Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Love Beach Music

The other night I was speeding down the Dan Ryan, feeling great. The sweetly moist post rain breeze disheveled my hair as I threw my head back, grinned at my girlfriend and yelled joyously "I feel like I'm in South Carolina!"

Perhaps I should explain.

At the time she had just put on the Chairmen of the Board's 1970 R&B classic "Give Me Just A Little More Time", which for me will forever be associated with that glorious genre known to denizens of the Myrtle Beach shoreline as "Beach Music". When I say beach music, I'm not talking about the Beach Boys, the Surfaris or No, I'm talking about music by the the Tams, the Embers, the Clovers and the Catalinas! I'm talking about music you blast from out of your transistor radio on the boardwalk during the day and shag to at night. No, not that kind of shag.

You see, for most summers during my childhood, my parents and I would load up our Nissan Maxima with folding chairs, coolers and as many baseball cards as I could justify bringing and make the sixteen hour drive from Chicago to wonderful North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina! This wasn't an uncommon summer destination for Midwesterners. We even had some friends who had moved to Minnesota and would get up at unholy hours to make the drive down in two days.

The best part of the trip was always in the late afternoon of the second day of driving when we'd turn off I-20 in Florence and hit the state highways. As we drove by tobacco fields we'd start seeing palms and palmettos popping up and we knew we were close enough to the ocean to start playing beach music. There's nothing quite like smelling the salt air for the first time and know that you'd have nothing but days of laying on the beach, drinking Yoo-Hoo (then an east coast only treat), shrimp boils overlooking the ocean (although this passion came later for me) and generally taking in enough sun, sand and salt air to last you the rest of the year.

Beach music was the obvious accompaniment for this lifestyle for good reason. It's all classic late 50's to early 70's R&B and it hits the spot the way only really good R&B can. In fact songs that many people know like "Build Me Up Buttercup", "Hello Stranger", wtf-did-I-do-last-night-anthem "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" and Clash-inspiring "Stagger Lee" are all considered beach music. But today we're going to focus on the lesser-known corners of the genre. Specifically songs about Myrtle Beach, dancing and girls, not necessarily in that order.

We'd always start our trips with the anthems about the beach. "Summertime's Calling Me" is THE song for northerners who just need to get out of the city and "sit there in the sand, watch those golden tans go walking bye". "Myrtle Beach Days" is the sound of spending whole days on the sand and "Carolina Girls" aptly describes why many of the gentlemen were out there. Just remember "California girls are sexy / New York girls are too / but Carolina girls got good looks / and sweet personalities too", sing it brother! My father always loved "That Lucky Old Sun" which was given a drastic rework by Brian Wilson for his 2008 album of the same name.

Other highlights include lusty odes to the fairer sex like "39-21-46", "Girlwatcher" (by the O'Kaysions, yes sir!) and "Mrs. Grace". Things even get a little blue with the delicious double-entendre (or maybe even single-entendre) from Doug Clark & The Hot Nuts, "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" and Gloria Hardiman's command to "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On". The Drifter's little known love song "You're More Than A Number (In My Little Red Book)" will stay in your head for days and "Rainy Day Bells" is a classic that narrowly missed my rain songs post.

The two bookend songs though are particularly noteworthy. "I Love Beach Music" is one of those biomusicology songs that resonates deeply with those who love the genre and is a perfect pocket history for those new to it. On the other hand "It Will Stand" is an early love letter to rock n' roll, back when rock featured the sax prominently and was a young upstart art form for teenagers only. When they sing "don't you nickname it / you might as well claim it / it's swept this whole wide land / rock n' roll forever will stand", you can hear both the doubt and determination to make that promise come true in the singer's voice.

So you know what? I don't care what the west coast says, I love those Myrtle Beach days. And the great thing about music is that I can do that even when I'm 800 miles away from that sweet, South Carolina shore. My advice to you, grab this playlist, head outside and enjoy the rest of summer while you can.

Download The Mix As A .Zip

On Warmer Music's Essential Beach Music Mix
1. I Love Beach Music - The Embers
2. Summertime's Calling Me - The Catalinas
3. Myrtle Beach Days - The Fantastic Shakers
4. Carolina Girls - General Johnson & The Chairmen of the Board
5. That Lucky Old Sun - Cash McCall
6. I Got The Fever - Billy Scott & The Georgia Prophets
7. Rainy Day Bells - The Globetrotters
8. 39-21-46 - The Showmen
9. You're More Than A Number (In My Little Red Book) - The Drifters
10. Ms. Grace - The Tymes
11. Walking Up A One Way Street - Willie Tee
12. Girlwatcher - The O'Kaysions
13. Baby Let Me Bang Your Box - Doug Clark & The Hot Nuts
14. Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On - Blues Review & Gloria Hardiman
15. It Will Stand - The Showmen

You can get pretty much all the beach music you'll ever need right here.

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