To promote and celebrate their love for a dance that originated in South Carolina decades ago, Macclenny resident Danny Lamb and his wife Debbie hosted an event they called “Beach Music 101: Shaggin’ on the Avenue” in mid-December.
The Shag is a swing dance that originated along the coast between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940s. It was adapted by South Carolina as the state’s official dance in 1976 and today is recognized in national and international dance competitions held across the United States.
Friends and patrons attended the evening event which included a presentation on the origin and history of the dance, examples of beach music, and dance demonstrations by members of the First Coast Shag Club [FCSC] of Jacksonville.
Guests were also treated to a low country boil dinner which commonly accompanies shag dance events in South Carolina. The Lambs constructed a display of shag and beach music memorabilia including books, art, photographs, newspaper articles and most significant, a copy of the novel Beach Music by the pre-eminent southern author Pat
Conroy, who they once met at a book signing in Jacksonville.
For Beach Music 101, the Lambs turned the main room of their car dealership on US 90 in downtown Macclenny into a dance floor for FCSC members to demonstrate the Shag. They danced to beach music tunes by bands like The Drifters, The Embers, The Tams, the Temptations, and The Chairman of the Board.
With the presentation and dinner concluded, FCSC dancers gave free shag instruction to all interested guests.
Earlier, Mr. Lamb recounted his first exposure to the dance, which came on a business trip to Greensboro, North Carolina in 1987.
He was in the company of another salesman when he heard the song “What Kind of Fool” by The Tams on the radio and remarked how much he liked it.
“So you like beach music,” the salesman commented. “Then you must like the Shag, too.”
Mr. Lamb had never heard of either, but he was about to be introduced to an entire culture he had never known existed.
“Growing up in the 50s and 60s, we’d always listened to those songs on radio station WAPE out of Jacksonville,” he said. “There was even a relay station out of Baldwin and you could call and request a song and the DJ would say your name on the air and then play it for you. But none of us knew what we were listening to was known as beach music or that there was a dance associated with it.”
Ironically, a huge Shag event was about to take place at the hotel where he was staying. The next night, he entered the ballroom and came face to face with the music and dance that would quickly become one of his life’s passions.
“I was blown away,” he recalls. “The Embers were on stage playing ‘Beach Music Medley’ and hundreds of people were on the floor dancing with each other. It was the prettiest dancing I’d ever seen to the prettiest music I’d ever heard.”
After that night, Danny introduced his wife to the dance and the couple became avid shaggers.
They traveled to take lessons from a shag instructor and watched instructional CD’s to help them learn new techniques.
Over the years, they have frequently attended events such as the bi-annual Society of Shaggers Spring Safari and Fall Migrations held in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and attended by shag enthusiasts from all over the country.
Last February, the Lambs performed the dance in the local production of Dancing with the Stars: Baker County Style.
They received so many inquiries about their performance, they decided to plan a party to introduce interested people to the culture of shagging and beach music.
“I’d wanted to do this event for a while,” said Mr. Lamb. “And I’m so glad we could finally make it happen. I wish everyone could have the experience of dancing to this music on a well worn wood floor, out in the open air, with sea gulls flying overhead and the ocean pounding on the shore nearby. There truly is nothing like it.”
Anyone interested in learning to shag can attend free lessons taught by First Coast Shag Club instructors each Wednesday at 7:30 pm at River City Brewing Company in Jacksonville. Call 398-2299 for more information.