Home Lifestyle Embers return for Rockingham’s Plaza Jam

Embers return for Rockingham’s Plaza Jam

Embers frontman Craig Woolard walks into the crowd during the band's 2021 Plaza Jam performance. RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — Beach music legends the Embers featuring Craig Woolard return Thursday for the July installment of the Plaza Jam summer concert series.

The band was the first to perform for the 2021 season after the May concert was canceled because state gathering restrictions hadn’t yet been lifted and the June show was called off because of projected weather.

The band was founded in Raleigh in 1958 by drummer Bobby Tomlison and guitarist Jackie Gore and has been through several lineup changes in the past 60-plus years.

The Embers were among the inaugural Carolina Beach Music Awards Hall of Fame inductees in 1995 and were inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

Woolard has been off and on with the band since the ‘70s and spent time with his solo career. In addition to lead vocals, he also plays saxophone and flute.

Guitarist Jeff Grimes, according to the band’s website, used to sit in as a saxophonist with the band in the early ‘70s. After working for Atlantic Records in New York and 15 years gigging in the Miami area, Grimes officially joined the band in 1995. He too was inducted in 2011.

Stephen Pachuta, the band’s trumpet player, is also a keyboardist and his background includes performing and recording with other beach music bands like the Band of Oz, Coastline and the Main Event Band.

As for the rhythm section, bassist Gerald Davis first joined the band in 1976 after spending time playing in California; and drummer Wayne Free, who formerly played trombone with the Swingin’ Medallions, fronted the band for a few years in the mid-2000s until leaving to pursue a solo career in 2014.

Woolard, Grimes and Davis were inducted into the CBMA HOF in 2011.

“We’re so excited to have the Embers and Craig Woolard back and we’re praying for good weather!” Rockingham Events Coordinator Kim Williams said Wednesday afternoon.
According to the National Weather Service, there is a 40-70% chance of showers and thunderstorms.


After this month, there are three bands left in the series: the Cat 5 Band in August; The Tams in September; and the legendary Band of Oz closing out the season in October.

The Tams have performed at every Plaza Jam since it started, according to Williams, even playing the day after frontman Little Redd’s birthday one year.

This will be the first appearance by the Cat 5 Band and the first time the Band of Oz has performed in Cole Plaza since 2016.

The 2020 season was canceled due to state-imposed gathering limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here for photos from the Embers’ 2021 concert.

Click here for photos from the Embers’ 2019 concert.

Click here for photos from the Embers’ 2018 concert.

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