Though the annual Midwinter S.O.S. shagging event officially wraps up today, one of the area's biggest supporters of Carolina Beach Music cut out early this year. Radio station 94.9 (WVCO-FM), one of the area's last remaining independently-owned stations, aired its last broadcast as of midnight Sunday.
"The Surf" as it was known, broadcast a format of "Beach, Boogie & Blues," featuring many of the classic hits beach music lovers had come to know as the soundtrack to the area of North Myrtle Beach known for its rich shagging community. Since switching from a smooth jazz format in 1998, The Surf had featured a number of on-air personalities including Billy Smith, Joey Warren, Ted Bell and Ray Scott.
The station's closing comes less than a month after the death of Harvey Graham Jr., who owned the station and was president of its parent company Carolina Beach Music Broadcasting Corp. Graham passed away Dec. 19 at age 66 following an extended illness. A longtime supporter of the Carolina Beach Music community Graham and his wife Selene had recently won an Industry Appreciation Award for their contributions to the genre at the 2010 Carolina Beach Music Awards.
While exact details surrounding the station's shutdown are unclear, the possibility of closing has been looming over the station for some time as a five-year legal battle raged between Graham and condo investors over a failed North Myrtle Beach condominium project called H's Resort and Beach Club that he had been involved with as a developer.
According to a The Sun News story dated May 10, a federal bankruptcy awarded condo investors the ability to sell 8.27 acres of property Graham owned in Loris to help settle a judgment that, with accrued interest, amounted to $856,540.92 to be split among the roughly 385 investors.
That land, which had been valued around $200,000, included the transmitter tower for The Surf. In addition to the land where the tower resided, the tower itself and other broadcasting equipment used by The Surf were part of the collateral Graham pledged for $4.1 million in loans from the bank to develop the H Resort and had been in danger of being repossessed by BB&T.
While the future of the station remains in question, there has been an outpouring of love from people in the community supporting the station's staff and hoping for efforts to revitalize beach music radio in the area.
If you want to see what folks are saying, check out this post by midday DJ Ted Bell or leave a comment below.
ListenUp will continue to pursue information on the status of the status of the station and its staff so please check back for updates.
*UPDATE - 5:30 p.m. Monday*
It appears that Carolina Beach Music will still have a home on local airwaves. Former 94.9 The Surf DJ Ted Bell announced this afternoon via Facebook that he accepted a position with WNMB 900 AM. He will still be holding down the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot with a show that features Carolina Beach, Oldies, Interviews and requests.
Check WNMB's web site for details.
*UPDATE - 9:30 a.m. Thursday*
The Sun News had a piece this morning about Beach music continuing to be featured on local airwaves despite the closing of The Surf. Here's an excerpt:
WNMB's owner, Bill Norman, said he and Bell had worked together in radio in North Carolina during the 1980s, so the timing worked out right for them to reunite.
Norman also thinks an FM station in the mold of WVCO will return.
"As a format, it's a good one," he said. "It has lots of fans. The people who are into it are very into it. It's a lifestyle: That sound, that music is very important to them."
Norman said with WNMB's oldies format with music going back to the 1950s, "we already play a lot of the beach tunes that are classics," by artists such as The Tams, Four Tops and the Chairmen of the Board. He said the station will blend in more current beach hits during Bell's show as well.