The Carolina Shag

I grew up listening to beach music.  My folks graduated from small schools in South Carolina, and spent as much time as they could doing the Carolina Shag.  I vividly remember stories about Myrtle Beach and Dad’s fraternity parties where they listened to beach music and danced…

They are still into it – going back to North Myrtle Beach at least twice a year, and they are members of a Shag Club here in Atlanta.  Mom and Dad taught my brother and me how to shag at a very early age. We can hold a beat and make a couple dents on the dance floor without hurting anyone.  It’s like riding a bike – you never forget the steps…  one and two, three and four, rock step.

Ocean Drive in North Myrtle Beach is the Shag Mecca.  It started with The Pad (now gone), The Pavilion, and the Arcade (a favorite).  There are  many events a year that draw Shaggers from across the country to North Myrtle Beach – SOS (Spring and Fall with up to 15,000 Shaggers for 10 days of mayhem), Mid-Winters, and numerous dance contests (Professional and amateur).  It’s the friendliest bunch of people you’ll ever meet.  You spend all morning on the beach, go get a hot dog and a beer at the Pavilion, go take a power nap before dinner, then out to OD for the party.  Everybody dances with everybody.  You walk everywhere.  Libations rivaling Fraternity Formal weekends (not only do you carry one koozie, but you bring a back-up just in case…).

The traditional shag is very male-dominated, where the female does the basic steps and stays with the beat and the guy “shows his stuff”.  The purpose is so that everyone can dance with everyone.  What has gotten very popular – especially in competitions – is what is known as ‘mirror steps’, where partners mirror each other.  This was made popular by Charlie & Jackie – two of the most successful competition dancers out there (and two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet). At about 1:25, you’ll see the ‘mirror step’:


The competitions are something else.  You’ll see some shag moves that would leave amatures like me in the hospital.  They are normally a pretty fast beat, which leads to some good stuff (Autumn & Brenner):


On the other had, the slow songs really show off how good these folks are (LeAnn & Michael):


This is a great one; a couple of non-pros, a great old song…very ‘Ducks’-style:


One of the best parts of the shag is the music. It’s the GREAT old timeless beach music. The kind of music that makes you smell the salt water and taste cheap draft beer. In other words – perfect music. From RCS Headquarters – the top dozen Shag songs (with help from Mom and Dad):

1. Ms. Grace – The Tymes
2. Sunny – Bobby Hebb
3. 60 Minute Man – The Dominos
4. Oogum Boogum Song – Brenton Wood
5. Hey Girl – The Tams
6. What Kind of Fool – The Tams
7. I’ve Been Hurt – Bill Deal – Rhadales
8. Be Young, Be Foolish – The Tams
9. How Sweet It Is – Marvin Gaye
10. Come Get To This – Marvin Gaye
11. More Than a Number – The Drifters
12. Rainy Day Bells – The Globetrotters

I know all of you have your favorites, but remember, this is from the 60’s only.  Send me your favorites (any time period) and we can compare notes.

Now, before you judge, remember: you’ll make a lot more friends on the dance floor than on the side. Put on your penny loafers and get to work…



  1. Daniel
    06/11/2012 / 9:18 AM

    My mother had a movie she loved when I was a kid called Shag that was based back in those days. It came out in the early 90s. It was definitely a chick flick, but it had some cool dancing scenes and some great music. Worth a look if you get a chance.

  2. Johnny C
    06/11/2012 / 9:56 AM

    Any Chairmen of the Board song!

  3. Mark McCoy
    06/11/2012 / 10:23 AM

    Carolina Girls, best in the world.

  4. Mark McCoy
    06/11/2012 / 10:24 AM

    Along with COB, any song by the Embers.

  5. BFT
    06/11/2012 / 10:31 AM

    This post is very timely as I’m heading to North Myrtle this weekend to do some shagging with my girlfriend and a couple friends.

    My personal favorite song with Shama Lama by Otis Reading.

    There are a couple weekly beach music shows that play some really good stuff available on various websites. I’m a frequent listener to on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-9.

