Shaggin' In the Carolinas
|MYTHS AND NEAR MYTHS
Beach music was 60 years old
In 1945 Billboard magazine announced
that "Swing is dead; bands are out and vocalists are in."
The same year `Beach' music emerged on two jukeboxes at two beaches;
spreading rapidly at one of them to `jump joints' along the boardwalk, then to
other saloons and restaurants along the East Coast.
In the late 40s WLAC in Nashville featured
rhythm 'n blues late-at-night with Gene Nobles, John R (ichbourg)
and Hoss Allen. Gene started work there in '43, John in '47 and
Hoss two years later.
By 1949, a few small, Carolina stations
featured one and two-hour Rhythm 'n Blues shows such as Mac's
"A-Train Show" on WADE in Wadesboro and Genial Gene
in Charlotte on WGIV. WLAC may have been the inspiration for many
of those shows but they were probably also triggered by the radio
wars with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Arrangers and
Producers) and the resultant formation of BMI (Broadcast Music
Incorporated). To avoid playing ASCAP songs, BMI licensed a good
deal of the country and rhythm 'n blues which had been ignored
by ASCAP up to that point.
By the mid-50s, other local shows popped
up: Buttercup in Lexington, NC (a female R&B jock!), the former
president of the S.C. Association of Broadcasters had an R&B
show in Spartanburg, Andy Herring started out in Kinston as Nervous
Andy which evolved into his "Hot Foot Club"on
WELS in November 1960 (in 1995, at 83, he still played the Hot
Foot Club every afternoon, Monday through Friday), `Daddy-O on
The Patio' at WAAA in Winston Salem, Rusty Page and Hot Scott
Hubbs at WGIV in Charlotte.
WLAC was a mega-powerful R&B outlet
well into the 1970s. And over the years there have been many other
venues for R&B and Shag music, yet the myths persist that
Beach music is a phenomenon exclusive to the Beach. This demonstrates
how little of Beach music history is really known.
Millions of Southeasterners have been
exposed to it in many places, had a good time with it, then went
back to their hometown and heard little or none of it unless they
were lucky enough to know about a nearby Beach club or radio show
(many in the 40s and 50s did not know about WLAC).
...THE UNIVERSE ALWAYS FILLS VACUUMS
Local bands, often termed `Beach'
bands, got out of their hometowns and onto the Beach (and frat)
circuit in the late 50s. Harry Deal and the Galaxies first played
the Myrtle Beach Pavilion in 1960. The Pavilion at Atlantic Beach,
Morehead City didn't have live acts until circa 1960. The 60s
were explosive for the growth and popularity of Beach bands. In
the 70s many disappeared; while others shouldered the `Rock' mantle
for a few years.
The change in drinking laws in 1986 had
a profound effect on the bands, and Beach music in general; almost
no one under 21 gets exposure to the Beach bands at frat parties
or nightclubs any more. Many of the summer Beach
up for lack of this important 18--21 year old audience.
As exposure in clubs, festivals and frat
parties declined, the vacuum was filled through radio by the spontaneous
appearance of new Beach
shows and Beach syndication including:
the late Larry Crockett of Raleigh, Dale Van Horne, Charlie Byrd,
Mack Jones, Leighton Grantham and Ken Rogers, Bill Kopald, the
Beach Boogie and Blues Network and the Rhythm 'n Beach Network.
Clearly there has always been commitment
on the part of 'some' broadcasters to provide unique, quality
programming and entertainment for the Beachdiggers and Boppers
of the Southeast.
For the sake of historical comparison,
we offer everything from newspaper reports to
merchant accounts and most
importantly first hand experiences in the history of Beach and Shag in 'waves.'
FIRST WAVE: 1945--November 1954 (Hurricane Hazel):
They were the seminal years. Rhythm 'n
Blues, Jump Blues, and Blues first appeared on juke boxes in Caucasian
clubs in the Southeast. The `Beach Cat' population evolved with
fighters, dancers, lifeguards, resort employees constituting a
new culture, with new social more´s reflected in the new
The Virginia Beach / Norfolk / Chesapeake
area offered clubs like the Casino, the Mecca, the Top Hat, the
Surf Club, the Cavalier, the Ebb Tide, the 2:00 Club, the Triangle,
the Latin Quarter and the Sand Bar; and Baron Be-Bop was the reigning
DJ on WFOG.
