As long as Butch can remember, there was always music in his life. Whether it was his mother playing records by Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline (a distant cousin), Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, the sounds of 1950’s Doo Wop or his older sister watching shows like Shindig, The Lloyd Thaxton Show, American Bandstand and Where The Action Is, and a few years later, Butch’s favorite TV dance show, Soul Train, music was abundant in their home. It was also at this time he was exposed to the music of Elvis Presley by going to Elvis’ movies with his sister. He became an Elvis fan and was really taken in by his music after watching the 1968 Comeback Special. His parents also were big fans of Southern Gospel music, so he was introduced to the harmonies of gospel at a young age as well by going with his parents to gospel sings.
On The Road At 18
At the age of 18, with the recommendation of his friend and group’s tenor singer, Tommy Young, he went on the road when class and work schedules allowed with the Southern Gospel group, The Foundations, as a roadie and as Butch calls it, “record table guy”. His love for the gospel harmonies grew by the exposure to the music of groups such as The Cathedrals, Statesmen, Dixie Melody Boys, Willie Wynn & The Tennesseans, Florida Boys, Blackwood Brothers, Singing Samaritans, JD Sumner & The Stamps and his two favorite gospel groups – The Oak Ridge Boys and The Imperials. This music would come back to him later in his career. It is no wonder that when he was old enough to earn his own money, Butch was buying more records than model cars.
DJ’ing To Pay For College
After graduating from Dunn High School in 1976, Butch began DJ’ing for clubs and private parties to help pay for college and got hooked on Beach Music after seeing performances by The Spontanes, Embers, Catalinas, Bill Deal & The Rhondels and Archie Bell & The Drells while a student at Campbell College (now Campbell University). He was also sound man for a contemporary Christian group from Campbell that toured in North Carolina.
After his father’s passing in 1977, Butch left college and went to work full time to help his mother with the bills and served as a volunteer with the Dunn Rescue Squad for several years. In 1979 he began a career in law enforcement, while still seeing as many bands and buying as much music as he could. He still DJ’ed here and there, but was always working for someone else.
On The Radio & “RadioVision”
In 1989 he started his part time radio career at WLLN in Lillington, NC, hosting the newly created Carolina Sounds Beach Show. That same year he partnered with a friend to form Carolina Sounds Entertainment. His partner put up the money and Butch did the shows. After 8 months of partnership, he secured a two-year loan from the bank to buy his partner out. The loan was paid off in 18 months. Butch credits friends Pat Lynch, Marty Callaghan, Phil Hardy and Collins Cooper for helping steer him in the right direction when he went out on his own in the music business. He said these men gave him good advice and helped him build a solid client base. He later hosted the Carolina Sounds Beach Show for several years at WBZB in Selma, NC where the station experimented in putting a TV camera in the control room and broadcasted live over local access cable TV and called it “radiovision”, a named coined by station owner and Butch’s longtime friend, Gerald Waters. In 1998 had one of the first Beach Music related sites on the Internet, Carolina Sounds dot com.
Am Radio DJ of the Year
In 2002, he was asked by Kebo Davis of WLWL to produce a show for that station and as a result, was nominated for “AM Radio DJ of the Year”. After airing on two Internet radio sites for a few years, September of 2008 saw Butch Halpin & the Carolina Sounds Beach Show return to radio as an original member of the COOL Crew on WODR-FM, COOL 105.3 from Whiteville, NC. Sadly, COOL was sold and the format changed in December 2015. The Carolina Sounds Beach Show is currently in syndication airing on WLWL 77 Big Wave Radio in Rockingham, NC, WFBS-FM Sunny 107.9 Salem, SC, Beach & Oldies 96.5 in Anderson, SC and Oldies Radio 1620 in Pennsylvania. Butch hopes to add more affiliates in the near future. The show has been nominated several times for “Syndicated Radio Show of the Year” at the CBMA’s.
Club & Mobile DJ Business
Throughout the years, Butch has maintained his Mobile DJ business and has become a popular DJ in Beach Music as well as DJ, Vocalist & MC for all types of public and private functions. In 1990 he was hired as the original Beach Music DJ at Club Faces in Dunn, NC and later DJ’ed over a span of 18 years at Reds Beach Music in Raleigh, NC and J. Albert’s in Southern Pines, NC. He was the Master of Ceremonies for the 1994 Original Georgia Prophets Reunion with Billy, Barbara & Janet that introduced the Beach Music world to a new young group called The Coastline Band. In 2009 he was asked to MC the 30th Anniversary Celebration of The North Tower Band. For the last several years he has been the DJ & MC for the Boogie on Broad Concert Series as well as the NC Cotton Festival in Dunn, NC. He was co-host for several Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festivals in Charleston, SC, DJ & MC for the Lost In Paradise Beach Blasts held in Whiteville, NC and was the DJ & MC for the Tams Cruise featuring The Tonez in February 2017. He has been nominated many times for the Carolina Beach Music Awards “Club & Mobile DJ of the Year” and won in 2001. (Several years ago he withdrew from nomination consideration in this category) He was an original member of the CBMA Advisory Board and served from 1995 to 2003 and was selected to serve again in 2012.
