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Myrtle Beach

My son is a married man.

Photo: Scott Smallin Photography

My firstborn twin, Wes, got hitched on September 26. Done deal.

I have gained a gorgeous daughter-in-law with a beauty that radiates from the inside out, and I am thrilled to death that I can now claim Leigh as such with impunity – and her parents and family are second to none.

What amazes me about major events like this is that time seems to compress the closer you get to the event – like what was 18 months away is now in the rear-view mirror.

The wedding took place at Pine Lakes Country Club, known all over the golfing world as “The Granddaddy” (it was built in 1927). Somebody told me that Sports Illustrated started right there under command from iconic publisher Henry Luce and it’s true.

Being the father of the groom is wonderful in itself, but I was also honored and humbled that Wes chose me as his best man and that the couple asked me to officiate. Does that count as a triple threat?

Our friend Aly caught the groom’s reaction as he first catches sight of the bride. Pure love.

Video: Alynne Knott

THE BACHELOR GETAWAY

Wes didn’t want a traditional bachelor party, per se. He wanted to get away with me and Xavier, his best friend since middle school. The plan was to see KISS in Raleigh earlier in September, but the COVID-19 situation had other plans, and the show was postponed until next year. I am holding on to the tickets.

As an option, Wes chose an overnight trip to the Fayetteville area in North Carolina. The “three amigos” spent the first day shooting at an outdoor range called 37 PSR Gun Club. Wes, once-a-Marine-always-a-Marine, was in hog heaven – and I felt good being with him. He was methodical in making sure Xavier and I handled our weapons properly. Somehow, shooting with a Marine makes you want to shine.

But we were there to have fun, and we did. Afterwards, we checked in to the Hampton Inn Spring Lake and headed out to eat Mexican food at a great place called El Cazador.

The next day found us engaged in airsoft battles with maybe ten young people at a place called Black Ops Paintball. For me, this was much more fun. Shooting downrange is OK, but after a while it gets old. Airsoft battles in teams was more the ticket for me. I reconnected with that inner kid who used to play guns in the neighborhood.

We’ll likely do this again at the outfit’s Myrtle Beach location. The kid at the counter talked us into way too much ammo. Sorry, Xavier.

One caveat: Airsoft ain’t soft.

THE REHEARSAL DINNER

My girlfriend, Brenda, graciously offered to handle all aspects of the rehearsal dinner – from planning to execution.

Early on, we chose the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the event. I have written about this place before. It’s a cool old brick building that is now rented out by the City of Myrtle Beach for all sorts of functions. Problem is, because of COVID-19, the maximum attendance was reduced to 21 people.

Because family was coming in from out of town, there was no way that would work…

Before we had the chance to fret about this too much, Leigh contacted Brenda and offered the use of the soon-to-be newlyweds’ backyard.

Plans were put in place for tables, chairs, dishes, linens and flatware. Brenda set up the catering with Fiesta Mexicana, a favorite local eatery – and began putting together ancillary items like votive candles, floral plans, photo booth balloons and much more.

But a potential shit show was looming. Rain – and lots of it – started showing up on the weather apps.

We ordered a 15×15 open tent, ostensibly to cover the food – but mother nature peppered us with rain all day and into the evening. I will forever be grateful for the time and effort Brenda put into this event – and thankful for the help of the friends who rolled up their sleeves and jumped into the fray…and transformed the newlyweds’ home into a dining showplace.  We couldn’t have done this without them.

That night, I made my speech – a combination of best man and father of the groom – and I almost made it through without choking up. I said almost, didn’t I?

During dinner, things began to clear up enough for folks to head outside – some to eat under the tent, some to mingle, play cornhole, throw axes and listen to Wes’ awesome playlist.

THE BIG DAY

I gladly accept the rain the night before – because the wedding day was absolutely gorgeous.

The guys got together at the newlyweds’ place – to get into our tuxes and have some pre-wedding photos done, coincidentally, by my friend Scott Smallin, whom I first met and worked with in our Weekly Surge days. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out Scott would be handling the wedding photography. I think he took like two million photos.

The wedding? Stunning – from start to finish.

Kudos to Leigh’s parents, Michael and Cathy, for putting together such a wonderful day. Michael might tell you that all he had to do was show up, but he and Cathy are straight-up doers. While other people talk, they take action. I can learn a lot from them.

I can’t imagine the depth of planning that goes into a wedding like this – but everything seemed to go off without a hitch – in the serene and beautiful setting that is Pine Lakes.

