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Bristol station for beach music lovers is a hit

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Beach Wave Radio DJs Scott Walker (left), Townsend Link (center) and Ben Morris (right) at Beach Fest at the Farm in Selma, North Carolina.

A Bristol, Tennessee-based internet radio station, Beach Wave Radio is in the process of introducing beach music to the Birthplace of Country Music.

Ben Morris, one of the three founders and DJs of Beach Wave Radio, proclaimed that there is more to Bristol, Tennessee, than country music. There is also rhythm and blues, and with it comes beach music.

"Everybody associates Bristol with country music. That's been the identifier put on the city. But, people do forget that Jimmy Rogers recorded here in 1927, and he's often known as the father of rhythm and blues, and that's what beach music originates from, is rhythm and blues roots," Morris said. "It kind of sounds like a weird fit in the beginning, but I think it's a great fit, because Bristol was much more than country music."

Beach Wave Radio, which has recently received seven nominations at the upcoming 2022 Carolina Beach Music Awards, started when DJs Morris from Bristol, Tenn., Townsend Link from White Lake, North Carolina, and Scott Walker from Grantham, North Carolina, got together during the COVID-19 pandemic to start their own internet radio beach music station as a way to connect with the greater beach music community. They have gained thousands of listeners over the past year,

Bunni Olinger, a regular listener of the station from Chilhowie, Virginia, emphasized how Beach Wave Radio has allowed her and her husband Bill to enjoy the music they love to dance to in the comfort of their own home.

"We've got a sign actually that hangs in our kitchen that says, 'This is this kitchen is for dancing.' So, we listen to the Beach Wave Radio and just shag dance in the kitchen, or we put the Alexa outside and shag dance on the deck," Olinger said. "It brings the music that we love into our homes."

Olinger is one of around 150,000 current Beach Wave Radio listeners. One of the main reasons Olinger gives as to why she keeps seeking out the station is because of how much fun the hosts are to listen to. She also likes that, unlike other beach music radio stations in the area, they take song suggestions.

"They're all very friendly. Their shows are entertaining. We actually personally know three of them, and they're just top-notch people," Olinger said. "Anytime we want to hear something special, all we have to do is send them a request, and it gets on the air within a few minutes."

Link explained beach music is more than just music. It's a lifestyle.

"Beach music to me is more than just music. It's more of a lifestyle that really embraces the music as a whole," Link said. "It's really a tight-knit community of music lovers."

In terms of the stations' growth and their mission to bring beach music to the region, Link believes they have achieved their goal and all they have to do now is keep the music and the good times going.

"It's already become what I want it to become, which is an outlet for my friends and myself who own it together to keep the music alive, keep it going, and to promote beach music as a whole," Link said. "I'm very proud of what it is, and you know, we continue to grow it. We just want to be a positive impact in the music industry."

Morris has been working to bring more beach music bands to Twin City and has already been in contact with Bristol, Tennessee, about possibilities around their Sound on Sixth Summer event, which featured beach music favorites, The Catalina's this year.

"I've actually been working with Bristol, Tennessee, and they've been trying to bring one in per summer with their Sounds on Sixth. This year, they had the Catalina's. They're working on another band for next summer," Morris said. "You know, music types ebb and flow and, you know, country music exploded in the early to mid-90s, and Bristol really embraced that. I think we kind of lost a generation with some of the R&B-type music bands. But, I actually think it's, it's coming back."

Beach Wave Radio was nominated for Best Internet Radio Station of the year by the CBMA in 2021 but did not win. This year they are nominated for best Internet Radio Station of the year, as well as three nominations for DJ of the Year and three nominations for best Internet Radio Show of the year.

Olinger would love to see Beach Waves Radio win all the awards that they have been nominated for.

"I would love to see them win this year," Olinger said. "It's well-deserved. It's well deserved."

The Carolina Beach Music Awards will take place on November 13 at The Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.


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