Common Chords By Randall Hill
Jim Thomas and Charlie Newell
The two friends remember the day as if it were yesterday. Jim Thomas and fellow musician Charlie Newell were driving down 16th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach in Jim’s Volkswagen in the late summer of 1967 when a song came on the radio that would change them emotionally and musically forever. “I remember the look on your face that day,” said Newell, “and I know I had the same look.” The song was “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix, and it became a day that they both honor. The music they heard for the first time that day solidified a friendship still immersed in music.
40 years later, the long-time friends are still playing music together, now as the founding members of the Myrtle Beach band The Chainsaws.
“The Chainsaws has been put together to be an entertainment vehicle,” said Thomas. But the band is more than that, he said. “It’s become instrumental in being a mobile reunion phenomenon as well.” On this Saturday night in May, the friends are preparing the stage for a Chainsaws gig at Bimini’s Oyster Bar in Myrtle Beach.
For Thomas, performing with the band is no small feat. An engineer with a large defense contractor, Thomas lives in Cherry Hill, N.J. To keep his dates with the band he must schedule them around his demanding career and fly to the Grand Strand. “It’s a hobby that keeps me going,” he said about playing music. “I’ve never lost the love of playing the guitar.”
Still living in Myrtle Beach not far from where he grew up, Charlie is retired after working for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The two met in the 10th grade at Myrtle Beach High School. “There’s always been this sense of knowing between us musically,” said Newell about his long-time band mate. “It’s a level of connection I’ve never experienced in another setting. We’re able to go in completely different directions but we know what the other is going to do.”
“How do you describe a friend?” asked Thomas. “Somehow you’re able to share things you can’t share with anybody else. With Charlie we’ve never lost it.”