Beach music can be defined as the songs kids in the 1960s learned by going to beach clubs along the Atlantic Ocean in the Southeast U.S., a blend of rare R&B and brass driven pop, rock and soul music. There is a big similarity to what is known as Northern soul in England. In the book’s introduction, General Johnson, of The Showmen first and later of The Chairmen of the Board shared, “My career has been a long, exciting journey with all roads leading to the musical oasis called beach music. In the spring of 1966, in Raleigh, North Carolina, as lead singer of The Showmen, I performed before my first beach music audience. Thinking beach music was music by artists like The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, we nervously performed a variety of R&B classics. Surprisingly, each song was met with the audience's approval. As we ended the show with our regional hit ‘39-21-46’ and our nationally charted hit song ‘It Will Stand,’ the audience responded by applauding us back for an encore. Because we didn't know any other songs to perform, we sang two more verses of ‘It Will Stand’ and spontaneously began to add the chorus of Bruce Channel's song ‘Hey Baby.’ As we sang, we waved our hands in the air. To our surprise, everyone in the audience responded by doing the same. When we concluded the show with a bow, the audience showed their appreciation by rewarding us with another thunderous round of applause. That spring night, I understood, appreciated, and became a part of the beach music phenomenon.”
GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine and congratulations on this more affordable release of your book, which goes for up to $300 online. This thumb drive option is one-tenth that price, with a 580-page pdf document taking up 3.3 gigabytes with wonderful historic stories and photos.
GREG HAYNES: Thank you. We just put it on a digital format, selling thumb drives and downloads, and we are very happy so far. It seems to be doing well.
GM: The thumb drive has been easy to navigate and print sections too for my daily reading schedule. It is entertaining and informative.
GH: I appreciate that. It was a collaboration of a lot of folks who were contributors and so gracious with their time and memorabilia.
GM: I enjoyed General Johnson’s introduction where he learned what beach music is. When my family moved to Virginia in the 1980s and heard about a beach music radio show, I had the same feeling that he did about The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. It was interesting to learn what it really is. It gave me a different genre of music to collect.
GH: A lot of folks describe it that way when they hear the nomenclature and mistakenly think of 1960s surf music.
GM: There is definitely a distinction between the West Coast surf music and the East Coast beach music. When you were growing up in the Southeast, did you immediately encounter beach music?
GH: Not by that name. I grew up in South Georgia. When I was fifteen and my partner was sixteen, we started booking bands at the local rec centers and places like that. At that time, what I now call beach music bands, were referred to as soul music not beach music. The first band with horns we booked was called King David & the Slaves with Randall Bramblett, who went on to be a pretty phenomenal musician and still is. We were mesmerized by horns. Prior to that there were just the general four-piece or five-piece bands playing little gigs. Back then in 1967, we perceived it as soul music. I hadn’t heard the term beach music until the early 1970s. We were promoting Southeast groups like The Tams and The Swingin’ Medallions and groups like that and were never referring to it as beach music. That came later, which is really R&B with a twenty beats per minute tempo for the shaggers, people who wanted to shag dance. To me, beach music encompasses a wide variety of styles but has its own niche. I consider beach music to be goodtime music. Crowds get together to have fun, with fans getting close to the stage and clapping their hands. That’s what we experienced in the 1960s.
GM: You mentioned The Tams. Let’s go to 1969 with Tams covers by Bill Deal and the Rhondels which reached the Top 40 that year. When I would see them in the 1990s, they performed their three big 1969 hits in chronological order, as a medley, beginning with their version of Maurice Williams’ and the Zodiacs’ “May I” followed by their versions of The Tams’ “I’ve Been Hurt” and “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am,” all produced by Jerry Ross on his Heritage label.
GH: That medley is terrific. I think I wore out my copy of “I’ve Been Hurt” on the Heritage label. They took The Tams’ song, from one of the all-time greatest beach music groups, and made it up-tempo with a party style. Bill Deal and the Rhondels were the quintessential horn band, one of the best, and when you carried a lot of horns, you carried a lot more salaries too. I appreciated these larger bands. The more horns the merrier.