The bride was a vision of beauty – absolutely flawless. And my son the groom, gorgeous. Together, they took my breath away as they stood in front of me for the vows. The honor of joining these two beautiful young people in holy matrimony is something I don’t take lightly, and I will never forget it.

Here are some great photos from my friend Brendan Wright:

Did I mention that the JAVA Band was off the hook? I did now. Unbelievably so!

Friends, family. New friends, new family. That’s what it’s all about.

The following day, many of us got together for brunch and go-cart racing at Broadway Grand Prix in Myrtle Beach. This, from what I understand, is a family tradition.

What was 18 months away is now a reality. May God richly bless the bride and groom, and may their love know no bounds.

Brendan Wright/BWI Images
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AJ Case is a man of many hats, but those hats dovetail: He’s a Myrtle Beach-based singer/songwriter, musician, rapper and entrepreneur. Depending upon whom you ask, you might get different answers. Perhaps it’s somebody who laid down tracks at his now shuttered iT Recording & Mastering Studios in Surfside Beach, a venue owner who booked him for a solo acoustic gig or a tourist who got up to sing at one of his karaoke promotions in the area. Or it could be a music industry type drilling down on Case’s songwriting, recording, deejaying or vocal skills.

In every case, though, you will likely hear about the kind of guy he is – soft-spoken, sincere and always professional.

But trying to pigeonhole him would be a mistake.

Case is a familiar face on the Grand Strand, in the role of DJ or heading up karaoke shows. He has showcased his songs at spots like House of Blues Myrtle Beach, Klocker’s Tavern and The Boathouse. He said his uncle, the late Bill Pinkney – a founding member of The Drifters – taught him about the music business.

He recently released his third album. “Running In Place” (or “R.I.P.”), an acoustic guitar-driven live band hip-hop project.

In addition to the live band approach, Case covers his struggle with depression brought on by divorce and the loss of key people in his life in rapid succession – in what he called the worst week of his life.

But this album has proven cathartic for him. Much of is an ode to the woman he loves, Ruth Ann Millar, something he says goes against the grain of traditional rap.

He started writing this album years ago – and much of it was first presented in 2012’s “Dead at 32.” But he had no idea what he was in for personally and emotionally.

“At that time, I didn’t realize that I was writing my current situation. I feel like a reeled myself into it all,” he said.

The past two years have been an emotional roller coaster, beginning with what he calls “the week from hell.” He lost his mother, an uncle and an aunt – plus he went through a divorce.

Case fell into a deep depression.

Things got so bad that he wouldn’t even answer the door to his studio to let people come in and record.

“I’d never been to a point in my life where I was that low,” he said. “I hit rock bottom and pulled out a damn shovel.”

Picking up a pen was the last thing on his mind, but one day out of sheer desperation he started writing a song about his mother – and although he didn’t finish that actual song, this gave him the impetus to keep going. After he got started again in earnest, the process took about a year.

The finished product stands at eight tracks, including a duet with his friend Adam Wittenburg on “Halfway Home.”

“Halfway Home”

Some live performance audio was spliced into a new version of “Lifted.”

“We took actual audio footage from shows like Bayfest and Summer Jam – just basically hung mics out over the audience – and I didn’t want it to sound like the original version. We wanted to do this with a live band, but I wasn’t used to recording guitars yet because I was just a pure rapper at that point.”

But the acoustic live band concept gelled for “Running In Place”

Long before this, Case played out live as a solo artist – on an acoustic guitar – so that he could showcase his material and travel light.

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument and guitar
AJ Case

But Case said the material on “RIP” – including “Waiting on You” – goes against the grain of traditional rap.

“It’s kind of weird to explain. I hear some of the stuff that everybody else is rapping about, and it’s pretty much the same thing everybody has been rapping about: cars, women, money, how good I am or ‘listen to my lyrical skills’ – and I feel disappointed sometimes because I’m not talking about any of that shit. I’m mostly talking about one woman that I love. That’s it.”

Case contends that in the rap world in general, it’s not really cool to be in love with one woman.

“It’s not really cool to write a whole album about one woman. It’s a different type of world – and that’s where I felt like I was, man – I don’t know if I actually fit in here anymore. I think I’ve grown out of it.”

We mentioned that Case’s uncle taught him about the music business, but it was his late sister who made it fun.

In the song, “Nothing,” Case memorializes his sister.

“I had a guitar in my room when I was younger, but I never really messed with it. She would come in and say, ‘Oh – pick up the guitar. Let’s play…”

Those moments got Case to the point where he wanted to play music with his uncle and learn more.

