June 10, 2010
CAROLINA BEACH MUSIC
By Jerry Murphy
It Will Stand, the Showmen, 1961, Minit Records
In the Spring of 1971, when the original Glass Packs were students at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga and preparing for our first (and presumably only) gig we ever planned to perform, we chose as our anthem the great Carolina Beach Music favorite “It Will Stand” by the Showmen.
It Will stand was released on Minit Records in the Fall of 1961 and charted nationally at No. 61 without a bullet, just behind “Moody River” by Pat Boone and ahead of “I Told Every Little Star” by Linda Scott. It was the flip side of the regional flop “Country Fool”, and re-released to even less acclaim in 1964 on the Swan label where it dropped anchor at No. 80, then sunk into oblivion. Despite a string of hits that went nowhere, the Showmen touched a nerve in us Northern California college kids with the soulful doo wop blend of this bouncy psalm. When we commandeered it as our own, we had never before laid ears on It Will Stand or heard of the sand in my suit pop/soul genre called Beach Music which it engenders.
We chose It Will Stand as our call to arms for three reasons. First, somebody in the dorm kept playing the 45 of this utterly fabulous unknown song featuring the Myrtle Beach soul crooner Norman "General" Johnson (later the lead singer for Detroit’s Chairmen of the Board, whose 1970 hit “Give Me Just a Little More Time” was released on Holland, Dozier and Holland’s post-Motown label, Invictis); second, we knew the obligatory four chords; and third, we were blessed with our own fearless, fearsome lead singer -- Wally “The Mighty” Quinn, who shamelessly belted the lyrics like a feral Al Jolson, and stalked the stage like a male Ethel Merman, while sounding uncannily like General Johnson. More than sing the song, Wally preached it, notably the biblical absolution at the end of the bridge -- “ . . forgive them for they know not what they’re doin'” -- like a crazed prophet from the Old Testament releasing the unwashed masses from the sin of denial of the power of rock and roll.
Come to find out years later that It Will Stand was and is “beach Music”. “Beach Music” originated as the sound of (generally) black music and white music that sounded black that was not played on the mainstream radio in the Jim Crow South which could only be heard at clubs and resorts on the Carolina coast blaring out of outdoor speakers broadcast to the sand, waves and legions of vacationing kids. An associated dance developed, the Shag, that remains, as do the sound and groove remain today, in modern recordings and southern beach/summer culture. Check out “My Big Sister’s Radio” released in 2006 by the Mighty Mike Shermer Band also covered by Tommy Castro in 2007.
Most Californians first heard the term “Beach Music” associated with the radio sounds of some place other than Southern California in the mid-90’s when the book of that title by Pat Conroy was on the best seller lists. Beach Music, like Double Shot of My Baby’s Love, another Glass Packs’ dance set favorite, is the local color sound track to the lives of the habitués of Conroy’s novel, and the music of his youth. After all, “Double Shot” and the spirit that inspired it came from somewhere.
It Will Stand is the song that best epitomizes that somewhere. In fact, there are many Beach Music hits which we all know because they crossed over to the West Coast main stream pop charts -- Baby I’m Yours, Under the Boardwalk, Cool Jerk, Everlasting Love, Searching Searching For My Baby, Love Makes the World Go Round (Deon Jackson), and many others. But there are so many others that never really left the South, like Quinn Golden’s “It’s Saturday”, the Carolinas, the Tams, the Embers, and Barbara Carr’s “Footsteps on the Ceiling”.
No Beach Music discussion is complete without homage paid to the epic Carolina party band - Bill Deal and the Rhondels, who dish up “What Kind of Fool”, “I’ve Been Hurt” and the rockin’ polka “May I”, originally recorded by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs of “Stay” fame; the Rhondels also do a killer version of “Hold Back the Night”, originally performed by the Disco Inferno boys, The Tramps. Finally, a tip of the hot plate to fat man Billy Stewart of Bdl-l-l-l-l- it chuk “Summertime” fame, who weighed into the Beach Music scene with “Fat Boy” and “I Do Love You.”
Almost 40 years later, the Glass Packs we are still doing what we did that first night at Saint Mary’s, spreading the sound of Carolina Beach Music and bringing the power of It Will Stand night after night after night. The Mighty Quinn still shakes it like Ethel Merman and belts it out like Al Jolson and forgives your sins if you are still denying the power of rock and roll.
Check it out on You Tube or Facebook . . . It’ll be here forever and ever.
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