ROCKINGHAM — One of North Carolina’s longest-playing bands returns to Cole Plaza this week for the first time in eight years to close out the city’s Plaza Jam summer concert series.
The Band of Oz is scheduled to take the stage at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, wrapping up the season which featured other legendary bands like The Embers, featuring Craig Woolard and The Tams.
The band started off outside Greenville in the mid-’60s as the Avengers — before any of the musicians could drive — and included founding members Johnnie Byrd, Buddy Johnson and Keith Houston, according to the band’s website.
The name was changed to The Band of Oz around 1970 — around the time the first horn players joined the group.
From the late ‘60s through the mid-’70s, the band traveled all over the southeast playing parties and clubs and going through several lineup changes, but limited travel to the Carolinas in the late ‘70s.
It was around that time The Band of Oz released its two first singles: “Shaggin,” written by guitarist Houston and vocalist Billy Bazemore, in 1978; and “Star of My Life,” written by trumpet player Chuck French, in 1979.
The band went through another lineup change in 1980 and released “Ocean Boulevard” two years later, That song was voted Best New Song and the band won New Band of the Year at the Beach Music Awards.
The band also released its first album, “Keep Keepin’ It Up,” in 1983.
The Band of Oz continued touring and recording throughout the years, and won People’s Choice Song of the Year at the Carolina Beach Music Awards in 1995 with a cover of “Shama Lama Ding Dong,” which had appeared in the 1978 comedy “Animal House.”
In 1997, the band was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame.
“We’re excited to have the band of Oz back in Rockingham at Plaza Jam,” said Kim Williams, city events coordinator. She added that the lineup of bands for next year’s season will be announced.
The last time the band performed in Rockingham was 2016.
This year’s season kicked off with Chocolate Chip and Company making their first Plaza Jam appearance in May, followed by The Entertainers in June, The Embers featuring Craig Woolard in July, the Cat 5 Band in August and The Tams in September.