“Until then, that guitar was just a brick in the corner of my bedroom.”

But “Nothing” is poignant and can really tug at your heart strings.

“My sister was a drug addict, and she was aware that she had problems and issues. She would always tell me that she felt like she never did anything with her life – like, she would go to her grave having literally done nothing but drugs. I wrote that song sitting beside her hospital bed before she died.”

He will always remember his sister’s silly way of dancing (she was not good at it) – and he regrets not getting up on the floor when she wanted to dance with him in public.

The COVID-19 lockdown helped to put thus project into high gear.

“Either make something of yourself – figure out a way to make something of yourself in this – or let it swallow you whole, you know?”

For more info about AJ Case, click HERE.

Forget about New Year's Resolutions – start the new year with an ...

In September, my son will marry a young lady I can’t wait to claim as my daughter-in-law.

Earlier this year, we reserved the Historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the rehearsal dinner.

But the COVID-19 situation threw the proverbial spanner in the works.

Things to do with the rehearsal dinner have been modified. With our group, I figured the venue was more than big enough for social distancing.

We plan on having food catered in, along with beverages…

I just got word that the maximum attendance has been reduced, which would mean slashing attendees to the bare minimum – to include only the wedding party, parents and key family members.

If we don’t do this, we’ll have to consider other options for this event.

Thing is, nobody knows what’s coming down the pike as far as COVID-19 in September. For all we know, the city (Myrtle Beach) could shut down again – or things could improve. If things get worse, this means that restaurants could close – or at the very least, they might also adopt maximum capacity guidelines. They might be forced to go back to curbside service, which opens up another Pandora’s box: Could caterers be shut down?

Such is the uncertain nature of our world at the moment.

My guy at the Train Depot has canceled events for a good chunk of September – but each of those parties expected 100 or more people to attend. He has held off on canceling us outright but will likely be forced to do so if we stay at our projected attendance.

The son of dear friends got married in Pittsburgh in April. We watched the livestream. Empty church except for essential people. I am not sure what they did about the rehearsal and other related pre-wedding parties or the reception – but I can bet that they didn’t see this coming when they set the date.

My son served in the US Marine Corps. There is a saying he taught me: “Semper Gumby…”

Semper Gumby Marine Corps Icon

… “always flexible.”

Well paint me orange and call me Pokey. I had better start stretching – and stop overthinking.

NOTE: I wrote this post on July 23. As of July 24 – we are moving all rehearsal dinner festivities to an outdoor location perfectly suitable for the event, thank God. It was the perfect solution – and one we wouldn’t have thought about until the bride-to-be messaged us about the possibility.

Gratitude. Cleansing breaths…

And since there are no coincidences, I read an article today in Success Magazine that featured an Icelandic saying – and by God I needed to see that:

Þetta reddast… everything is going to work out, or something like that.

Photo credit: India Audus / Iceland Will Make You Happy

After years of hemming and hawing; after false starts and heaping helpings of procrastination, my brother and I finally launched our podcast…

Episode 22 – "Casey King: Recovery in a Virtual World" Yale Brothers Podcast

Casey King is all about changing the face of recovery. Casey's a physics professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach, and through his work with the Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series aims to reduce the stigma society places on those in recovery. He has been sober since 2005. In 2008, he founded and launched the series – a popular event that has included a growing “Who’s Who” of featured celebrity speakers – from actors to rock stars to medical professionals and many more. The series also features presentations and panels including college students, recovery advocates and spokespersons from local recovery groups, rounding out a lecture series that shines as a beacon of hope for those still struggling with addiction and a lamp on the path of those on their recovery journeys. The program is set to continue this year in a virtual setting on the Zoom platform, beginning on January 28 and continuing every Thursday until February 18. SHOW NOTES 0:00 – "Seeing's Believing" by Chris Yale 4:05 – About the song. From Chris' album "Well Enough Alone" 4:35 – Introducing Casey King Louis Gossett, Jr. / Mackenzie Phillips / Danny Trejo / Art Alexakis / Bob Forrest/ Dr. Drew Pinsky 8:10 – Overview of series 8:40 – About Casey 9:18 – Trajectory of series 14:21 -Jeff VanVonderen / Meredith Baxter / Candy Finnigan / Ken Seeley 18:23 – Booking Louis Gossett, Jr / The Gary Stromberg connection 20:09 – Danny Trejo's appearance was the most well-attended on-campus event in HGTC history. 22:00 – Degrees of separation 22:39 – Local recovery and advocacy groups: Lighthouse Care Center / Shoreline Behavioral Health Services / FAVOR Grand Strand – Faces and Voices of Recovery / Grand Strand Health 23:35 – COVID-19 / Series to go virtual 24:30 – Virtual recovery meetings paved the way for this year's series. 25:30 – "World Home Group" – Scotland, Australia, Berlin, Ireland, Tenerife 26:21 – Speaker reveal LINK / Casey King and Coastal Carolina University's Wes Fondren   26:50 – This year's speakers: Craig T. Nelson / Keith A. Somers / Carnie Wilson / Gary Stromberg / Paul Williams Click HERE for series details and access. It's free and you can be anonymous if you wish. 34:42 – Changing the Face of Recovery 36:00 – Casey's advice for those still struggling To reach out to Casey, call or text (843)450-6482
  1. Episode 22 – "Casey King: Recovery in a Virtual World"
  2. Episode 21 – "What's the Matter with Your Eyes, Boys?"
  3. Episode 20 – "I Was a Punk Before You"
  4. Episode 19 – "Emotional Support Chihuahuas?"
  5. Episode 18 – "Roger That?"

