Sweet Breeze on Okaloosa: Local beaches inspire new tune from ’70s surf-rock band (PHOTOS)

Jacob Fuller

For a musician whose band opened for The Beach Boys, the Emerald Coast is a paradise worth singing about.

Guitarist and songwriter Greg Scharpf, 58, grew up in Fox Chapel, Penn. In high school, he and four friends formed the band Sweet Breeze. After starting their stage career playing their high school dances, the leisure-suit-clad surf-and-soul rockers caught their big break when singer, producer and record label president Lou Christie signed them to 2001 Records in 1978.

Christie had written and recorded a string of hits throughout the ’60s, including Top 10 records "Two Faces Have I," "Lightning Strikes," and "I'm Gonna Make You Mine." After signing Sweet Breeze, he produced a 7-inch single featuring Christie's "Summer in Malibu" and "Two Faces Have I," recorded by the band.

"Summer in Malibu" became a regional hit for the band in Pennsylvania. Later that year, Christie helped the band land a gig at Jam '78, opening for The Beach Boys and the Steve Miller Band at Three Rivers Stadium in front of more than 15,000 fans.

That year marked the peak of Sweet Breeze's popularity. The members moved on to day jobs, while continuing to play benefit concerts together around Fox Chapel and doing studio work with other musicians.

Now retired, Scharpf and the other members of Sweet Breeze: drummer and vocalist Don Marsico, keyboardist Joe Di Benedetto, bassist Freddy Patterson, and lead vocalist Drew Martier, once again have time to devote to their music. While vacationing at the condominium he owns at El Matador, Scharpf got the inspiration for the band's latest tune, "Okaloosa Island."

"The beach is just gorgeous down there. It's virtually unspoiled," Sharpf told The Log.

The tune is quintessential surf-rock, in the style of their once-mentors The Beach Boys. Driven by an easy-grooving guitar riff and vocal harmonies, "Okaloosa Island" sings the praises of relaxing on the beaches with a cold drink and a beautiful woman. The song is available on iTunes as "The Island Okaloosa." Scharpf said it has sold about 20,000 copies since its release Aug. 20.

"It seems like now there is even more of an opportunity," Scharpf said. "There are so many different ways to get a song out there."

Sweet Breeze is working on more recordings, including a song titled "Over Me (The Girl with the Emerald Eyes)." Once finished, Sweet Breeze plans to add the song to a two-song CD single with "Okaloosa Island," which they hope to sell at souvenir shops along the Emerald Coast.

Buy "Okaloosa Island" on iTunes or Amazon, or listen to it on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Sweet-Breeze/269332063133744.