The Birth of Beach Music

Come the summer 2015, seventy-two years ago, new music that would mesmerize teenagers worldwide was heard first on the beaches of North and South Carolina. Southern kids called it Beach Music.

big-georgeBecause in 1943, at the beach was the only place white kids heard the big city rhythms of the ghetto, Race Music, later renamed Rock-n-Roll. It was created and performed by black artists, recorded and produced by black technicians, marketed and sold exclusively to a black audience, never played on white radio stations, never placed on jukeboxes in venues frequented by whites. And then at the height of World War II, in Carolina Beach, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina something unique and prophetic occurred. Ten years ahead of Elvis Presley—a decade before the status quo was rocked and the Victorian inhibitions of youth rolled away forever— a population of white teenagers too young to fight in the war were suddenly introduced to the African-American sound that changed everything.

Among those kids were Big George Lineberry, a teenaged jukebox mechanic, and Chicken Hicks, a hot fast dancer in the boardwalk jump joints. Chicken and Big George took Rock-n-Roll to the white side of the Jim Crow rope ten years ahead of Elvis. Beach Music begat the only first dance of the Rock Revolution: Shag, the legendary dance of the South.