The first time we tried this, embarrassingly enough, was in 2008, when podcasts were still gaining steam and long before they became ubiquitous. Over a period of a years, we made several more stabs at this – and then we just stopped.

Some earlier attempts went up on SoundCloud, sort-of complete but not quite actual episodes. But we had stories to tell…

And we still do. Stories about growing up in Hollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s – a period when the town was what my brother called “beautifully grungy” – well before a Build-A-Bear Workshop appeared across from the Chinese Theater.

We lived at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive, in an apartment building wedged directly in between the fabled Magic Castle and a 40-unit hotel our father managed called The Magic Hotel. The hotel is now called The Magic Castle Hotel.

At that time, not only the names of the buildings were magic. Our young lives were as magical as could be.

This podcast will be cathartic for us, and I hope the stories of twin boomers coming of age in lotus land will strike a chord with those curious enough to have a listen.

But we’re not just about looking back. Expect to hear original music in each episode and updates on what’s going on with us now in Myrtle Beach.

Still 12

The other night, I watched a film called “Bob and the Monster.”

On the face of the title alone, you’d likely expect some sort of story about a monster that lives under Bob’s bed. Bob could be a child, and the monster could come out to introduce himself. Perhaps they become friends – or maybe the monster comes out to scare the shit out of Bob.

Not quite.

“Bob and the Monster” is a 2011 documentary by filmmaker Keirda Bahruth – a look at rocker and recovery advocate Bob Forrest, longtime frontman for punk outfit Thelonious Monster but perhaps best known to the general public as the shoot-from-the-hip counselor on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

The film is the story of Forrest’s transformation from dangerously addicted indie rock star to the respected beacon of recovery he is today.

I decided to put this film into my queue after talking to my friend Casey King, a physics professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College here in the Grand Strand area. King is also the organizer and founder of the college’s long-running Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series – which for 12 years has featured an impressive roster of celebrity speakers, most of whom have overcome the burden of addiction.

We’re talking about folks like Louis Gossett, Jr., Mackenzie Phillips, Danny Trejo, Everclear frontman Art Alexakis and many more. This year, Forrest spoke on March 5, followed by Dr. Drew Pinsky on March 12.

For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to write about the series in The Sun News, a McClatchy paper here in Myrtle Beach. This year was no exception. CLICK HERE for the February 19 story. I was able to speak with Pinsky via telephone, and Forrest got back to me with some awesome email content – thanks to King.

King has said many times that he wants to change the face of recovery – and that change is happening as more and more professional people come forward in their recoveries and make their stories known.

“It no longer has quite the stigma that it had 15 years ago as I began my journey,” he said.

He has always been gracious enough to make sure I got seats for the recovery events I covered, but this year my gig schedule conflicted with the Thursday events – and I wasn’t able to see either man’s presentation at the college. Because I am moving toward six years of sobriety, these events are important to me – and King knows this.

I was happy when he told me about a talk Forrest was to give at the C3 Coffee Bar in Conway (right up the road from Myrtle Beach), presented by Lighthouse Behavioral Health Hospital. I’d be there with bells on.

