Music Memories Monday – Carolina Beach Music [Guest Blogger Kevin]

“Carolina beach music…is the holiest sound on earth.”
Pat Conroy, from the novel Beach Music.

For most of the United States, the words Beach Music conjures up images of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Jimmy Buffett, and other similar sounding groups dressed in Hawaiian Shirts and surrounded by surfboard stage props.

But along the North and South Carolina Beaches, in places like Myrtle Beach, Ocean Isle, Oak Island, and Atlantic Beach, Beach Music means something entirely different from the Beach Boy sound.  Growing out of a fusion of 50’s and 60’s rock, and rhythm and blues, it produced a sound they came to be called ‘blue-eyed soul’.  Called ‘Beach Music’ because of its easy danceability in the sand or boardwalk dance venues, and almost always with it’s accompanying dance the Carolina Shag, the sound struck an instant chord with college kids across both Carolina’s.

Although the music is regional, some Beach Music songs are familiar nationwide.  Songs like The Platters: With This Ring, The Drifters: Under the Boardwalk, The Temptations: My Girl, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs: Stay, The Tymes: Ms. Grace, and The Catalinas: Summertime’s Calling Me were all strong on the charts and still receive lots of airplay.

The Carolina Shag is the State Dance of both North and South Carolina, and goes hand in hand with the Beach Music sound. Long before Mike Myers and his movie character Austin Powers made ‘shagging’ a semi-dirty word, generations of Carolina college students, dressed in khakis, button-down shirts, and topsider shoes had learned The Shag as a college rite of passage. Origins of the Shag vary, but the best description I’ve heard is that the Shag was simply the Jitterbug slowed down a tad by dancing in the sand, and holding a beer in one hand.

But of all the Beach Music songs, perhaps my personal favorite is this song by General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board: Carolina Girls.  Released in 1980, although it was never a chart topper, it has persisted to become part of the Carolina coast culture, and a favorite of Beach Music fans.

And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those Carolina college kids, swaying and shagging to the Drifters and the Embers at many a party and bonfire on the beach, and shaking the sand out of my topsiders.

Here are General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board, and their song Carolina Girls:

Carolina Girls

The Carolina Shag


About Susan P

Reader, writer, mother, grandmother, wife, traveler...
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16 Responses to Music Memories Monday – Carolina Beach Music [Guest Blogger Kevin]

  1. That does sound like beach music! Never thought of beach music, really. And it’s a wonder.

  2. kevinespencer says:

    While I played my favorite, Carolina Girls, this is the universal Beach Music anthem: I Love Beach Music by the Embers.

    I love beach music
    I always have and I always will
    There ain’t no other kind of music in the world that gives me quite the thrill
    When I hear…
    60 minute man, and walkin’ up the one-way street
    He’s up on the roof, he’s under the boardwalk
    Summertime’s a-callin’ me
    Bom bom bom, bom bom bom wee-ooh, beach music
    Bom bom bom, bom bom bom wee-ooh, beach music

    I love beach music
    ‘Cause born with it in my bones
    I learned to shag on the beach, with the salt in the air, and the sand at my feet
    Yeah, yeah

    Oh, oh, oh Ms. Grace
    What kind of fool do you think I am
    When forever, and ever, it will stand, yes

    I love beach music
    Every single day of my life
    I love beach music,
    You know that I do

    Doo doo, doo doo doo
    Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo
    Doo doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo

    I love beach music
    Every single day of my life
    I love beach music,
    You know that I do
    Woah, woah, woah

    I love beach music
    I love beer-drinkin’ music
    Shaggin’ kinda music like you hear those d’s
    I love beach music
    I’m talkin’ about music by The Towns, The Clovers, The Catalinas, The Embers!
    I love beach music,
    You know that I do!

    • Susan P says:

      I bet I would have enjoyed beach music when I was a teenager. Thanks for the blog post. I enjoy learning about new things. I kinda figured we’d have Carolina something or other before you were done. It’s just what you do!

  3. walt walker says:

    Funny, I just got back from Myrtle Beach. I’d never heard of The Shag until last week, and now here I am reading about it. I’ve always liked The Platters, and Under the Boardwalk, and The Temptations, but I’d never associated them with the beach or the Carolinas, or guys in khaki pants and top siders with a beer in their hand. Interesting!

  4. kevinespencer says:

    Hey Walt!
    Hope you enjoyed your stay at Myrtle Beach! My old stomping grounds were just up the beach from there, over the state line at Oak Island, North Carolina. Thanks for commenting!

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