4th Annual Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival
Charleston, SC, August 27-30, 2009


By Pamela Horner
 


 

 

On the last four days of August, 2009, the Beach Music & Shag Preservation Society of South Carolina presented their 4th Annual Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival.  With our busy schedule, Charlie and I could only make it to one day of the Festival.  Fortunately for us, it was the day they celebrated the 50th Anniversary of one of America’s finest soul and beach music vocal groups, the Tams.  That day was also dedicated to the memory of Joe Pope, one of the founding members of the Tams.  In fact, the mayor of Charleston even sent over a proclamation officially making August 30th “Tams Day” in the city.

Arriving at Charleston’s Citadel Alumni House on Sunday afternoon, we were greeted with a shag dance workshop for those who wanted to learn (or sharpen their skills on) the official dance of the Carolinas.  Charlie and I haven’t quite mastered the shag yet but we still had fun swing dancing throughout the day.  The shag is a slower, structured variation of the jitterbug.  It originated in the late 1940’s by teenagers dancing to R&B music in Carolina beach clubs.  These days it seems that people shag to almost any tune that has 115 to 135 beats per minute.


The Citadel Alumni House


Festival Wristband
 


Dancing the Shag


 


Festival Producer, Harriett Grady-Thomas and part of her staff

 
The first group on stage was the Catalinas.  This group started in Charlotte, N.C., in 1957.  Initially they were singing beach flavored doo wop, but by 1975 their “Summertime’s Calling Me” had established them as beach music stars.  Over the years, there have been more than 60 performers in Catalinas.  There are currently seven men in the group and like most beach music groups they play instruments and sing.  The oldest member of the group, Gary Barkes, has been with the group since 1968.  The lead singer, Dale McCaskill, told us he’d only been with the group three years.  The Catalinas sing an extensive repertoire of beach music tunes including “Ms. Grace” (The Tymes), “My Girl” (Temptations), and their beach music standard “Summertime’s Calling Me.”  The group concluded their set with a song from their latest CD, “Love Be With You”.


The Catalinas' first record (1960)
In the early days, the Catalinas were heavily doo wop influenced.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


The Catalinas' second record (1961)
A remake of the Gladiolas' "Hey Little Girl"
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


The Catalinas performing at the 2009 Charleston Beach Music Festival


The Catalinas


The Catalinas' 1975 Beach Music classic, "Summertimes' Calling Me"
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


Catalinas' current lead singer, Dale McCaskill with Charlie

 

The second group, The East Coast Party Band (ECPB), didn’t have to travel far, as they’re from Charleston.  The group officially started in 1991 but most of the members have performed in other groups prior to joining ECPB.  The group was large enough to accommodate a full horn and rhythm section, having nine members on stage.  ECPB performs a wide variety of material covering everything from songs by Spinners to Sam Cooke and Rod Steward.  Some of the songs I loved were “This Old Heart Of Mine” (Isley Brothers), “Old People” (Archie Bell), and Sam Cooke’s “What A Wonderful World” (and what a wonderful sax break in this song).  I enjoyed the harmony in “The Way You Do The Things You Do” (Temptations) and “Shining Star” (Manhattans).  Some of the beach music classics the group did were “Hold Back The Night” (Trammps) and the national anthem of beach music, “I Love Beach Music” (Embers).


The East Coast Party Band


East Coast Party Band


East Coast Party Band


East Coast Party Band Cup Insulator
(A new addition to the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


Since we only could attend the final day of the Festival, we regretfully missed two of our favorite acts, the Fabulous Shades and Angel Rissoff.  We were happy to see our friend Dana Jones, who along with other members of the Fabulous Shades were in the audience on Sunday.


Charlie, Pam and Dana Jones from the Fabulous Shades
 

The third act at Sunday’s Beach Music and Shag Festival was the Swingin’ Medallions.  They have a long history that is outlined in their website [reached from our Links page].  The Swingin’ Medallions started in 1963 in Greenwood, South Carolina.  The group broke nationally in 1966 with their song “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)”.  The song was originally pressed on the group’s own 4 Sale label and was then picked up for national distribution by the Smash label.  It sold a million copies.  Over the years the personnel has changed but the group now contains two sons of original member John McElrath.  We were fortunate to meet another original member, Joe Morris, who rejoined the Swingin’ Medallions for this special occasion.  The group took the stage wearing Swingin’ Medallion t-shirts and Madras pants.  What a powerful, energetic group this is, consisting of musician/vocalists.  We noted three saxophones, one trumpet, one guitar, drums, and keyboard. They demonstrated great choreography, dancing while playing instruments and singing.  We’ve seen other groups where the saxophonist plays while lying on his back.  The Swingin’ Medallions’ Shawn McElrath not only did that but continued playing while other group members hung him upside down by his knees.  We understand he holds the Guinness Book of Worlds Records for most notes played on a sax while upside down.