When I arrived, I found King, and there was Forrest – unassuming and real. From what I gathered, the crowd was made up mostly by mental health professionals – and Forrest delivered a compelling talk, not only about his struggles with addiction, but also about the problem of how to reach today’s young people who are struggling with substance abuse, a decidedly entitled demographic.

What struck me was how ardently Forrest pursued the sex-drugs-rock ‘n’ roll thing. There was a good deal of cache attached to it, especially if you were a young rock musician in Hollywood. I daresay many of us went into that lifestyle with our eyes open. Forrest himself said in “Bob and the Monster” that it was his goal to eventually shoot heroin.

Today’s dynamic is not so straightforward but every bit as deadly.

My “inspiration” was a biography of Jim Morrison called No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman. I was a happy kid. I wonder what my life would have been now if I hadn’t decided to drink and do drugs.

After Forrest’s presentation at the coffee bar, he and many of us convened for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant called El Patio in Conway. It’s good to know that there are folks who give a damn about recovery in our neck of the woods. Methodologies and approaches may vary, but hope remains that folks can and do recover.

Forrest’s advice to those in the throes of addiction is this:

“First and foremost, don’t die. Especially nowadays, with fentanyl in almost everything and tens of thousands of people dying of overdoses every year, being safe and not dying is the absolute most important thing.”

He said he had overdosed and been revived a few times and was starting to think things were not going to end well for him.

“But of course that wasn’t true at all.  What I figured out is that as long as you don’t die, amazing things can happen.  It takes time, but life becomes this amazing adventure.  I was able to be there for my son, and I have two more small kids now. They’re my life, and they remind me what’s important.  It comes down to love – and to just being here with each other.  Life can be brutal and harsh, but it can also be such a beautiful, poetic experience.  And it doesn’t last long.  So we need to forget about all those BS trappings of ‘this car is going to make me happy’ or ‘this toy is going to make me happy.’ I think a lot of us who’ve come through recovery know that better than ‘normal’ people do. It’s relationships. It’s music. It’s nature. It’s experiences. It’s love.” 

Forrest now has his own recovery center, Alo House. It is his hope that anybody who needs help knows that they are there and that they really care. Reach out by clicking the link above.

Photo: City of Myrtle Beach

Last week, I had the opportunity to play a very interesting and serendipitous show with my brother at a really cool venue in the heart of Myrtle Beach.

The Historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot is a landmark brick structure that was built in 1937 and for 30 years welcomed both passenger and freight trains to the area. It later belonged to a beverage distributor and almost fell victim to the wrecking ball until the community went ballistic.  After painstaking restoration, it opened in its current beautiful state in 2004 and is now rented out for events.

 I officiated a wedding there not long ago, and was also on hand for the inaugural CreateSouth conference there more than a decade ago. I also played a fundraiser there with Sick Stooges, a cover band that I co-founded and played in for ten years.

Sick Stooges at the Train Depot (the longhair on the right is yours truly)

This wonderful setting is also home to the South by Southeast Music Feast – a regular gathering hosted by a nonprofit called South by Southeast (SXSE), which provides assistance and support to local music education programs. The organization is all about helping young people offset the costs associated with this – and as their website says – “to help young people in their pursuit of all the joys of music.”

South by Southeast was founded by Jeff Roberts, a guy I was happy to meet when I moved here. Sadly, he passed away in 2009. Ask anybody who came into contact with him, Jeff was the fountainhead from which a torrent of musical knowledge sprung. He owned a couple of longstanding independent record shops here, and one of his isms was, “You gotta hear this…” He was irreplaceable.

Roberts’ son, Hunter, was at the event. That was a full-circle situation if ever there was one.

Jeff invited us to play an opening slot at the music feast on the bill with Dangermuffin years ago – and we did 30 minutes of Chris’ original music – much like we did this time.

In October, The Yale Brothers did a fundraiser called Wicked Wishes at the Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet to benefit Make-A-Wish South Carolina. We were glad to see that our old friend Seth Funderburk was running sound for the event. Seth is an entrepreneur in his own right, with several businesses in operation as I type this. He’s also an organizer for the Waccamaw Getaway Festival and the IrieSun Reggae Festival. He’s also been involved with SXSE for as long as I have known him.

Fun fact: Funderburk and Roberts went way back – and Funderburk worked in his youth for Roberts at his first shop, Sounds Familiar Records.

When we finished our set at Wicked Wished, Seth invited us to play the SXSE show. We were excited about the prospect.

