ROCKINGHAM — No one will have to follow a yellow brick Thursday — but instead head downtown as Band of Oz takes the stage in the fifth installment of the city’s Plaza Jam series.
Plaza Jam coordinator Kim Williams said last year the city and the band were forced to cancel its concert the day before due to inclement weather, with Williams unable to find another date to reschedule. This year she’s hoping for better weather.
“Band of Oz is on schedule,” she said. “We’re going to hope and pray for no rain. Plans are to move forward.”
Band of Oz, from Raleigh, was formed in 1967 as a part-time band consisting of high school students playing fraternity parties and high school proms all over the south, according to its website. The band turned professional in the early ’70s with a core group mostly from the J.H. Rose High School stage band in Greenville, featuring Chuck French on trumpet, Gary Warren on saxophone, Randy Hignite on keyboards, Jim Heidenreich on drums, Johnnie Byrd on bass, Buddy Johnson on vocals and Keith Houston on guitar. In 1971, Billy Bazemore replaced Johnson. In 1977, the band went on the road full-time. Since then, the group has made a name for itself throughout the southeast.
The eight-member group — which has changed several times throughout the years — now features a full horn section. Twenty-eight people have been a member of the band since its inception.
For several years, the Band of Oz has been a guest at most of the major beach concerts in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia.
In 1978, the group recorded and released its first single, “Shaggin.” This was followed by “Star of My Life” in 1979 and national radio airplay. They performed 200 to 300 shows per year throughout the 1980s amidst massive lineup changes. In 1995, they released the hit single “Shama Lama Ding Dong,” the People’s Choice Song of the Year at that year’s Cammy Awards and one of the most requested beach songs of all time.
In 1997, the band was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame.
The Tams will finish up the 2016 Thursday Plaza Jam series when they perform on Oct. 6.
The Plaza Jam series, now in its 13th year, features performances at Cole Plaza from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the first Thursday night of each month from May to October.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.