GM: Another one of their songs that we both enjoy is “Swingin’ Tight.”
GH: Yes. The first time anyone who is familiar with the The Rhondels’ hits hears this song, they would say, “That’s Bill Deal!” You can tell that from the very beginning of the recording and is one of those songs that should have done better on the charts. I also like “Nothing Succeeds Like Success” which has a tropical feel to it.
Bill Deal and the Rhondels
Fabulous Flip Side: Swingin’ Tight (first charted as an A-side 11/15/1969, Heritage HES-818, peak position No. 85)
A side: Nothing Succeeds Like Success
Billboard Hot 100 debut: March 21, 1970
Peak position: No. 62
GM: When we moved to Virginia in 1983, the first time I heard beach music was on Steve Leonard’s weekly radio show in Richmond. I was introduced to that city’s Ron Moody and The Centaurs playing “If I Didn’t Have a Dime,” speeding up the old Gene Pitney flip side.
GH: Ron Moody is such a classy guy and was very helpful when we were doing our research for the book. I had an opportunity to go to Richmond and see him and the Centaurs play in a beach music festival. There is a good crowd of beach music fans in Virginia. The festival attendance is great there. They all seem to want to emulate Bill Deal and the Rhondels to some degree.
GM: I became friends with Ron Moody, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, and another group you feature in your book, The Chairmen of the Board. Prior to living in the Southeast, I only really knew their biggest national hits “Give Me Just a Little More Time” and “Pay to the Piper.”
GH: The Chairmen of the Board have such a dynamic show and General Johnson had so much repertoire going from “39-21-46” to “Everything’s Tuesday” to “Patches.” He was such a prolific songwriter.
GM: There was a double CD which was released in 2000 on his Surfside Records label called Beach Music Anthology by General Johnson & The Chairmen of the Board. It contains thirty songs, and he had to keep cutting songs to fit other ones. I suggested “Hold On, I’m Coming to Save You,” which I had written about in a 1990s album review, and I told General that was my favorite song of his that decade. He worked with Jerry Goodman and Ken Knox to add it and I don’t know what got bumped to make room for it. Of all the beach music songs, you named the book after Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby.” Why this one which later became part of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack?
GH: Any band playing fraternity and other parties in the 1960s had this song as part of their standard repertoire. It became synonymous as a party song. My attraction to the scene was the crowds, the bands and the chemistry between them. It was euphoric. People were elbow to elbow. There was a frenzy at the fraternity houses on Saturday nights during football season, half of the bands seemed to be playing on college campuses. It was just amazing.
GM: It was great seeing my alma mater mentioned in the book, the University of Richmond. You introduced me to The In-Men Ltd. from Burlington, North Carolina. They have a very full sound on their versions of “The Letter” and “How Can I Be Sure,” songs from 1967 that I wouldn’t have thought of with a beach music delivery.
GH: They do great arrangements. Most of the group went to Elon College which is now Elon University, and several were music majors. There is a connection between Bill Deal and The In-Men Ltd. Freddy Owens was a great vocalist. He left The In-Men Ltd. and joined Bill Deal and the Rhondels around 1971. He was an outstanding performer. These groups were filled with great showmen.
GM: I saw that with Bill, getting the crowd involved. In the 1990s when they had releases on Ripete Records, co-produced by our mutual friend Marion Carter. I was writing a monthly article called Regional Recordings, covering the Southeast, which included new releases from their beach music label and would coordinate with DJ Sandi Conner in the Roanoke/Lynchburg market to get these songs on the radio.
GH: Marion had a really good feel for music. He knew how to get licenses for older material and promote new groups too. When somebody loves something, they do a really good job and that was the case with Marion. There were two CDs which originally came with the book and then he came out with an additional fifteen CDs, so there is The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music Volume 01 through The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music Volume 17, I think the collection has 282 songs in total. I thought that was phenomenal. Sirius/XM’s Carolina Shag Radio station plays songs from it. I appreciate you sharing this music with your Goldmine readers. It is always great to talk with a kindred soul.
Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its eighth year