Apollo Theatre (2019) Walks of Fame. They have won several Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Their first Grammy, for Best R&B Performance in 1969, was the first ever Grammy for a Motown artist. In 1974, at the first American Music Awards, the Temptations were named Favorite R&B Vocal Group.

The Temptations have also been inducted into both the Rock and Roll (1989) and the Rhythm and Blues (2013) Halls of Fame. “My Girl” (1998) and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (1999) have both been added to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2018, “My Girl” was also added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” were all included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

Billboard Magazine has listed the Temptations as both the “# 1 R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of All Time” (2017) and one of “125 Greatest of All Time Artists” (2019). The Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame named the Temptations as the “R&B Male Group of the 20th Century” (2017). And Rolling Stone Magazine listed their 1973 album Anthology as one of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in both 2003 and 2012. The Broadway musical also recently won a Tony Award for best choreography in 2019.

The Temptations have lasted for more than sixty years and show no signs of slowing down. We here at Life 103.1 are pleased to include in our “Timeless Favorites” playlist a number of their most popular hits, songs that are indeed timeless in their appeal.

 

(allmusic.com, rollingstone.com, motownmuseum.org, temptationsofficial.com, classic.motown.com, walkoffame.com)

Employment Opportunities

Administrative Support Specialist

Are computer keyboards your friends?  Is attention to detail built into your DNA?  Are you the one who keeps others organized and on track?  Would you like to join a team dedicated to making a difference in our part of the world?

We have an opening immediately available and if your answer to these questions is “yes,” we invite you to apply.  Or if you know someone who might qualify, please pass the word.  The position is a part-time position, 20-30 hours per week, Tuesday through Friday, at our station’s headquarters in Sanford.  You can send your resume to jobs@life1031.com

 

Marketing Consultants (Advertising Sales)

They say it’s easy to sell something if you really believe in it and love the product.  We’re willing to bet that if you’re on our website right now, you’re a fan of Life 103.1.  So, in addition to loving Timeless Favorites, are you also passionate, detail-oriented, and self-motivated? If so, we’d like to speak with you about joining our team of advertising sales professionals.  Learn how you can help serve our business partners and fuel the engine that keeps Life 103.1 delivering the quality programming you’ve come to expect.   Just send your resume to jobs@life1031.com to start putting your love of Life 103.1 to work for you!  We have part-time and full-time positions available and offer generous commissions.

 

Life 103.1 is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Farmer’s Markets

NAME

LOCATION

TIMES

RUNNING

CONTACT

Asheboro Downtown Farmer’s Market 134 South Church Street, Asheboro Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays, 7 am-1 pm May – October (336) 626-1240
Chatham Mills Farmers Market 480 Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro Saturdays; April-Oct 8-12/Nov-Jan 10-1 April – Jan (919) 642-0039
Dunn Farmers Market 200 North Clinton Ave.,
Dunn
Saturdays 8 am – noon May – November (910) 624-0642
Erwin Farmers Market 101 13th Street, Erwin Saturdays 9 am – 2 pm May – October (910) 897-5428
Fearington Farmers Market 2000 Fearington Village, Pittsboro Tuesdays, 4 pm – 6 pm April – November 15th (919) 923-6262
Grower’s Market of Fuquay-Varina  102 N. Main St.  Wednesday, 3pm- 6pm/Saturday, 8am-12pm  May – October  (919) 346-4978
Holly Springs Farmers Market  128 S. Main St.  Saturday, 8:30 am – 12:30pm  May – October  (919) 567-4010
Moore County Farmers Market- DOWNTOWN SE Broad Street & NY Ave, Southern Pines Saturdays, 8 am – noon April – October (910) 947-3752
Moore County Farmers Market – PINEHURST 170 Memorial Drive, Pinehurst Mondays, 2 pm – 5:30 pm April – September (910) 947-3752
Moore County Farmers Market – SOUTHERN PINES Armory Sports Complex
Morganton Road, Southern Pines
Thursdays, 9 am – 1 pm April – October (910) 947-3752
Pittsboro Farmers Market Main Street Station
287 East Street, Pittsboro
Thursdays, 3 pm – 6 pm May – November (919) 542-8202
Sandhills Farmers Market of Pinehurst Pinehurst Sand Parking Lot near the Village Chapel Wednesdays: 3 pm – 6 pm & Saturdays: 10 am – 1 pm April – September (910) 687-0377
Sanford Farmers Market Depot Park Carthage Street, Sanford Saturdays, 9 am – noon April- October (919) 775-5624
 Siler City Farmers Market  118 W. 2nd Street, Siler City  Saturdays, 9:30 am – 1 pm  April – November (919) 742-5442
Troy Farmers’ Market 417 North Main Street, Troy Thursdays, 3 pm – 6 pm April – October (910) 576-6011
Richmond Co Farmers Market 123 E. Washington St. Wednesday, 3:00 pm – 6 pm April – October (910) 995-4525

 

For assistance accessing the Online Public File, please contact:

Kelly Dougherty
WLHC-FM Life 103.1
Phone: (919) 775-1031
Email: wlhc@life1031.com