I LOVE BEACH MUSIC (The Embers)

WHAT IS BEACH MUSIC?

Excerpt taken from Columbia, SC, newspaper published March 29, 2001, designating beach music as the official popular music of SC… So just what is beach music anyway?  For those inlanders who don’t know the shag from a surfboard, two experts shared their thoughts.  “Beach music goes back to the1930’s, to the beginnings of rhythm and blues and your early rock and rollers,” said Tim Miller, program director for Oldies 103FM.  “Groups like The Platters and The Drifters – before they became pop music icons, they were playing beach music.”  “Beach music is special largely because it’s so hard to define,” said Marion Carter, president of Ripete Records, a beach music and R&B label based in Bishopville.  “You’ve got straight rock ‘n roll, country, jazz, hard blues – all sorts of influences that are prevalent these days,” Carter said.  “So how can you tell you’re listening to a song that really fits the ‘beach’ label?  The shag dance has come to the forefront these days, so anything that has the correct beat passes as a beach song,” Carter said.  “As far as what is a pure beach song… you know it when you hear it.  If you’re around it enough, you know what the feeling is.  You feel it in your soul.”

BEACH MUSIC HISTORY

Beach Music and Shag originated with black artists and dancers, and was played at clubs and juke joints along the coast of the Carolinas.  Initially, early R&B was not heard on the white radio stations, but when the kids (to parents’ disapproval) went to the black honky-tonks they heard it – and learned to dance to it.  Excerpt from Shagger Magazine, 1996, Vol. 3, No. 2.

In the 1970s, a few groups of musicians began recording what became known as beach music – not nostalgic rhythm and blues but music with a contemporary feel that was suitable for shagging; and R&B and race music of the ‘40s & 50s became known also as beach music.

In 1996 Janis Grimes collaborated with Marc Fisher to interview several knowledgeable people on the subject of beach music compilations.  This was published in Shagger Magazine, 1996 Vol. 3, No. 2.  Marion Carter of Ripete Records said that his first compilation was “Beach Beat Classics” released in 1980.  They loaded it, he said, with the biggest songs they could find and it turned out to be a big hit.

 Steve Baker, President of the Association of Beach and Shag Club DJs said that compilations were good from the DJ point of view –“ you don’t have to tote as much stuff.”  Compilations were first produced on 45s.  DJs resisted going to CDs initially because they loved the records.  A collector first, DJs second, he said.  The industry is now into CDs and the good thing is that CDs save you from having to haul everything. 

Mark Fisher said that collectors like compilations because they are hard to find and recording labels can release different mixes and re-mixes.

 Judy Collins said that people like compilations because it’s nice to find a lot of songs that are danceable on one CD.  It’s also nice for DJs to get a break, to not buy one CD for one song.  People will buy a compilation before they’ll buy for one song.

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