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Pawleys Festival of Music: Local talent takes the stage for finale

By Carrie Humphreys
For the Observer

Don Thomas once thought he would become a famous vocal performer. He never attained his dream.

But he’s a star among locals.

Thomas is the lead singer of the Fourclosures, an acoustic band playing ’60s and ’70s hits who for the past seven years have performed weekly at the Island Bar and Grill in Pawleys Island. The group is slated to play at Sunday’s finale of the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Arts. The Seaside Showcase will highlight local musicians. Also on the schedule are Greg Van Allen, Latitude, Rachel Ayers Tipton and Dan O’Reilly. The free concert is a benefit for the Wounded Warriors Project.

The concert kicks off with the Carvers Bay High Drum Line, aka “Bongo Brothers,” and concludes with an armed forces salute by the Pawleys Island Concert Band. Also featured are several American Roots Scholarship winners sponsored by the Georgetown County Cultural Council – local students who excel in American music performance.

Thomas is helping to organize the festival finale and helped select the line up. Each showcase is 30 minutes in length. And the best part, according to Thomas, is none of the performers have to set up and take down their equipment, an unwelcome task among most of this arty bunch.

“The sound crew that is putting on the festival at The Reserve will have it all ready to go and we just have to plug in,” Thomas explained with glee.

The Fourclosures may not relish setting up all the paraphernalia necessary to play, but they thrive on performing.

Thomas, 57, has spent most of his life in bands. Self taught, he calls himself a singer first, guitarist second. His voice reminds of Neil Diamond, and the band’s Neil Diamond segment is particularly popular with the Fourclosures’ following.

Earlier in his career as a full time musician, Thomas performed solo in bars, restaurants and clubs. He sang briefly with the Box Tops (ie “My Baby Wrote Me a Letter”) and when he first arrived at Pawleys Island in 1986, he was the warm up act for some of the beach bands playing in Myrtle Beach, like The Catalinas. His only recorded CD is “Slice Mulligan, Thank God for the 19th Hole,” which he also wrote and produced.

The Fourclosures formed 10 years ago. “I got a call to play for a New Year’s Eve party at the Moose Hall in Myrtle Beach by bass player Bruce Braynard and our harmonica player David Lacombe, who knew of me and asked if I wanted to join them for the gig. I did, and as a trio we sounded pretty good. Soon after we added Robbie Buice, a drummer who lived in my neighborhood.”

And the rest, well, is history.

They are not short of bookings. Gigs typically pay between $500 and $800 a show, but, luckily, the foursome doesn’t rely on their musical fees. All have other endeavors. Buice and Thomas are Realtors. Thus their name, a “play” on their occupation. “Instead of foreclosures, we’re the Fourclosures,” Thomas explained.”We tried out a lot of names but the name Fourclosures just stuck.”

The talented bandmates work well together, no inflated egos among them, according to Thomas. He easily steps aside when LaCombe picks up his blues harmonica or flute. LaCombe wows on both instruments and is a favorite among band fans. A musician for 35 years, LaCombe once had his own band in Massachusetts, and recalls fond memories of backing up the James Cotton Blues Band and Little Richard early on in his career. As a member of the Fourclosures, he croons a few tunes also. “I equate playing a musical solo to creating a wonderful work of art,” he said.

Said drummer Buice who started playing percussion at age two. “The Fourclosures have only had two rehearsals in ten years. The drummer part is easy, but I don’t understand how the other guys can just play any song by ‘ear.’ “Incredible.”

For the Sunday Showcase, Dan O’Reilly will join the Fourclosures for a set. O’Reilly is a superb saxophone player with extensive performing experience both in New York City and along the Grand Strand at such venues as the House of Blues, Broadway at the Beach, the Palace Theater, and Brookgreen Gardens. He has appeared with the Four Tops, the Temptations, Lou Rawls, and opened for such national artists as B.B.King and the Doobie Brothers. O’Reilly is the writer and director of “Blues Train – The All American Rock & Roll Journey”, which ran for many years at the House of Blues. He performs regularly with his jazz quintet U-N-I, and with various groups along the Grand Strand. Thomas invited him to join up with the Fourclosures to add a jazzy sax element to the band.

Thomas also takes the stage with guitarist Greg Van Allen. Together they will rock with hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. “Greg sits in with us on occasion,” Thomas explained of his musical buddy.

Van Allen has been playing guitar for over 40 years. His extensive music background includes playing lead guitar for many classic rock bands in the Allentown, Pa., area from the mid 1970s until 2010 when he moved to Pawleys Island. Greg was also in several acoustic duo, trio, and solo projects as well as playing guitar and bass in the pit orchestra for productions of famous musicals like “Evita,” “My Fair Lady,” “A Chorus Line” and many others. He is a well regarded solo performer in local restaurants and venues in the areas and has a solid following. His show includes dozens of rock, folk, and country hits. He also teaches guitar.

The Bluegrass band “Subject to Change” will fill another slot of the showcase. Formed in 2000, the band was founded by hard driving banjo player Mickey Sellers from Conway who described his playing as the perfect combination of Crowe and Scruggs style picking. The group also includes his son Jarrod Sellers on bass, Greg Abercombe on vocal and guitar, his son Garret Abercombe on fiddle, and Brandon Porter on lead guitar. These extraordinary gents, ages 16 to 58, have been around bluegrass all of their lives. And you can tell. “Subject to Change” is traditional bluegrass at its best.

“We can hardly keep up with our bookings,” said Mickey who named the group “Subject to Change” because “for some reason bluegrass band personnel are constantly changing.”

Pawleys Island resident Rachel Ayers Tipton will present a sampling of her Sheryl Crow tribute during her Sunday spotlight. A semi-retired professional singer and dancer, she’s perfected Crow’s look, sound and movements so much so you might think it is actually Crow on stage. Vocals include songs like “All I Want To Do,” “Soak Up the Sun,” and “Strong Enough.” Backing her up are her husband Tommy on drums, Brent Pace on bass and Curtis McDonald on guitar. Tipton said she and her husband are huge fans of Crow. “I think I’ve nailed her.”

Pawleys Island residents Tom and Michelle Becker, married 17 years, have been performing much of their lives. And as Latitude, with Michelle on keyboard and Tom on guitar, they play and sing about 200 shows a year throughout the country. They are immensely popular along the Grand Strand. Their focus is trop rock, a combination of country, rock and roll and Caribbean all wrapped into one laid-back, island flavored muscial menage – a particular favorite among baby-boomers. Jimmy Buffett is often referred to as the “Pop of Trop Rock.” Other major label artists include: Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, and Bertie Higgin. The Beckers compose Trop Rock songs, among other ditties. But they can sing anything. So be prepared to be entertained.

“We just go with the flow,” Michelle Becker said.

If you go What: Sunday Seaside Showcase

When: Oct. 12, 3-7 p.m.

Where: The Reserve Golf Club

How much: Free, but donations accepted for Wounded Warrior Project

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