Jimmy Capps offered "My Best
To You", a nighttime request show for lovers, on WPTF,
a 50,000 watt regional powerhouse in Raleigh (he was impresario
of many 60's Beach bands through his JCP record label).
Inland were numerous weekend getaway
spots where the kids (and adults) went to relax along the water
(lakes, rivers, and pools). Nearly all had piccolos featuring
some of the biggest Beach songs of the era: Smitty's Beach on the Catawba River south
of Charlotte, Lake Lure, Happy Lake in Kannapolis, Mirror Lake
in Salisbury, Harris Lake near Concord, Joe's Beach in Lexington,
Mountain Lake near Chester, Williams Lake near Fayetteville, Belew's
Lake north of Greensboro, High Point Lake, Lake Murray near Columbia,
Sustare's Pool in Matthews, Grace Park Recreation Center and Pool
in Statesville, Sunrise Beach on Lake Lookout between Statesville
and Hickory, plus there were indoor dances and concerts at places
like the Pickle Tobacco Warehouse in Faison, NC and armories throughout
The Shag developed into the form recognized
This era ended with the devastation wrought
by Hurricane Hazel. Pavilions, piers and the familiar haunts of
the First Wave disappeared under the waves and into the sand.
SECOND WAVE: 1955--1961:
(The Pad opened
at O.D.--Ocean Drive-- July 4, 1955 and by 1961 the first R&B era had drawn
to a close)
Second generation Shaggers and Beachdiggers
took to the Beach (How do we know they were `second generation'?
On the dance side, most of the dancers of the era studied, or
were mentored by, the FIRST WAVE. On the Beachdigger side, the
Second Wave generation venerated the hits of the First Wave: "60
Minute Man," "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Safronia B," "Fine Brown Frame," "Ebony Rhapsody,"
"Honey Love," "Money Honey," "One Mint Julep," "Rocket 88," "Sh-Boom,"
"Over The Rainbow," "White Cliffs of Dover," "Green Eyes," "Annie Had A Baby,"
"The Hucklebuck," "Drinkin' Wine Spo Dee O Dee," "Saturday Night Fish Fry," "Lavendar
Coffin," "Pink Champagne," "Blue Light Boogie," "Bad Bad Whiskey," "Teardrops
From My EYes," "Have Mercy Baby," "5-10-15 Hours," "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," "I Got
Loaded," "It Ain't the Meat (It's the Motion)," "Rocket 69," "No More Doggin',"
"Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean," "Mercy Mr. Percy," "Let Me Go Home
Whiskey," "Hey Miss Fannie," "Too Much Lovin'," "Little Girl Little Girl," "Sexy
Ways," "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer," "Work With Me Annie," "Big Foot
May," "Rub A Little Boogie," "Dont' Stop Dan," etc).
Also during this era many of the protean
`Beach Bands' of the Southeast began to emerge often through the
aegis of Arthur Smith's talent hunts in the 50s and 60s such as:
Daddys, early-mid 50s , Concord,
Embers, 1957 , Raleigh, NC
Catalinas, 1958, Charlotte,
Rivieras, late 50s , Charlotte,
Jetty Jumpers, late 50s, Wilmington,
Bill Deal & Ammon Tharp (Rhondels)
debuted 1959, Virginia Beach, VA
Venturas, 1959 , Statesville, NC
Shadows , late 50s, Charlotte ,
Harry Deal and the Galaxies, late
50s , Taylorsville, NC
Maurice Williams and the
Gladiolas, 1956 , Lancaster, SC
In Charlotte, Greensboro
and Raleigh three TV shows, modeled after Dick Clark's American
Bandstand, took to the airwaves, inviting local high school students
to participate in live dance shows often featuring local and national
talent and a strong mix of what would become known as `Beach'
music. (Bobby Tomlinson, Embers co-founder, was a hot dancer on
the Raleigh program!)
