If you grew up along the west coast, and someone mentioned "beach music," you may think it refers to the Beach Boys. But if you spent your days along the Carolina coast, the music referred to "beach music" is a whole lot different.
This weekend, the annual Carolina Beach Music Festival takes place with the Band of Oz and Jim Quick and the Coastline Band. But also on the stage on the Carolina Beach boardwalk will be the Blackwater Rhythm and Blues Band, voted last year as the best vocal band by the Carolina Beach Music Awards members.
It's the music many people grew up with along the Carolina coast, beach music. And many people say it got its start in the '50s from the R&B artists performing in the Ocean Drive area of South Carolina, at places like the Pad and Fat Harold's Beach Club.
That is where many young people went to the clubs and pavilions and where the shag became a popular dance. It was the places where groups like Billy Ward and the Dominos played, as well as the Clovers, and a popular group from Atlanta, Georgia, Joe Pope and the Tams.
Today, Carolina beach music is enjoying a major revival in the Carolinas, thanks largely to the formation of the Society of Strangers, a group of shag enthusiasts, beach diggers and former lifeguards, who meet annually each spring in North Myrtle Beach.
Veteran radio broadcaster Stanley B. Stewart remembers the beach music groups that used to perform at places like Carolina Beach.
"It is like a whole new generation that is coming along, the whole genre has done a 360. When I was a kid, I used to listen to a lot of beach music with my parents," Steward recalled. "We would go down to the Ocean Plaza at Carolina Beach and the groups would be playing a group, Maurice Williams, or someone, that is how I was introduced to it, it always brings back fond memories and now these kids are building their own memories off the newer beach bands that are coming along."
The most popular groups that are keeping the beach music scene alive are the Band of Oz, and Craig Woodard and the Embers.
But there is a new group that is taking the stage with nearly 200 shows annually, the Blackwater Rhythm and Blues band. In November, the band got a huge honor, vocal group of the year at the Carolina Beach Music Awards show.
Dale Edwards and Greg Elkins got together about eight years ago and formed the Blackwater band. Carolina beach music makes up about 60 percent of what they perform. Edwards says he never expected this success, but believes it gives them respect among other beach music performers.
"Honest to goodness, we did it for our mental health. For me, I needed an outlet, some people fish, some people play golf, some people do whatever, you know I thought music was a good thing to keep me calm," Edwards said. "I have a stressful job, and I need something that balances you out. Everybody needs something to do and this was my something to do but I never had any idea that we would do this.
Elkins says what started as playing together three or four times a month has ballooned into now playing almost 200 dates a year, and at the same time, all of the band members work full time jobs during the week.
"Once you get to the event, once you get to the venue, and get to see your friends, family or whoever, it makes it all worthwhile, because they are excited to see you, you are excited to see them, and we get to play music and get to entertain those folks, it is all about selling fun and making memories for folks," Elkins said.
That means more people, regardless of their age, are looking for the music escape that Carolina beach music has to offer.
In addition to Edwards and Elkins, other band members are Donald Jordan, William Sellers, Fred Cook, Andy Sellers, Frank Mills and Devon Dove. And they will all be on stage for this weekend’s Carolina Beach Music Festival, billed as the longest running beach music festival held right on the beach strand.
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