"Double Shot" on the Smash label (1966).
We've never had a copy on the original 4 Sale label.


Swingin' Medallions at the 2009 Charleston Beach Music Festival


Swingin' Medallions' Shawn McElrath
 

Some of the songs that the Swingin’ Medallions performed were the beach music standards “Hey Baby” and “Under The Boardwalk”.  They also did rock and soul classics like “Honky Tonk Women,” “Shotgun,” and “Celebration.”  One of the highlights of their performance was when Joe Morris joined them on stage to do their signature song “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love).”  We were greatly impressed with our first time seeing the Swingin” Medallions and hope to see them again.


Swingin' Medallions singing "Double Shot" with Joe Morris (third from the left)


Original Swingin' Medallion, Joe Morris (center)


Charlie, Swingin' Medallion's Joe Morris, Pam


[New!]Current Swingin' Medallions
(Photo courtesy of the Swingin' Medallions)



Popular North Myrtle Beach (SC) radio station "94.9, The SURF" was one of the Festival sponsors


Before the grand finale, Festival producer Harriett Grady-Thomas presented plaques to all the members of the Tams and their extended musical family to proclaim the group’s 50th anniversary.  Active member Charles Pope and his brother, the late Joseph Pope, founded the group in Atlanta, GA, in 1959.  Charles’ son, Little Redd joined the Tams in the 1970’s when he was seven years old and has been with them ever since.  Rounding out the group today are Robert Arnold, Reginald Preston and the newest Tam, Greg Gallashaw.  A proclamation from the Mayor of Charleston was read, declaring August 30th “Tams Day”.  Next, the stage was cleared leaving only the Tams' band, The Fourteen Karat Soul Band.  The Band played “Mustang Sally.”  This stellar band has been with the Tams for many years.


The Tam's first record, "Untie Me" (1962)
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


The Tam's biggest hit, "What Kind Of Fool" (1963)
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


The Tams at the North Myrtle Beach (SC) Holiday Inn, August 1981
Note pre-teenage Little Redd (third from left)
(Photo by Charlie Horner.  From Classic Urban Harmony Archives)

 

Little Redd (center) performing with the Tams in August, 1981
(Photo by Charlie Horner.  From Classic Urban Harmony Archives)



Tams' Charles Pope and son, Little Redd, receiving plaques from Harriett Grady-Thomas


Reading of the Mayor's "Tams Day" Proclamation


The 14 Karat Soul Band


The high energy Tams ran on stage to thunderous applause.  The Tams were impeccably dressed in white pants and vests with silver shirts and ties and their white signature tamoshanter berets.  We were expecting a fabulous show and were not disappointed.  Little Redd captured the crowd immediately with his rendition of “You’re Love Is Lifting Me Higher.”  Redd, the “fastest feet in the South,” was instantly off the stage and down the aisle into the crowd.  The Tams followed this with their biggest hit, “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)”.  Group founder Charles Pope led the next song, “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” with the rest of the group feverishly dancing up a storm while harmonizing background.  Many Tams’ favorites followed including, “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,” “I’ve Been Hurt,” and “Too Much Foolin’ Around.”


Charles Pope & the Tams performing at the 2009 Charleston Beach Music Festival


The Tams


Tams' Little Redd


The Tams


Tams' Little Redd
 

In an emotional moment, Little Redd embraced his father, Charles Pope, and said, “He made me what I am today.”  Charles took the mike and led on “Silly Little Girl (Come Back to Me)”.  Many other Tams songs followed.  As we’ve come to expect, Little Redd interacted frequently with the audience, making us all feel like we were part of the show.  It’s difficult to think of a harder working, more exciting act that has not lost any momentum in fifty years.  In traditional Tams’ fashion they ended the Festival with the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running,” with four of the Tams dancing their way through the audience while Charles Pope finished the song on stage.


Tams' original member and founder, Charles Pope


Tams' Little Redd interacting with the audience


The Tams


Festival Producer Harriett Grady-Thomas and Tams' Little Redd


Charles Pope leading the Tams
 

This was our fourth time seeing the Tams perform in the past six years.  If you ever get the opportunity to see The Charles Pope Tams, don’t hesitate.  They are worth the trip from New Jersey.


Tams' Charles Pope

 
For more info on the Tams, Swingin' Medallions, East Coast Party Band, Catalinas, Fabulous Shades, Angel Rissoff and the
Beach Music & Shag Preservation Society of South Carolina visit their websites through our Links Page.  For info on Beach Music in general, visit the site of our friend Willie C's Beach Music Cafe from our Links Page.  To see our review and photos of last year's Festival click 2008 (3rd Annual) Charleston Beach Music and Shag Festival.
 

All photos property of Charlie & Pamela Horner
Copyright © Classic Urban Harmony LLC, 2009.  All Rights Reserved.