On the airwaves, Raiford At Random
(Bob Raiford, now part of John Boy and Billy's syndicated show
throughout the South, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic), played on WBT
Charlotte until April 1956, when Bob was fired for getting `fired-up'
over the attack on Nat King Cole in Birmingham. Rockin' Ray, Joy
Boy Sanders, Rusty Page, Hound Dog (Toomey), and Chatty Hatty
(Leeper) made a lot of noise on WGIV Charlotte. While Jimmy Witter
(Dr. Soul) made the nighttime jump on WIST.
THIRD WAVE: 1962--1970: The Baby Boomer Golden Years
This era began as the unmistakable sound
of Motown began to dominate the piccolos and jukeboxes in 1962.
Around 1965 the term `Beach music' found
its way into the vocabulary of `fas' and `basic' dancers'. Woody
Windham counted down the Top 60 In Dixie, Monday
through Friday in Columbia, SC. The `KIX Good Guys' reigned in
Eastern North Carolina on WKIX Raleigh .
Legendary nightclubs such as the Coachman
& Four Club in Bennettsville, SC, the Embers Club in Raleigh,
the Cellar in Charlotte, Cecil Corbett's Beach Club between O.D.
and Myrtle Beach, the Barrell and the Bowery on the SC Grand Strand,
the Castaways in Greensboro, George's in Statesville, the Polo
Club in Winston Salem, etc. became focal points for Beach music
Ted Hall's Hit Productions
in Charlotte put on a long series of shows at the Park Center
featuring national acts (Drifters, Impressions, Marvelettes et
al) along with regional and local acts while servicing the frat
circuit for decades. Jokers Three Productions did a similar job
in Greensboro, while Paul T. Marshburn supported and nurtured
many local acts in the Wilmington area.
Radio shows during the period included
legendary Tiger Radio in Myrtle Beach, SC with Billy
Smith, Hot Scott Hubbs and Jerry Gray, the HaJo Show
on WSIC Statesville with Harold Johnson (now sportscaster with
WSOC-TV Channel 9), 1966--1968. WBAG Burlington DJ, Jim Conklin
was the first to break 39-21-46 by the Showmen, establishing
an early classic for General Johnson. Jim also broke the Monza's
Hey I Know You.
The Third Wave was cut short by Vietnam.
Until this period the Rhythm 'n Beach scene in the Southeast was
insulated somewhat from the nation (after all, Beachdiggers
were diggin' in the mid and late-40s what became the national
craze called Rock 'n Roll in the mid-50s). But Vietnam, and
the draft, sucked everyone into a new historical whirlpool.
Third Wavers couldn't plan to go to the
Beach after graduation, work during the summers, and then go to
college or find a winter job back home. They had to get married,
go to college full time or land in the military. The national
mood, and music, shifted. By 1970, the Third Wavers were gone
or going; Beach music slipped into the shadows of a few concerts
FOURTH WAVE: 1970--1979:
This era marked a slowdown (and near-demise
according to some) of Beach music. New songs in 1970 included
the Chairmen, Tyrone Davis, Bill Deal & the Rhondels, the
Prophets, Intruders, Miracles,
Freda Payne, the Spinners, Spiral Staircase, Jr. Walker and Jackie
Wilson, Beach stars all, but for five years there weren`t nearly
as many choices as there were in the Third Wave.
On the radio side, Woody Windham continued
to spin the R&B he loved in Columbia, Sandy Beach rose to
serve the Beachdiggers in Charlotte on Big Ways, and the Steve
Hardy dynasty grew in East North Carolina.
The Catalinas recorded "Summertime's
Calling Me" in 1975, but it was not a major hit that year or
the next. In 1976 Disco began to make itself known nationally
and regionally. That year Chris Beachley of the Wax Museum found
a record he liked which hit the charts in late 1974 (Pop: #91,
4 weeks; Soul: #75, 6 weeks). He nearly twisted folks' arms to
get them to listen to it. It took three years for Ms Grace
to gain widespread popularity.
