Music, boogie and the backbeats of beach life jived like popped collars and pegged pants, rental bathing suits and jock itch. Specially if you grew up a slinky flip from the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, a baseball throw from the Hill and a one-hour Schwinn ride from Atlantic Beach. What Einstein did for fission, Edison did for night and Carver did for the peanut… the Pavilion, the Hill and Atlantic Beach did for southern boogie.
For most kids our PAVILION was the carney magic of pinball, putt-putt, skinny/fat mirrors, the mysterious and babushka’d fortune teller booth, balloon busts with bent darts, a tap-dancin monkey and the endless quest for a Skeeball cupie doll. It was the sensual banzai of squealy screams from Roller Coaster and Round-Up riders, the dangerous clack of meshing gears, the whump of bumper cars and a bouquet of memory stapled smells… Popcorn poppin, cotton candy spun into webs of edible silk, burgers bein spatula’d, butterized corn on the cob, donuts drippin rivulets of hot grease, salty fries bein catsup’d and vinegar’d, the sweet metallic taste of electric in your mouth from the bumper cars and the nasal burn of spent ammo from the .22
rifle booth with the bent sights.
But the powdered sugar on this giant summer cupcake was always the sacred sticky of Atlantic salt, the hand in hand barefoot beach stroll and oh-so-sweet moonlit first kisses with baby-oiled, big-eyed girls in oh-so-tight britches.
And for a cultish few the forbidden race music at the Pavilion with a delicious backbeat and sinful dancin.
The Pavilion dance area wutn’t zackly Roseland. Just a loafer landing strip of sole-worn concrete pierced with a 60’ flag-flappin flagpole, overlooking the endless Atlantic. Don’t sound like much, but come sundown this ballroom of sun-baked concrete garnished with that 200-Selection Wurlitzer was the Oz of our social universe for 25 years and partner dancing headquarters. It was there that collar-up jitterbug cats from the Carolinas strutted their tailor-made drapes, keychains, pomaded ducktails, pickup lines and mooch riffs. Like poon pirate Roachy once said, “Lazy-eyed or hare-lipped, if you could fast dance, you got the girl.”
Like seein the ocean for the first time, the allure and magic of the Jitterbug cat oozed jismic mojo.
Most kid’s first sexual stir or dance chubby was oglin wiggly fannies doin the hokey pokey. Mine was down at the Pavilion, ooglin the sexual antics of Jo Jo Putnam who could black it up with the best of em. Or Nicky and his 15-year-old brunette girlfriend (Vanna White’s future mama) in scuffed-up cheerleader shoes sweatin rivulets of baby oil as they ducked into a shorty George then smoothed out of a sugarfoot and grinded into a slow BELLY ROLL that was like switchin on the Krispy Kreme hot sign.
The business half of Joan’s slender body grindin into Nicky made an impression. Or more like a permanent dent.
By my 10th year the belly roll had become a sexual fantasy, but I was still too pubeless to attract a willing partner. Back in the 50s when our heroes were Hoppy, Roy and Autry, the belly roll wutn’t just a dance step… it was indecent behavior, a $25 fineable jailable offense. It was vertical sex, dirty shagging. For me, twas a thrill on the hill, when I was finally ballsy enough to ask a big-eyed girl in cheeky short shorts to do the bellyroll.
By the time I was a regular bellyroller, local law enforcers had de-criminalized the move from criminal to just nasty. Nowadays, long’s we keep our clothes on, it’s just another fly dance step.
“BOOGIE WALK is a sexy shag and jitterbug dance step.
Some dance cats called it the Shorty George, named after a wild, height-challenged often-airborne Lindy Hopper who first famous’d the move. Also saw a version in a Mills Brothers
“(Caravan) video. It’s a tres hip, walk-forward-rolling-on-the-sides-of-your-feet move. Way before girls stopped bleachin their hair and started coifing their cootsies, my jitterbug-champion Uncle Nicky and Red Spears once boogie-walked barefoot in the sand from the Pavilion to 20th Ave… bout a mile.
Why? Just to impress a couple girls.”
For most of the 40s, 50s, early 60s, the MYRTLE BEACH PAVILION was the molten core of the jitterbug universe. That 200-play jukebox located near the giant flagpole was the jitterbug’s Wailing Wall. Nothin on that jukebox was un-boogieable.
Upstairs action was an AYCE buffet of jugglers, acrobats, Irish tenors, magicians, cat boxing, girl rasslin, minstrel shows, swing bands and the occasional big-deal appearance by the Three Stooges, Gorgeous George or Lash Larue, Sun Fun Pageants, and Miss South Carolina beauty contests.
Came time when quarters in the jukebox wutn't enough.
The Pavilion kahunas wanted to cash in on the rock n roll craze. So they started pulling the plug on the jukebox at 8pm and started charging $2.00 admission to the rock n roll shows upstairs.
Groups like Bill Deal and the Rhondells, Sugar Creek, the Catalinas and Harry Deal and the Galaxies dominated the boulevard marquee.
When they handcarted away our squat Wurlitzer for good, we cussed like dogs. (Clovers, Big Joe, Amos Milburn, Clovers, Hank Ballard, Young Jessie, Little Willie John, Sam Cooke, Ivory Joe, Drifters, Ruth Brown, Chuck Berry, Fats, Sticks, Lavern...all taken away.
That dinosaur’d the Myrtle Beach jitterbug. No more sultry days and sticky nights showboating for a crowd of 2000 tourists.
Some of our local dance joints boogied on.
We penny-loafered to Barringers built in 1945 by an ex-Army enginer who designed short runways for Jimmy Doolittle to practice aircraft carrier takeoffs. And we kept dancing at the Marine Room, Socks, Sportsman, Army Navy Club, Gaddys, the Rathskeller and the Oasis where shagging and bootleg booze was a backdrop to silicone-titted topless acts and crooked blackjack by slick mechanics dealing seconds with marked decks.
Some of the heavy dance action migrated North to the Beach Club, the Pad, Turks, Sonny’s and the Forks. Skinny belts got wider, peg pants became straight-leg khakis, short shorts were bermuda’d, collars-up became buttoned down, ducktails and Jeris'd pompadours disappeared, and the backbeat slowed.
Times were a changin.
Excerpt From: Dino Thompson. “Boogie Woogie Beats.” iBooks.