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From a back porch to the big stage: Small town band brings the country to CCMF

Whits End, Battle of Band winners prepare for CCMF stage

Members of the band Whits End perform their original song "Moonshine" and talk about winning Battle of the Bands to make it to the Myrtle Beach's Carolina Country Music Fest stage for the first time on Monday.
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Members of the band Whits End perform their original song "Moonshine" and talk about winning Battle of the Bands to make it to the Myrtle Beach's Carolina Country Music Fest stage for the first time on Monday.

Two guys started with an acoustic set-up three years ago on the back porch of a home in Lancaster County, South Carolina.

They had no band name. And they never imagined they would expand into a five-person band that would play on the big stage outside of the county.

“Heck with it — let’s just go ahead and do a full band,” Chris Whitaker, lead singer of Whits End Band, said of the beginning days. “Let’s try it and see what happens, and now we are at CCMF.”

After going through six drummers, three bass players, calling themselves the “No Name Band” and winning four rounds of battle of the bands in Charlotte, North Carolina, the group is positioned to take the stage each day of Carolina Country Music Festival in Myrtle Beach.

“This is what we live for,” said guitarist Brandon Ashley.

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Members of the Whits End band warm up in Surfside Beach the morning before their first performance at Carolina Country Music Fest. The Whits End band, from Lancaster County S.C., won the opportunity to perform at Carolina Country Music Fest buy winning four rounds of Battle of the Bands in Charlotte, N.C. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews.com

The country band that has a Southern rock twist is made up of five guys — Whitaker, Ashley, guitarist Dillon Locke, bassist Brad Williams and drummer Steven Branham. The band members are from areas around Lancaster County, and say it’s special to play in Myrtle Beach, where they grew up vacationing.

“All you ever dreamed of as a kid is about to happen on that stage,” Branham said.

The band had its first bigger gig at Amos’ Southend in Charlotte, and then worked its way into Battle of the Bands and playing shows around the Lancaster area. In January, Whitaker said the group decided they didn’t want to limit themselves to playing local, and making it to the beach stage “happened fast.”

“They say when it happens for you, it happens fast,” Whitaker said.

Whits End will be performing cover songs during the four-day concert, but has original songs, including one of its first songs, “Moonshine.” The song came about after the “moonshine man” left Whitaker’s home one evening, he said, adding he was so happy to have his adult beverage that he started humming a tune that turned into the song.

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The Whits End band, from Lancaster County S.C., won the opportunity to perform at Carolina Country Music Fest buy winning four rounds of Battle of the Bands in Charlotte, N.C. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews.com

Whitaker said their band is genuinely made up of what country music is about — country men from blue-collar families who work hard to make a living.

“Country music isn’t about taking a girl down a back road,” he said. “It’s about working for a living to support our family. It’s easier to write about it when you live it.”

Ryan Trotti, whose band is set to perform for the second year at CCMF, stopped by to wish Whits End band members good luck Thursday ahead of their performance. Charlotte resident Trotti has given the band advice on what to expect in their first year at CCMF.

“It goes by fast,” he said. “I just hope they take the time to enjoy it. You tend to not embrace it when you’re in the moment because you have a job to do.”

Trotti said he encourages Whits End to soak it all in while they’re up on stage.

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Ryan Trotti, of The Ryan Trotti Band, stops to visit the Whits End Band members before their first performance at Carolina Country Music Fest. Trotti is set to perform for the second year at Carolina Country Music Fest 2019. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews.com

Whits End, Whitaker said, had set a goal to grow bigger as a band at the beginning of the year and making it to CCMF has exceeded their goal. As for what’s next after CCMF, the group is negotiating a contract to go on tour and will finalize plans after they return home.

“Bring it on,” Whitaker said of the band’s next steps.

The Sun News Reporter Hannah Strong is passionate about making the world better through what she reports and writes. Strong, who is a Pawleys Island native, is quick to jump on breaking news, profiles stories about people in the community and obituaries. Strong has won four S.C. Press Association first-place awards, including one for enterprise reporting after riding along with police during a homicide. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Winthrop University.

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