Arts & Culture

Spreading his Gospel

  • By Lori K. Tate
  • Photography by Gayle Shomer

A Gaston County disc jockey works to revive beach music.

disc jockey kyle beam in gastonia north carolina

As Kyle Beam delivers his message, the 61-year-old’s deep, rich voice takes on the swinging tempo of an evangelist delivering a fiery Sunday sermon. Sometimes his words crescendo as his voice swells into a final point. Sometimes he speaks softly and lets a song drive the rest of his sentence home.

Regardless of volume, Beam’s voice is so intoxicating to listeners, they often forget they’re tuning in to hear music. But at Gaston College’s WSGE, the music is here, and Beam, known as The Right Reverend of Beach Music, is right here with it.

The Reverend spreads the gospel of beach and shag music during the “Sunday Night Beach Music Revival.” Located in Dallas, just a few miles from Gastonia, WSGE 91.7 is far from the ocean and late-night, pavilion dances. But when you listen to The Reverend’s show, it’s easy to picture yourself by the sea.

Beam doesn’t get paid. Like most of the DJs at the noncommercial, public radio station, he’s a volunteer. During the day, he works as the vice president of sales for Precise Power in Belmont, but as soon as he walks into the control room at WSGE, he becomes The Reverend. Beam, who has volunteered at the station for 10 of its 32 years, works to keep shag music alive for his generation and the ones that will follow.

As a DJ, Beam reconnects with the music he loved as a young man. The Cherryville native grew up in the mid-’60s when all teenagers crossed the Catawba River Bridge to visit a nightclub called The Cellar in Charlotte. That’s where he saw Billy Stewart, a legendary R&B singer, perform for the first time.

“It makes cold chills run over me right now just thinking about it,” he says.

It wasn’t uncommon to see The Temptations, The Four Tops, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles all in one night at Park Center, now The Grady Cole Center, in Charlotte.

“We grew up when this music was exploding,” he says.

As commercial radio gets less personal with syndicated shows and nonlocal DJs, WSGE reminds listeners what radio used to be when DJs talked about more than celebrity gossip and laser eye surgery. Beam talks about real things and real people.

During one show, he joked with Appalachian State University fans making their way up U.S. Highway 321 to a football game. And it’s not uncommon for Beam to mess up on the air. A song might skip; you might hear him talking when you’re not supposed to; there might be a few seconds of dead air.

There’s no script. Sometimes, listeners even call him to joke about his mistakes.

That’s fine with Beam. What matters most to him is that people are discovering and enjoying the music that means so much to him. He was part of its birth, and he’s determined to be part of its future.

The Reverend’s Top Picks

Kyle Beam’s favorite beach music songs can change daily with his mood, but there are 10 classic tunes he can’t forget. Five are for listening; five are for dancing.

Just good listenin’
1.“Miss Grace” by The Tymes
2.“Thank You John” by Willie Tee
3.“Cool Me Out” by Lamont Dozier
4.“Shakin’ the Shack” by The Fantastic Shakers
5.“Over the Rainbow” by Big John Thompson

Shag to this
1.“Three Thirty Three” by The Drifters
2.“Come Get to This” by Marvin Gaye
3.“A Donut and a Dream” by The Mills Brothers
4.“I’ll Be Satisfied” by Jackie Wilson
5.“Surely I Love You” by Rosco Gordon

WSGE 91.7 FM
Gaston College
201 U.S. Highway 321 South
Dallas, N.C. 28034
Request Line: (704) 922-4286

Lori K. Tate is a freelance writer who lives in Cornelius with her husband, John; their 2-year-old twins, Graydon and Margot; and their tabby cat, Azalea. Lori’s most recent story for Our State was “Concord” (June 2011).

This entry was posted in July 2012, Music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Spreading his Gospel

  1. Brenda Hill says:

    I love listening to Kyle. He has a great personality and radio voice. I found WSGE in 98′ and have been listening to it ever since. Thanks to all the DJ’s that volunteer their time to keep a great genre of music alive and kickin.

  2. Don Greene says:

    Love to listen to his show.
    All of the DJ’s are fun listening. Every week-end, hear something new, didn’t know existed. Brings lots of smiles.
    WSGE is a great public radio statio as it should be, too many of them run the same national syndicated content.

  3. Tom Stone says:

    Kyle is one of a kind in this highly commercialized world. He gives his time freely along with a marvelous crew of DJ’s. I can honestly say, I love what I hear and I appreciate what these guys do for us.
    Thanks to you all,
    Tom Stone
    The Sheik of shag

  4. Jim Austin says:

    Kyle is one of the best out there today, has an endless supply of talant, knowledge, and heart for the Beach, Blues, and just plain great music.
    I’m so proud to know Kyle, and I try to listen to his show all the time. Hope You Keep Spinning Dem Tunes.
    Jim Austin

  5. Frank Price says:

    As a fellow shag DJ at WSGE, Kyle Beam was my mentor at the station when I first came on board five years ago. He is so talented at what he does, is sincere about his absolute love for beach music and a great friend also. I hope that both of us will continue to play great beach and shag at 91.7fm for a long time, and keep bringing back wonderful memories for all of our listeners.

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