The idea of playing only originals was appealing, and the serendipitous part of this was the fact that we would be opening for a duo called Admiral Radio, made up of Becca Smith and Coty Hoover – both of whom attended College of Charleston and both of whom know my daughter, Taylor, through our friend Clyde Moser, who studied there as well. Admiral Radio recently played a series of shows in New York – and Taylor and Clyde saw them there. This in itself is cool, but the fact that we randomly got invited to play with them here is proof that this is indeed a very small world.

The Yale Brothers Photo: Tami Sluss Ashley

The vibe at a SXSE event is refreshing; the people come to actually listen to the music offered – and this coupled with a preshow potluck and New South Brewing‘s Chris Barnes set up at the back of the room with beer and wine makes for a welcoming experience for the musicians as well as the audience.

WAVE 104.1 radio personality and program director Scott Mann, our brother from another mother, introduced us in a way that solidified that point – and off we went. It was gratifying to feel the love from the folks in attendance, who responded enthusiastically to each song.

Admiral Radio delivered a great first set with originals and thoughtful covers. Their harmonies were ethereal and stirring. These two are seasoned pros, and it was an honor to share the bill with them. I am sure their second set was great, too.

It’s always nice to play a show in the presence of like-minded people, to reconnect with friends and to make new ones.

For more about SXSE, click HERE.

The Yale Brothers with Admiral Radio / Photo: Seth Funderburk
Roger Yale with Scott Mann and Seth Funderburk / Photo: Chris Yale

I first learned about The Hulk from Andre Pope, an irreplaceable friend we lost recently.

I know what you’re thinking: “You are a man in your fifties who didn’t know about The Hulk?”

Not so fast. The Incredible Hulk was my go-to comic book hero, and in fact prompted my Marvel mania and comic book collecting when I was eight years old. That collecting went on until the early 1990s until I sold the whole enchilada to a dealer for fast cash – and got screwed, of course. But to my eternal regret, I took the money anyway.

The Hulk I am talking about is the pet name for the Horry County Bike and Run Park, which is nestled into a parcel of land just outside Myrtle Beach – it’s seven miles of trails that snake across 72 acres in between Carolina Forest (a Grand Strand community) and the Intracoastal Waterway, and a go-to for cycling groups like The Myrtle Beach Area Mountain Biking Association as well as The Grand Strand Running Club.

I hadn’t thought about The Hulk for a few years, but lately my girlfriend has had the urge to head outside to an area that might at least be construed as woods (she is a mountain girl, after all), and it occurred to me that this spot might, well, hit the spot.

We had already had a nice outing to Vereen Memorial Gardens – but it was time to get out again, and the Hulk was only a few miles away.

Despite a bit of a warning from the SC Trails website about potentially being mowed down by herds of bicyclists, we found the place refreshing – a different world, but right in our own back yard – and we set off on the trail marked “run.”

Along the way – I think we must have walked more than three miles – we encountered a few groups of cyclists, but Brenda heard them coming before I did – and they whizzed right by us, giving us polite but businesslike nods as we quickly stepped aside.

We spent a couple of hours there – and Brenda stopped frequently to admire the greenery and to educate me a little about the local vegetation. Ever since I have known her, she has always cautioned me about poison ivy – and with my lack of focus, that likely saved me a lot of grief.

It’s nice to know that pockets of tranquility like The Hulk still exist in an area where the most recognized bird is the (construction) crane.

Seth Funderburk, Roger Yale, Don Colton, Chris Yale at the Tuna Shak in Murrells Inlet

Last week, The Yale Brothers played a series of shows along the Grand Strand – a 60-mile stretch of coastline in my neck of the woods sometimes lovingly (I hope) referred to as “The Redneck Riviera.” We started at House of Blues Myrtle Beach, which is technically in North Myrtle Beach within a retail, dining and entertainment complex known as Barefoot Landing. The next night found us at our twice-a-month booking at LuLu’s North Myrtle Beach – also at Barefoot Landing and one of three sprawling eateries owned by Jimmy Buffett’s “crazy sista” Lucy Buffett.

The next day, we headed out to The Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet – more than 30 miles south. We played the inaugural Wicked Wishes event to benefit Make-A-Wish South Carolina – and later moved across the parking lot to the Tuna Shak, where we closed out the evening.

What made these three gigs special for us – besides doing our part for a great cause on Saturday – was that we got the chance to see old friends, meet new ones and hang out with other members of the music community. Gigs don’t usually happen that way.