The Embers recorded "I Love Beach Music"
In '77 and '78, the club scene revived
with Shag contests throughout the region. Show clubs enjoyed a
surge, too. There was something new in the air. Other regional
bands began recording and in late 1978, Dr. Beachley began to
contemplate It Will Stand magazine which bowed in
1979, a year filled with a greater number of new Beach tunes than
any year in of the previous decade.
FIFTH WAVE: 1980--1995: Life IS A Beach
An era of explosive growth.
Mike Lewis of Chapel Hill played a song
in 1979 at Fat Jack's Shag Labor Day Shag contest in Ocean Drive.
That was a pivotal point for the expansion of Beach music into
Mike said he'd been watching dancers
and audiences at Shag contests and concluded they weren't having
a lot of fun. By and large, folks were dancing to the same old
stuff; listening to the same old standards. Mike surmised there
should be more attention on the music. He pulled out an album
by Delbert McClinton. Beach music hasn't been the same since.
September 1980 saw another innovation
in the world of Beach and Shag music--the first S.O.S. (Society
of Stranders) reunion. There was meant to be only one, but S.O.S.'s
popularity exceeded its leaders' wildest expectations.
Coinciding with S.O.S., club owners throughout
the region were butting heads with their Shag contests so the
S.P.A. (Shaggers Preservation Association) was formed to co-ordinate
contests to the benefit of the dancers, club owners and fans.
As the Fifth Wave progressed the Shaggers
Hall of Fame was formed. Local Shag clubs, an emulation of the
good times experienced over four days at the S.O.S. Fall Migration,
began to take shape.
S.O.S. expanded to include a Spring Safari.
The Saturday Night Beach Show throbbed
and pounded from Montreal to the Bahamas on 50,000 watt powerhouse
WBT in Charlotte from 1981 to 1984.
Beach shows proliferated in the Southeast.
Festivals were huge from Jekyll Island, Georgia to Richmond, Virginia.
In 1981, Virginia Beach native John Aragona
sponsored the first Beach Music Awards at Myrtle Beach. He sponsored
another in 1983 and #3 in 1989. Headliners magazine filled the
gap with an awards show in 1985.
The Fifth Wave was a time when the Disco
songs which were overlooked in the 70s and 80s came to the forefront
along with dozens of R&B and jump blues tunes lost or forgotten
in the 50s and 60s.
New Jump Blues swept across the dance
floors of S.O.S. and eventually over 100 Shag and Bop clubs in
The Memphis Boppers showed up to one
of the S.O.S.s in the late 80s and went back home to herald a
NEW direction in R&B Dance and Good Times, "S.O.S.ers,"
they said, "danced to much more than Oldies, they were dancing
to New and Newly-Discovered R&B tunes."
Piedmont North Carolina saw the emergence
of a theretofore unknown FM in 1986. Newly-boosted to 100,000
watts, WRDX went through several plateaus of growth, beginning
with a sold-out Beach show on Saturdays with Then-Dr. (now 'Fessa)
John Hook to a full-time format as Beach 106. Under the umbrella
of its far-reaching signal, Shag clubs sprang up like mushrooms
(23 member clubs in the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs of
which 70% didn't exist when WRDX made its debut). (The Beach and
Shag era of WRDX lasted from October 1986--May 1995).
WRDX unveiled history's second Beach
and Shag magazine,
Class, in June 1987.
Also in this era, Big John Ruth rose
to prominence in the Raleigh area, Charlie Byrd pumped 100,000
watts of Beach Blast out of Washington, NC; Steve Hardy appeared
with his Original Beach Party on stations in Greenville, Raleigh
and Washington, NC, Luke Vail developed a huge following on WNCT
out of Greenville, Tommy T-Bird had a TV show and radio show in
the New Bern / Morehead City / Jacksonville areas, Steve Leonard
on WMXB was (and is) the King of Richmond for over two decades,
Johnny Miller took care of mideastern NC on WFJA in Sanford, and
Dan Lockemy wowed 'em on WJMX in Florence, SC.
'Fessa John Hook published the one-and-only
Dancing On The Edge in September, 1989.