In 1994 Butch co-produced and sang backup vocals on Billy Scott’s “Don’t Let Go”, which won Line Dance Song of the Year” at the 1995 CAMMY’s. In 2000 Butch was part of the Shama Lama Choir that provided backup vocals for the Bill Lyerly – Griff collaboration, “Bangin’ In The Dunes”. Wanting to fulfill a promise to his late parents to graduate from college, Butch spent several years as a part time student and obtained his BS degree in Criminal Justice from Western Carolina University on May 10, 2003.
Southern Gospel Music
In 2012 Southern Gospel Music once again became a part of Butch’s life when he was asked to be the MC for the Americana Tour, featuring Gospel Music’s award winning Dove Brothers and The Carolina Soul Band at the Rudy Theater in Selma, NC. The next year he MC’ed and also opened up the show singing a few classic Southern Gospel songs. In 2014, Butch and The Dove Brothers performed together in concert in Dunn, NC. He has since been asked to sing in churches and for other events where he pays tribute to several of his SGM influences as well as Elvis Presley’s gospel music. Later this year, Butch will be recording at least one gospel song and if things work out, maybe a CD or at least an EP of gospel tunes.
Speaking of Elvis
Speaking of Elvis, a few years ago Butch was asked to sing some Elvis songs at a local nursing home. Since he had been singing some of Elvis’ songs in his DJ shows for many years, he agreed to sing. He put together a makeshift outfit, cheap wig and sunglasses for the 45 minute show, which became a 90 minute show. As he was packing up equipment, he had two people want to book him for events. That was the start of another aspect of Butch’s entertainment business, Blue Suede Memories – Tribute To Elvis. He has performed the show all over NC and in Charleston, SC. About the show, Butch says, “There are many thousands of Elvis Tribute Artists all over the world, many of whom compete worldwide. I do not consider myself in their class. My show is just a simple tribute to one of the greatest entertainers of my lifetime and I perform it with sincere appreciation, respect and love for his music. I love to help folks remember the music and memories they may have of Elvis.”
Hall of Fame Inductions
Two more awards came Butch’s way. In 2012 Butch was inducted into the Beach Music Radio Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was inducted into The Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame during CBMA Weekend. “I was surprised to find out I was being inducted into the Beach Music Radio Hall of Fame. When I got John Hook’s email notifying me, I had to read it several times. It was an horror for me to be inducted with so many great radio personalities. 2013’s CBMA HOF induction was really emotional for me. I was humbled and honored to be included in that year’s group of inductees that included my longtime friends The Part Time Party Time Band and three gentlemen who I was not only a fan of, but proud to call them my friends – Ronnie Gittens, Dink Perry and Billy Scott. I was nominated for the CBMA HOF in 2012, but I think God made me wait a year to go in with all these guys. I had the honor of inducting Billy into the HOF the next day on the show at the Alabama Theater. Charlie Brown gave me the “official script” to read and also asked me to say a few words about Billy since we were so close. Being able to induct Billy that afternoon was a big honor for me. As I look at the list of inductees into both of these Halls of Fame, it is mind boggling. If someone told me in 1976 that one day I’d be in the same company as these men and women who have contributed so much to Carolina Beach Music, I would not have believed them.”
Blackwater Rhythm & Blues Band
In the Spring of 2014, Dale Edwards, owner of The Blackwater Rhythm & Blues Band, asked Butch about filling in with them on a concert for July 4th in Virginia because one of the members couldn’t make it. While in rehearsals for the show, said member quit the band, so for six months, Butch was a member of Blackwater. About Blackwater, Butch adds, “I was a big fan of them from the start. I had the opportunity to DJ with them many times and knew Dale had something good with these guys and that they’d be a crowd favorite one day. Becoming a member, even though we all knew it was temporary, was one of the highlights of my career. It was like jamming with my best buds every time we hit the stage. I genuinely love all those guys – the ones I played with and the current members. I honestly feel I am a better entertainer from the time I spent with them. I really had to bring my A Game every time. I will always be thankful for the opportunity to sing with them.”
The “Real” Job
When he’s not performing at public or private events, festivals or one of the charities he supports, you may find him working his “real job” as a Crime Scene Investigator for the Dunn, NC Police Department, his second stint with the agency. His career in law enforcement has taken him to a few different agencies and capacities from patrol officer, supervisor to police chief. He came “home to Dunn” in 2008 as their CSI, where he hopes to retire in a few years.
About The Music Business
When asked to share some thoughts on the music business and his career, “I have really been blessed to still be doing something that I love for so long. Many of the artists I grew up listening to and later playing their music, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting and several have become close friends. I know that God has been much better to me than I deserve. Anything good that happens to me is because of Him and I give Him all the praise. Awards and accolades are an honor to receive and I do not take them lightly nor do I expect to be nominated every year for an award at the CBMA’s. When asked for advice from those just entering the Beach Music arena, I always tell them to take things slow and not try to be ‘the next big thing in Beach Music’. Absorb all they can. Read liner notes on albums and CD’s. Research and ask questions. Also, I’ve told several that no matter how popular they become, or think they’ve become; no matter how many awards they may win; never forget that they are not the stars of the show. In my opinion, the MUSIC and the FANS are the real stars of the show. Artists and DJ’s are the facilitators. Like in any business, especially entertainment, leave your ego at the door. I’m excited about the younger people getting involved in Beach Music, but we need more. I do believe that with everyone working together and not just for their own agenda, Beach Music will continue to thrive and grow. I sure hope so, because I ain’t ready to retire from it yet!”