Common Chords By Randall Hill
Hannaford was not alone in his grief at the loss of Myrtle Beach’s “Minister of Music” - a name that paid tribute to Roberts' vast knowledge of music and his ability to bring people together with music.
On this wintry day in February, just over a month after his death, a few close friends gathered at the site of the music series to reconnect with their memories and to share stories of their friend.
“He always remembered the things that you liked,” said David Henson. “And he was like that with everyone, not just with me. He wanted everybody to hear good music and so that’s what he did, including the South By Southeast series, that’s why he did that. He just wanted to share and you couldn’t have had a better friend.”
Born in 1954 in Myrtle Beach, Roberts was drawn to the music business at an early age, working at the old Record Shak in the early 1970s and later with Hannaford at the trendy Record Bar during the store’s opening at the old Myrtle Square Mall on April 10, 1975.
“He was a little mischievous too,” said Hannaford. “He’d do a practical joke on you in a minute.” Hannaford described the day during the Record Bar’s grand opening when then-21-year-old Roberts super-glued quarters and half dollars to the mall’s benches, watching later in laughter with staff as customers tried helplessly to pick up the money.
As the light from the afternoon sun traced over his hands from the barred windows of the depot, South By Southeast photographer Tom Pierce carefully held his favorite photo of Roberts. The image shows Roberts with a big smile holding a guitar signed by artists who had played at previous South by Southeast shows. The names fill the entire front surface of the guitar’s spruce top. When the photo was taken, Roberts was offering the guitar as a raffle to raise funds so the shows could continue. To Pierce, the photograph represents the dedication Roberts had to the series.
Roberts had the same passion while working at area record stores, including the now closed Sounds Familiar that was off 38th Avenue North, Pierce said. “Every time you went in the store, he would always have a handful of stuff, saying ‘This is what you want today.’ He always knew what you’d like.”
Roberts made his music stores seem trendy, yet like home, his friends said. And the same could be said for the South By Southeast music series.
Roberts made sure the artists who played at the South By Southeast series were there only for the audiences. Roberts knew the importance of this because he was one of them. One could say he was a professional listener.
He was the glue that held the series together. He was its rock. He was its roll.
Under the leadership of Hannaford and a recently elected board of directors, the South By Southeast series will continue. “We just want to keep it going,” said South By Southeast member Mike Millsaps. “I know Jeff is gone now and it’s going to be really hard, but we want to do it in his memory.”
Jeff Roberts through a song.
performed by friends of Jeff Roberts
Listen to audio of Robert's friends performing in his tribute.
The musicians on the tracks are:
Bob O'Connor - Guitar
Mike Millsaps - Guitar
Hasee Ciaccio - Mandolin
Nell Ciaccio - Vocals
George Marshall - Guitar
Sam Hannaford - Percussion
Additional Photography - Tom Pierce
Sound Recording Advice - David Henson
Will the Circle Be Unbroken