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Nobone had heard anything quite like it before. The Contenders sound was woven from all the threads which make up the tapestry of Southern music; in a typical evening one would hear strains of blues, bluegrass, R&B, country, old time mountain music, beach, gospel and good old rock & roll. A rapport developed among them on stage as when one member would try to surprise the others with a new twist on some arrangement, everyone would just follow right along. There seemed to be a feeling of cooperative competition where each one was trying to do his best, maybe even outdo the others, but always with the full support of the band.

It was a period of great creativity; seemingly every time they came through town there would be a couple of new titles on the set list. They played with a strong sense of dynamics, sometimes setting the audience up with a quiet, almost acoustic feeling for a song or two and then launching a scorching rocker. As individuals they were charming, good looking and very bright, and it was not for nothing that their fans soon nicknamed them The Mighty Contenders. The group played throughout the Southeast as far west as Austin and thanks to their agent Bobby Cudd, also a Spartanburg boy, they even did a three-night stand at New Yorkís famous Lone Star Cafe. Their live shows are still talked about and rare tapes circulate to this day.

 

The Contenders play the Liberty Lunch, Austin, Tx, 1977
photo by Keith Dannemiller

The Music Inspires a Label

It soon became apparent that a record needed to be made. David Robert was owner of the Chapel Hill, NC club and Contenders stomping ground Catís Cradle and it must have been in part that he wanted one for himself, because he founded Moonlight Records just to make their album. After a couple of years, though, the days of driving a long way for little money began to take their toll. Walter was the first to leave and though the rest soldiered on for another few months the group played itís last show in June of 1978, the album on Moonlight coming out just about the time the band folded. That effort, along with three other tracks recorded after Walter left the band, is what appears on the newly released CD from Gadfly Records.

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