Thursday’s stint at House of Blues was the first of our fall restaurant shows there. We’ll be doing every Thursday through December fifth in the early evening. We enjoy the positive vibe and the camaraderie from House of Blues staff, and we’re happy to call many of them our friends. And it’s always a bonus to see our brother for life, sound man Bill Allen. Fortunately, he was mixing on the deck for the Rich Johnson Band. Met Rich for the first time – and said hello to Mark Billings – another House of Blues sound man and friend, who was on the other side of things, playing drums for Rich.

Bill Allen Doing His Thing – House of Blues Deck, Myrtle Beach

It’s always great to return to LuLu’s for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the venue has its own PA in place – so it’s frontline-only at this colorful and happy spot on the Intracoastal Waterway. Over our engagement, we met some really wonderful and positive people – and reconnected with our friend Travis Ladd, who runs the retail side there. LuLu’s is in the process of building out an expanded retail space, which will benefit the business in a couple of ways; more room for merch and additional dining space.

Channeling Elton at LuLu’s North Myrtle Beach

Just across the way is the Crooked Hammock Brewery Stage – an open-air spot boasting a rotating lineup of local bands. Competitive spirit aside (we have a running gag that LuLu’s should turn their sound up to 11 to overpower what’s coming from across the street), it was a real treat to discover that Sunburst Radio was that night’s offering.

Sunburst Radio is made up of guitarist Ed Dennis (a longtime friend and Chris’ former bandmate), Ken Thomas (another longtime friend and drummer), Kim DeCosta (keyboards) and Terry Cohen (bass).  The band plays a mindful selection of FM radio hits with some surprises along the way – including a great rendition of Split Enz’s “I Got You,” which the band reprised in their last set because he knew Chris loved the tune.

We scurried back and forth from our spot to their spot to try to catch a song, and vice-versa. In the midst of this frenetic activity, we also caught up with more friends.

The Myrtle Beach area is funny that way. Despite the millions of tourists coming to visit during “the season,” you’re bound to run into people you know – especially out and about in the fall and winter.

WICKED WISHES

Wicked Wishes was the first full-blown event on the Grand Strand for Make-A-Wish South Carolina, and although we were slated to play for an hour at one o’clock, we stayed for the duration. The event was a organized by the folks at The Wicked Tuna, Banton Media, Sandpiper Entertainment, iHeart Media Myrtle Beach, Sweetwater Brewing Company, Tito’s Handmake Vodka and more.

In all, the benefit raised more than $18,000 to help grant life-changing wishes to critically ill children.

We had fun sharing the bill with the Kevin Nichols Band and the Jebb Mac Band, and I was happy to know that our old friend Seth Funderburk was on board, running sound for the event. Seth is a renaissance man and is an organizer for both the Waccmaw Getaway Festival and the IrieSun Reggae Festival. He’s also part of the South by Southeast Music Feast – a charitable organization dedicated to providing music education for young people.

Adam Dellinger from GATOR 107.9 was emceeing. He has been very supportive of The Yale Brothers, and it’s always great to see him.

Got to reconnect with Phil Jackson of Surf Dreams Foundation and sax player extraordinaire Don Colton.

Thanks to Hayley Himmelein at Banton Media for thinking of us. It was great to see her, along with Tyler Caldwell and their son, Kai, who is growing like a weed.

Finally a grateful shout-out to BJ Craven of Sandpiper Entertainment for securing our spot as well as for the after-party gig at the Tuna Shak.

What a memorable three days in the life!

The Yale Brothers

As another tourist season ends in Myrtle Beach, I am happy to report that I have been busy with my twin brother, Chris Yale, in our musical work as The Yale Brothers.  The fact that we played more shows than last year in different venues is heartening – and I want to continue that momentum. A big “thank you” to the management of these spots – and a grateful shout-out to everybody who came out to support us.

As we mention in our bio, we’re working to recapture the spark that we ignited long ago – specifically when we were just 14 – writing, recording and performing for the first time. We made a pact to start a band on par with KISS or Aerosmith with two our best friends in Miami as we were finishing up what is now considered middle school. The plan was to secure our instruments over the summer of 1977 by hook or by crook (well, at least wheedle our parents into securing them for us) and reconvene at the beginning of ninth grade.

Chris and I planned on begging our father to buy us a drum set and a keyboard while we were visiting him for the summer in Hollywood.

The good news was that dad came through. He bought Chris a Pearl drum set (of course because Kiss drummer Peter Criss used one) and for me, something called a KORG Poly Ensemble P. I wanted an Arp Odyssey, but that’s a story for another day.

