Music has always been a crucial part of the North Carolina Apple Festival, from the early days (when festival visitors square-danced to local country bands) to today, when a mixed slate of regional and national acts takes the stage.
This year’s festival headliners are:
• The Buddy “K” Big Band: This 18-piece ensemble, fronted by Bill Shipp, was formed 14 years ago, he says, “to give older band members the opportunity to perform again. I figured that the big bands would come back, so I looked for older musicians who wanted an opportunity to do what they did years ago in Hendersonville.” Today, the band’s reach extends far beyond Hendersonville, and it isn’t just about “older” musicians anymore — members range in age from 23 to 80.
As for Shipp’s predicted resurgence of big-band music, it is fast becoming a reality. “When we play [now], we see a younger crowd — and I’m talking 35 and under,” the bandleader notes.
Playing tunes of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s that were originally placed on the musical map by such venerable big-band leaders as Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Count Basie — including classics like “In the Mood,” “Satin Doll” and “Star Dust” — the Buddy “K” Big Band now regularly performs throughout the South and has been featured in such national publications as Dancing USA, a magazine devoted to ballroom dance.
The Buddy “K” Big Band plays on the lawn of Hendersonville’s historic courthouse on Friday, Sept. 4, from 6-10 p.m.
• General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board: Perhaps best-known for their 1970 mega-hit, “Give Me Just a Little More Time” (which was also, remarkably, the band’s first release), the Chairmen of the Board — fronted by the inimitable General Norman Johnson — went on to produce a string of satiny-smooth R&B hits — including “Dangling on a String,” “Pay to the Piper,” “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” and “Everything’s Tuesday” — all on the Detroit-based Invictus Records.
In the late 1970s, the band switched labels and locales. With the Charlotte-based Surfside Records, the Chairmen of the Board moved solidly into the Carolina beach-music groove, marked by such releases as “On the Beach,” “I’d Rather Be In Carolina,” “Loverboy” and “Carolina Girls” — still their most requested tune.
Appearances on American Bandstand, The Tonight Show and Soul Train have been interspersed with countless stadium concerts from New York City to LA — not to mention cozier shows in smaller towns and cities in between.
General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board play on the courthouse lawn on Saturday, Sept. 5, from 8-10 p.m.
• U.B.U.: This six-member troupe travels up and down the Eastern Seaboard performing its unique takes on the songs of Patsy Cline, Whitney Houston, Bob Seger, The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Van Halen, Rod Stewart and many more (“Motown, beach, soul, disco, rock ‘n’ roll, and R&B” is how they describe their genre-bending sound).
With more than 50 costume changes per concert (their press-photo duds look like “Las Vegas Glitz Meets the Grand Old Opry”) — not to mention a spectacular light show — a U.B.U. performance is visually stimulating, to say the least.
And if you’re wondering what “U.B.U.” stands for, it’s really quite simple: the Ultimate Band Unit.
U.B.U. plays on the courthouse lawn on Sunday, Sept. 6, from 6-10 p.m.
Other North Carolina Apple Festival performers include: Special Edition, Dean Moore and the Mountain Blue Grass Band, Simply Waynes, B.B. and the Chic Band, Intercontinental and the McMinn Family Band.
All festival concerts are free.