  6. Tyler
    06/11/2012 / 10:39 AM

    My Grandfather and Grandmother have been great friends with Fat Harold for decades. My Grandmother is even in the Shag Hall of Fame. Our family has had a house in N. Myrtle since the 30’s. Great to see how much enjoyment still comes from this scene.

  7. Rachel Smith
    06/11/2012 / 10:46 AM

    Shag is a great movie, as mentioned above…Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates and others. Great dance scenes! My husband I love to shag! Been dancing for years. Chairman of the Board, Embers, Tams, Catalinas….any of them!

  8. Alford
    06/11/2012 / 11:28 AM

    I love Beach Music-The Embers, Stay-The Zodiacs, Cool me out-Lamont Dozier,39-21-46-The Showmen, Girl Watcher-O’Kaysions. I could go on for a while, my parents used to clear out the living room furniture and we would all get down to some Ocean Drive compilations. Good to know someone else was raised right!

  9. EJI
    06/11/2012 / 2:42 PM

    The summer before I started college, my cousin who graduated from UGA a few years back, taught me some basic moves. She told me girls would love it. She was right. Learning those few steps was the main reason I got invited to date parties, formals and deb balls.

    I love Carolina Girl, but I got to go with “Double Shot” by the Swingin’ Medallions as my favorite…

  10. Terry Williams
    06/12/2012 / 12:11 AM

    “I Love Beach Music” is an all-time favorite, and just sums it all up. Anything by the Tams is a winner on my list.

  11. Unclelooney
    06/12/2012 / 10:06 AM

    Not to nitpik, but sixty minute man is from the ’50s.
    That James Hunter song in one of the videos you posted is modern but fits well.
    I’d like to suggest You better move on by Arthur Alexander as a good Shag song.

  12. 06/12/2012 / 6:08 PM

    I can offer no song recommendations- I can only lament that I was born in Texas instead of South Carolina and have never learned to shag. It’s all two-stepping in these parts, which does not seem nearly as fun!

  13. Nate
    06/13/2012 / 11:40 PM

    1. Carolina Girls, General Johnson and Chairman of the Board
    2. I Love Beach Music, The Embers
    3. With this Ring, The Platters
    4. Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie
    5. Backfield in Motion, Mel & Tim

    These are some of the NC fraternity favorites now. Ruh Rah Rega! Alpha Tau Omega!

  14. 06/14/2012 / 1:06 PM

    some of my favorites! While living in Virginia years ago, I would nearly wreck on I-95 on the way home to SC once my radio was within reach of the beach shows…feet tapping (and doing the basic) on the pedals

    Shama-lama-ding dong is a favorite, as well as, I’d rather be in Carolina..both post-sixties you mention of above

  15. BCM
    06/14/2012 / 5:25 PM

    Silly white people!

  16. Mompreneur
    06/18/2012 / 8:31 AM

    “Sand in My Shoes” by The Drifters is my all time fave.

  17. stephen
    06/18/2012 / 10:12 AM

    check out mayor hawthorne

  18. Jesse
    06/22/2012 / 6:10 PM

    I grew up in Houston, Texas so we were a long way from OD, but we did have Archie Bell and Drells and they danced as good as they walked. One of KA brothers was from Atlanta, GA and he introduced our entire chapter to the finest, refinest, smoothest music in the world and a cool dance you can do with a beer in your hand (actually, I think it’s required)Back in the early 80’s. There was a club in Houston called the Boardwalk Beach Club which endeavored to replicate a Myrtle Beach Dive. Sand on the floor and college banners hanging from the ceiling (yes, Houston). Lot’s of pretty girls and draft PBR.

    A quarter in the juke box would get you:
    Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy
    Give Me Just a Little More Time
    Cook Jerk
    Up On The Roof
    Summertime’s Calling Me

    Ah, the joy of youth.

  19. 06/28/2012 / 11:31 PM

    A great look at the Carolina Shag as demonstrated by the best shaggers I have ever seen!!

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