Our band, with the uber-pretentious working name Iron Cross (hey, what do you want – we were 14-year-old boys), never came to fruition because of a life-changing event in our lives: We also asked our father to let us stay with him permanently, and after some intense conversations with our mother, he said yes. I plan on going more detail about those early years at a later date.

Long story short for now, Chris and I came of age in Hollywood – playing music as a duo and later in several iterations of bands there, most notably our last one there, Rogue Alley.

My brother has been on The Grand Strand since 1992, and I’ve been here since 2005. After a ten-year stint in the local classic rock cover band Sick Stooges, of which I was a founding member – I’ve been working with Chris exclusively over the past few years. The end game is to do play out even more next season and head out of town for gigs, devote some time to writing and recording – and to finally get our podcast up and running.

Our out-of-towner at Lower Left Brewing Company in Charlotte was a blast – and we plan on doing it again soon.  

We enjoyed playing at Fork’n Links on the South End and at The Hot Fish Club in Murrells Inlet. Hopefully, we’ll be at both of those great spots again soon – and the Surfside Sunday Serenades show was a hoot.

You can catch us twice a month at Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s through the end of the year and in the restaurant at House of Blues Myrtle Beach every Thursday evening from October 31 through December 5. We’re participating in the Wicked Wishes Benefit for Make-A-Wish South Carolina on October 12 at The Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet.

As they say down here, “Thanks for a great season, y’all!”

Andre Pope – Photo: Scott Smallin

On Tuesday, the world lost a real gem – Andre Pope.

I met Pope with my brother on the same day we met veteran podcaster Dave Slusher, whom Chris had arranged to meet after listening to his podcast and discovering that he lived in Conway. I had agreed to tag along that day probably 12 years ago. We got together at Bummz Beach Café in Myrtle Beach.

I knew nothing about both of those guys, except for the fact that my brother always mentioned Slusher when he talked about podcasts. I was still relatively new to the Grand Strand, having moved here in 2005.

Andre must have been like 27 then, although I perceived him to be younger than that. He was cordial and kind – and as I would find out would be a through-line in our friendship, always willing to help.

He told me that he was then a partner in an outfit called 803 labs. We talked about blogging, podcasting and social media – and it wasn’t long before the subject of tech meetups came up – and how cool it would be to launch an event in Myrtle Beach.

I’ll be damned if those guys and others didn’t put together an event called CreateSouth, which took place for several years.  My brother and I provided the entertainment for two of these. Another friend, Paul Reynolds, helped me get set up with my first Blogspot blog.

Andre leaves behind a wonderful wife, Heidi, and two awesome kids – Memphis and Ryder.

I’d have to say that Pope was a renaissance man, and somebody else recently referred to him on Facebook as a doer. He was a major proponent for cycling in our area, an expert pit master, entrepreneur, designer and family man. He taught graphic design at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and was creative director at a graphic design/marketing/advertising firm called Design Cypher.

At Bummz circa 2007 – Seated: Andre Pope, Dave Slusher / Standing: Roger Yale, Chris Yale

Early on, he invited me to lunch at Magnolia’s at 26th, a southern-inspired buffet here in Myrtle Beach. The man genuinely loved meeting and getting to know people, which is why I wasn’t surprised that he was also involved with a coworking space called Cowork MYR. He was a consummate connector.

Andre was one of my go-to sources for stories, especially during my time writing for Weekly Surge, a McClatchy product and local alt-weekly under the umbrella of The Sun News – and this covered a variety of subjects from tech to social media to cycling and more. He was a busy guy, to be sure, but never once did he turn down an interview request. He provided credibility to whatever piece I was working on, was always patient and never failed to teach me something.

For a while, he would look slightly different every time we saw him – perhaps with low sideburns at one time or a totally different getup the next – so much so that my girlfriend always told him that she was never sure if it was him. That was a trip – and I wonder if anybody else noticed that over the years.

Pope at a meetup at Liberty Tap Room & Grill Circa 2008

He was also a part of a group that I call the “yeah, man” guys – meaning that this was his way of saying “you’re welcome.” I loved that.

When I last saw him, he was resting in a camper outside The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach, where a packed benefit was going on in his honor. My brother, his wife and my girlfriend and I only visited him for a few moments. I gave him a hug and a peck on the top of the head and told him I loved him.

I swear to God, the man said to let us know if there was anything he could do for us.

That was Pope for you.

My heart goes out to his sweet family. Andre leaves a void that can never be filled. I will miss his intellect, his humility and his “yeah, man.”