If you're in that endemic camp, get ready to do the Carolina Shag all night Saturday. Jackie Gore—the beloved voice of the Embers—joins Legends of Beach and the North Tower Band to play with the North Carolina Symphony at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. That show should end in time for you to make it to Papa Mojo's, where beach music hitmaker Rick Strickland brings his band.
"It's happy music, feel-good music," explains Legends of the Beach bassist Gerald Davis. "It's the beat, and the chord progressions are happy chord progressions. The lyrics are about happy times."
Carolina beach music has little to do, musically, with the beach. Instead, it extracts the most upbeat genes of R&B and Motown and splices them with strains of disco and smooth jazz to create an easy, affable sound. And then there's the dance: The Carolina Shag, our official state dance, suggests a smoothed-out jitterbug. Despite nimble footwork, you never bob or lift your loafers from the floor more than an inch, instead twisting your shoes like you're putting out a cigarette.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, R&B and soul music—or "race music"—was still segregated on the Carolina radio waves. But young people wanted to shag, so they flocked to dance joints stocked with these records along Ocean Drive in Myrtle Beach. This is beach vacation music, with a sanitized touch of the racially forbidden.
At Koka Booth, the symphony first samples Sousa and The Beach Boys, linking them with an original composition from their bass trombonist Terry Mizesko. Then, Gore and a seven-piece combination of Legends of Beach and the North Tower Band join for five songs. The orchestra backs them on three specially arranged songs, including The Embers' indispensable "I Love Beach Music."
Strickland, whose tunes have often topped the beach music charts, offers the more authentic show. The Strickland Band's sound ranges from the country rock of "I'm Hungover" and the disco-toned "Amazingly Amazing" to the Carolina Beach Music Award-winning "Something Smooth" which sounds a bit like Muzak with vocals. But, hey, you can shag to it. Rick Strickland Band: 9:30 p.m., $10, papamojosroadhouse.com. —Chris Vitiello