The Shag News Network (Will and Tommy Espin
and Fessa Hook) produced several
30-minute feature shows on Piedmont cable stations from 1990-1991.
The Raven (Hecky Stallings) was heard on B-100 out of Burgaw,
NC on a unique program which included the original music library
of WGIV in Charlotte.
Charlie Womble and Jackie McGhee, nine
time champs of the Myrtle Beach Shag Nationals produced their
first Shag instructional video in 1985 with Al Munn, former O.D.
lifeguard in the 40s and 50s and Oldies/Beach station owner in
Al also produced
On The Strand,
a one-hour dance documentary, in 1985.
The South Carolina Educational Television
Network produced Shag; It's Controlled Wildness
Charlie and Jackie followed up with two
more videos, one in 1987 and another in 1993.
Sonny and Judy Carver bowed a series
of Shag instructional videos beginning in 1991. Eventually producing
eight videos including Shag and Line Dance and three with Sy Creed
and Dana Brown; 1991 Shag National Champions.
The Association of Beach and Shag Club
DJs was born in the Spring of 1991. Now counting over 200 members,
they supply the music for Shag clubs, S.O.S. and other Beach/Shag/Bop
events in the region.
The Fall 1994 advent of The Breeze (WWBZ)
as the flagship station of the Beach, Boogie and Blues Network
out of Charleston marked the beginning of a new era. Woody and
Leo Windham sit at the helm of the morning show in partnership
with owner Frank Baker. Their sister station, WHBZ, signed on
the air in mid-June from Port Royal, pumping the Beach, Boogie
and Blues from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, Florida. (The Breeze
Network eventually encompassed four stations: Charleston &
Columbia, SC, Port Royal/Hilton Head/Brunswick, GA and one in
Wilmington, NC. The network lost three of the stations in 1998
& 1999. The Breeze went off the air in September, 2000).
Simultaneously, Dan Greenfield on Beach
106.3 in Wilmington, John Moore and Al Cannon with WRQR in Farmville/Greenville,
Marty Hampton and Ashley Moseley with WELS in Kinston, and Lee
Hauser and Al Radlein with WGQR in Elizabethtown each added considerable
current Beach and Shag music to their regular formats.
In May, the Association of Carolina Shag
Clubs, in partnership with Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee, put
on the Grand Nationals in Atlanta, inviting the Swing, Push, Bop,
Jitterbug and Whip clubs from all over the nation; thereby raising the Beach / Shag culture's
marquee in the national eye.
Numerous stars in Southeastern movie
productions have fallen in love with the Shag: Kevin Costner reportedly
wanted 60 Minute Man in the Bull Durham soundtrack,
Robert Duvall took Shag lessons from the late super-stepper Shad
Alberty while filming Days of Thunder , Jamie Gertz
demonstrated the Shag to her boyfriend in Please Don't Tell
Them My Name. (On national news a shuttle astronaut said
he wanted a tape of South Carolina Beach Music to take on his
Pat Conroy's new book, Beach Music, bowed
June 14, 1995. Hopefully it and the follow-up movie will be to
Beach Music what Urban Cowboy was to Country music.
THE SIXTH WAVE: 1995--TOMORROW:
School kids throughout the Southeast
evinced an interest in the music and dance heritage unique to
their region. Radio stations responded with Shag and karaoke contests
for them, their parents and their grandparents.
People who stood on the sidelines
from the 40s--90s, wishing they were dancing, showed new interest
in Shag lessons offered by YMCAs and Community Colleges.
Adults in Europe, Australia, the Far
East, and South America bought instructional videos to learn more
about this dance tantalizingly similar to the jitterbug and bop
they grew up on, yet somehow more sensuous, leisurely, and carefree,
suiting their desire to dance without overextending muscles away
from the gridiron, basketball and volleyball courts for decades.
It could happen...........
(© 1995 John Hook. All rights reserved. This is an unpublished
work of authorship protected by the copyright laws of the USA.
It may not be reproduced, copied, published, or loaned to other
parties without the express written consent of the author.)
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