Many thanks to Stewart Tick, who is our guest blogger today. Stewart has been a DJ for several stations on the East Cost, including one in Virginia, where he did a weekly Beach Music Show. Herewith, his article:
Beach Music: The Second Wave, 1965 – 1973
My previous article, “Beach Music: The First Wave,” which is posted on The Daily Doo Wop, dealt mainly with the East Coast “beach records” of the late 40s – early 60s. These songs were R&B records that young people first discovered on the jukeboxes of the beach resorts of the Southeast. Many of these records had a mid-tempo shuffle rhythm and a prominent light backbeat that made them ideal for doing the Shag, a then-new style of swing dance, characterized by smooth, fluid movements and often somewhat elaborate footwork.
So what happened to these “beach records” when the Beatles arrived in the U.S. in early 1964? Well, really nothing – since R&B music continued along pretty much the same path that it had been previously. The major emerging force in R&B then was of course Motown Records (“Hitsville USA”) of Detroit. And in the summer of ’64, Motown’s Mary Wells had one of the biggest beach records of the era with “My Guy” (which went to Number One on the national pop charts). The Drifters also scored big that summer with their all-time classic “Under the Boardwalk.”
The next year, Motown did well again with Shag dancers at the shore with “My Girl” by the Temptations, written by Smokey Robinson. In fact, “My Girl” is still probably the most successful beach record of all. Other favorites along the Southeastern coastline in ’65 included “The Entertainer” by Tony Clarke, “Candy” by the Astors (on the famous Stax label out of Memphis), and “I Do Love You” by Billy Stewart. While this was happening in the R&B field, the British-invasion groups were of course dominating the playlists of top 40 radio. And beginning in the middle of the year, they were joined by the new folk-rock sounds of The Byrds, Bob Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel.
At times, the beach-resort dancers would flip over hit R&B records and play the B-sides, since those were found to have tempos more appropriate for Shagging. So, the Supremes’ “My World Is Empty Without You” was flipped along the shoreline, in favor of the B-side, “Everything Is Good About You”. The mid-60s also saw the rise of a development in R&B that came to be called “blue-eyed soul.” These were white artists, including The Righteous Brothers and The Rascals, who began scoring major hits on both the pop and R&B charts. Not surprisingly, the blue-eyed soul performers produced some of the most popular beach records of the era. Examples include “Oh How Happy” by the Shades of Blue, “A Beautiful Morning” by The Rascals, and “Girl Watcher” by the O’Kaysions (from North Carolina). One particularly successful blue-eyed soul band on the East Coast was Bill Deal & the Rhondels, a group from Virginia Beach, who did very well with new versions of “May I” (originally by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs), and “I’ve Been Hurt” (originally by The Tams).
Up until the mid-60s, the beach records were invariably R&B discs. But beginning in the mid-60s, certain pop records that had the requisite mid-tempo backbeat rhythm also came to be accepted as a part of the beach genre. Among these were Frankie Valli’s “You’re Gonna Hurt Yourself,” “More Today Than Yesterday” by the Spiral Starecase, and “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” by the Swingin’ Medallions (from South Carolina). Of course, the R&B hits continued as well. In ’67, the seaside jukeboxes and record hops were ruled by Jackie Wilson’s “Higher & Higher,” “Jimmy Mack” by Martha & the Vandellas, and “Soul Man” from Sam & Dave. Then in ’68, vacationers at the shore did their Shagging to Otis Redding’s classic “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of the Bay” and “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy” by The Tams (from Atlanta). The summer of 1969 is now remembered for both the first manned moon landing and the Woodstock music festival. So it was entirely appropriate that one of the leading beach-music favorites was “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Woodstock headliners Sly & the Family Stone. But Motown hitmakers Junior Walker & the All-Stars also had a chart-topper that summer with “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).”
During this mid-to-late 60s period, Atlantic Record, in collaboration with the DJs of WKIX Radio in Raleigh, North Carolina, decided to release two compilation albums of “beach records” titled Beach Beat. It was with the appearance of these LPs that “beach music” started to become regarded by many listeners as a distinct musical genre. Regional bands started to become identified as “beach bands” and nightclubs along the coastline began to be referred to as “beach clubs,” since they featured beach music. (Charlie Brown, a nighttime DJ on WKIX in the 60s, now hosts a popular syndicated regional radio show called “On the Beach.”)
WKIX Playlist August, 1969 (Please click on the image to enlarge it.)
Beach music continued its popularity into the early 70s, when several important new artists arrived. One of the best-known is the Chairmen of the Board, who featured the lead vocals of General Johnson (formerly with the Showmen, of “It Will Stand” fame). The Chairmen hit with “Give Me Just A Little More Time” in 1970, as did Freda Payne with “Band of Gold” and the Spinners with “It’s A Shame.” The Spinners were a part of the new “Philadelphia soul” sound, which also included the Intruders, the O’Jays, and the Stylistics. From Florida, Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose contributed major beach-music hits like “Treat Her Like A Lady” and “Too Late To Turn Back Now.” Aretha’s Franklin’s “Day Dreaming” was another big beach record of the period, as were Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me”.
But the second wave of beach music began to come to an end as the mid-70s approached. The Motown and Philly soul styles were receding in popularity, making way for the new sound of disco music. To be sure, some of the breezier, slower-paced disco records came to be accepted as beach music by the Shaggers along the Southeastern coastline. But this was a new and different musical development (a “third wave”), replacing the classic beach music of the late 40s – early 70s.